Video Games, Mary Poppins, Maid of the Mist
As you may know, as “model citizens,” we received in our car-free survival kits a schmancy, golf-ready umbrella (why are golf umbrellas so gigantic?(I don’t get it)) with which to face the oft-torrential downpours that may decide to spontaneously combust during our car-free experiences. In my usual existence I travel sans-umbrella because the ones that I have available to claim for my personal use are usually in some mild or major state of disrepair or loaned out to some other sad, unprepared soul that seems to need the useless thing more than I. But, to make use of a generous gift, one day I decided with enthusiasm that yes, I will include the giant umbrella in my toolbox today.
I had a hunch that it was going to rain that day because on the previous day I was met with winds so forceful that at one point I skipped a step due to an unexpected gust from behind and just prior had felt the sandstorm pierce through my tights onto the skin of my covered legs (luckily I was wearing my protective eyewear).
The morning, 200-foot walk to the bus stop was relatively rain-free and, at that moment, the umbrella an unnecessary, awkward accessory. I found myself wishing that I were equipped with the walking cane/umbrella combo accessory that I’d seen an elderly male bus rider using several weeks prior. It was pretty genius and I was pretty jealous but all my rubbernecking was unable to decipher the engineering feat that this dashiki-wearing gentleman underwent to construct this unique and useful creation.
The day went on with a meager pitter-patter of unsubstantial rain. Then came the afternoon and the rain was torrential. There were sheets of it, buckets, cats and dogs, and all the other usual suspects of describing a heavy rain. My schedule for this particular afternoon was to be adjusted as I had to attend a 5:00 pm board meeting being held in The Parkview at the corner of Poplar and Tucker.
I obsessively checked Google Maps to make sure I left the office in time to make it to the meeting on time and when it was time, I equipped myself with the golf umbrella and headed north to catch the #50 on Poplar. Now, one would think that during a multi descriptive word type of rain all the folks driving around in cars would act a little extra cautious… but no. Somehow, there is an apparent and heightened sense of anxiety and haste to get from point A to point B which seems to cause some sort of temporary blindness to the sad sap patiently waiting for the walk signal in the same multi descriptive rain armed with a giant blue and white golf umbrella. Feeling a bit like a successful Frogger in a combined vehicle/road/log/river level, I make it across Central Ave and continue my journey to Poplar and the #50.
I’ll spare you the details of the few blocks between Central and Poplar because the level of peeve that I reach when I encounter obstructive bags of leaves, garbage bins and yardslides is for some other time and probably a separate, mostly boring and angsty blog in itself.
Reaching the #50 from my office is always a challenge due to the fact that one must traverse the entire width of Poplar Ave. At one time the challenge was semi-sweetly rewarded with a MATA bus stop positioned on the North side of Poplar directly across from Patterson St. but, sometime in the last two months the sign for this stop has disappeared with the nearest next one being half way to the Poplar and Highland intersection.
Having already made it through one less challenging level of Frogger, I decided, due to the quantity and velocity of cars and rain, to stick to the south side sidewalk where I felt I would be better positioned to react to the challenges ahead. Now, one unexpected challenge I discovered was the very existence of the golf-sized umbrella, which, gratefully, was also serving to protect me. One thing they always seem to leave out of the operations manual of these bad boys is their relative miss-size for use in settings other than golf courses.
I found myself again grateful when, looking ahead, I did not see another sad sap in sight who had found their self walking toward me along this stretch of Poplar. For one, I was overly concerned about the sheer girth of my protective rain gear. My head was filled with the logistical maneuverings that would need to occur in such a situation and at once I felt like the knight atop the ostrich in Joust charging to unseat the nonexistent poor buzzards that were out in this rain just, like me, trying to get where they were going.
Upon convincing myself that I had no real competition in my domination of the sidewalk a true threat reared its ugly head… the gusty wind. Now, if I found myself trying to relive a childhood fantasy of being Mary Poppins, this giant umbrella + wind scenario would have been ideal. However, as I wrestled to keep my only protection from the brutal elements manageable, I saw the west bound #50 that I was attempting to catch passing by (fortunately, the #50 runs frequently so another would surely be along soonish).
Unfortunately, as is the case with managing any umbrella in a gusty rain situation, the best position to harness the contraption is close to the top of the head with the front end tilted down. While this positioning is successful in averting the Mary Poppins moment, it leaves one blindly exposed to the other major threat… the car-induced puddle splash. In these instances, the umbrella is rendered useless.
On this particular day I was lucky enough to have many feet of people’s yards accessible for me to walk across where I was out of reach from the puddle splash but I have not always been so lucky. With all my reserves of dexterity, observation and exquisite timing I made it to the covered bus stop at Poplar and Highland to await the next #50. Keenly aware of the short distance between the tips of my toes and the wheels on the street I could only laugh at what a cruel joke it would be if a curb puddle were to form in front of the bus stop. With my giant umbrella and my self relaxing anxiously and awaiting the next #50 I couldn’t help but think how more prepared I would be if I’d dressed as if I were embarking on a trip on the Maid of the Mist to tour the Niagra Falls. Next time I hope to be so wise.