Monday, April 4, 2016

I See What You Did There: The Umbrella Story

I spent the better part of the morning of April First trying to convince Facebook that Fidel Castro was dead and/or the Cuba Pavilion would be opening soon in EPCOT.  
After work I spent the usual time driving in circles to get the kids, first one, then just as I could have taken the perfect nap, then off to get the other.  I needed to go to Target before the looming storms hit, and managed to pick my son up and get him home just as the sky opened up.
I could’ve stayed home and waited for the rain to pass but I’m pretty much unable to stop myself once I’ve decided to do something and I was definitely going to finish my errands instead of putting them off.
Minutes after I leave the house the rain is pouring so heavily that everything is grey like a filter is muting out the greens and reds.  I turn carefully out onto another street and before I can decide how fast to go I see a man walking alone in this downpour.
He has is wearing a t-shirt and jeans and is walking into the rain with his head turned down.
I have an umbrella but I’m wearing a raincoat.
 I decide to give him my umbrella. I want to be someone who sees someone in need and then helps them. I’m an umbrella-er.
 Then I decide it would be too dangerous to take a U-turn in this pouring rain and stop in one-way traffic to hand him an umbrella.
I drive on for three seconds, four seconds, five seconds, and the idea of that poor man walking in this horrible rain tortures me.
I can’t be someone who does nothing.
I take a Uturn and that puts me in a position where he is walking towards me in traffic.
I roll down the window and offer my umbrella.
Take the umbrella! Please!
He shrugs. No!
I offer again, and he shouts NO I NEED TO WALK IN THIS RAIN.
He seems so sad and so mad and angry that pain that it vibrates from him.
I roll my window up and slip back (carefully) into traffic.
 Unexpected tears well up in my eyes, I feel sorry for him, and embarrassingly stupid for thinking I could help write a happier ending to his day.   
I think I’ve done that – I think I’ve sent away blessings – I’m sure I have and I apologize to the universe and to everyone who found me as thick and lost as this guy.
For the better part of the next hour I roam the aisles of Target, rehashing the scene, more and more certain that I’ll never give a stranger an umbrella ever again.
As I check out the nice lady who works there asked if she just saw me yesterday and I said yes, and she said thanks she wanted to make sure she wasn’t losing her mind. We talk about regular customers and coffee shops and then I tell her about my umbrella rejection story.
She laughs and covers her mouth then laughs some more. He didn’t take the umbrella? That’s hilarious.
I laugh with her. Yes, it is kind of funny, him waving me away like I was threatening him with $100 bills or something. We laugh. I finish up, load the car and drive home into the pouring rain.
On the turn from this street to that one I see a middle school student I recognize from my son’s school because he passes my car on his walk home.  I glance at my clock. It’s 445 – this kid has been walking for the past 55 minutes in the rain without a jacket, umbrella, hat or boots.
My first instinct is to pass him by and let him enjoy the rest of his five-plus mile walk in the cold driving rain.
But I didn’t fall into that, and instead pulled over and rolled my window down.
He looked at me like I was crazy.
Take this umbrella! I pass it to him through the window.
He smiled. His blue eyes lit up and he didn’t say a word as he took the umbrella.
Are you OK?
He nodded. I said good, and we smiled at each other again before I rolled the window up and drove off.
I take a minute to imagine how awful I would have felt passing that kid and having no umbrella to give him.  I’m suddenly thankful the first guy rejected me! I laugh and proclaim, “I see what You did there!”  in praise and delight for how this perfectly amazing universe works.