Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Only Women Use Umbrellas

 My son, working in the “Big Apple” for several months,
has developed a keen insight of NYC
and writes a diagnosis about relevant experiences.

When I was about three or four  years old, my Mom told me that “only women use umbrellas”.  For about the next thirty years, I thought for a man to be using an umbrella was on par with wearing earrings or high heels.  Men...never, ever do that!

I always hated rainy days.  Although I had a rain coat, I always felt cold in the damp thing.  Most of the time when it rained, I  just got wet, because I hated rain coats ~ not because I thought they were effeminate, but because I felt cold and damp.

It would not be until 1998, when I was working in NW Arkansas (in the Ozark Mountains) with a close friend of mine...and we saw how lush and green everything was,   I said to my friend, “I get the feeling that it really knows how to rain around here.”

For those of you who have not been to the mid-west (or 'tornado alley' for that matter), let me take a moment to explain.  Rain in Arkansas is not like New Jersey rain, where it is just a light shower and you can walk home in it without getting significantly wet.  Arkansas has different kinds of rain:  like rain that falls horizontally and big old fat rain and rain that seem to come up from the ground.  You get the idea.  Heavy rain there, is fairly typical and you can be soaked to your skin in a minute; and you can only take so much of it before you finally say 'enough.' You toss those effeminate notions of carrying a brolly and  you get yourself a proper umbrella.

If it was raining and my friend, Bill, could not find a parking spot at work, he would wait by the front door for someone to come out.  And he would kindly offer to drive them to their car ~ so that he could have their parking spot when they left.

In Arkansas, I got over a thirty year notion and accepted the necessity of  an umbrella!

I was there on May 3, 1999, when the most violent tornado in history, did Oklahoma City.  Ted Fujita theorized it impossible for the atmosphere to support a vortex  whirling at over 300 MPH.  The all-time record (measured with portable Doppler radar), was Red Rock, OK at 280 MPH in the Andover  Outbreak of April 19, 1991. This monster of May 3 was clocked at 318 MPH ~ the top end of the F5 “incredible tornado” rating...and bordering on F6 “inconceivable tornado”.  Just thought I'd throw that in to illustrate that there's some pretty serious weather out there. When they say  “severe storm”, they mean it!

When I worked in California and they said, “severe storm”,  it “just rained”.  One afternoon my co-workers were gathered at the window, fascinated by the weather and seeing that it was raining outside, I said, “What's going on?” Someone said, “It's raining!”  Said I, “Yes, and...?”  That's it...just raining.

For about three years I was a full time bicycle  commuter.  In all that time, I only got caught in the rain two or three times.  One time was not particularly pleasant and I just reminded myself of 'warm shower/hot bath' when I get home.  Next morning, it was raining and I elected to take the bus.  But, it was a one-mile walk to the bus stop and I did not have a raincoat or a brolly.  I decided, I can either be cold and damp or I can be warm and wet.  So I packed a change of clothes in a plastic bag, rolled up in a duffel bag and I donned my 3/2 wet suit and dive boots to walk to the bus stop.  I figured, this way I can be soaking wet, but I will not be cold; however,  it just wasn't  raining heavily enough to be worthwhile.  They don't have big old fat rain in California!

So now, here in New Jersey and New York City, I am doing without a car.  I go everywhere by walking, bus and train.  I drove down with my Mom initially, who wanted to visit a friend in Connecticut.  My Mom said to me, “You might need an umbrella ~ I have an extra one there under the seat.”  So I pulled out this purse-sized umbrella in a colourful mosaic.  And if it is raining and I need to wait for a bus or walk a distance, it is nice to have.

Pastor Matt Swiatkowski saw my umbrella and  he told me that my umbrella looked effeminate and I should get a proper umbrella.  (There has to be some stigma about men and umbrellas.)  Indeed, when I arrived at the World Trade Center, everybody walking around the Financial District had a black umbrella, except me.  Mine was a colourful mosaic.  Now, I do not particularly want a black umbrella, but I do want a proper one.

And I do not need a Marine to follow me around to hold my umbrella for me!

I might be tempted to try the wet suit technique again,
but New York City is so paranoid ...I'm afraid
 the Anti Fourth Amendment Police  might detain me!

Footnote: Once, a few years ago, when driving to Bentonville, Arkansas where my  son worked, I stopped overnight at Terre Haute, Indiana (the mid-distance point to my destination).  He reminded me, prior to leaving home, that I’d be driving through “tornado alley” and therefore be aware! Carrying his computer and other personal items for him, I parked adjacent to what seemed a sturdily-built motel.  The late evening news spoke of possible tornado activity in this area.  Next morning, with a cup of hot coffee in hand, I checked that my vehicle was still intact. 

As I drove westward towards St. Louis, fallen heavy limbs, split tree trunks and vastly strewn leaves were evident.  News reports indicated that the tornado had touched some areas in this Missouri city and eastward, had done some damage in Cincinnati, Ohio. It missed me!!!

Shortly past Joplin, Missouri (of approximately 50,000 population), I turned south heading for the peacefully, scenic Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas.

It was Sunday, May 22, 2011 that Joplin was utterly devastated by an EF5  multiple-vortex tornado that killed 158 people and injuring hundreds more…their city almost wiped out!  Today, these people are rushing to aid survivors in Oklahoma City’s devastation.

Crafted by Merle Baird-Kerr … May 20, 2013
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