Since I had plenty of time to get ready this morning, I put off getting ready until the last minute. My son went back to school today after a week of spring break. After he got on the van at 7:30 I had until 10:00 to get ready for my first class.
With that much time to get ready, I did the perfectly reasonable thing: I sat down, drank coffee, watched Morning Joe (which, despite my ranting, I still like as a morning news show) and did some writing. At 9:30 I realized I was still wearing a bathrobe and my jeans were still wet in the washer, so I put the jeans in the dryer on high and then began my usual morning rush to get ready.
I got through my morning class and realized I had forgotten my power cord for my laptop. Since I had a full day of conferences planned and I do all of my grading on the computer, power was a necessity. I had a break from 11:00 to 11:20, just enough time to walk home and get my cord.
At 10:58, rain began to pour down outside.
At first, I thought I could just grab a copy of the campus newspaper to get me home, but when I got to the door, I saw that the paper umbrella plan would last about thirty seconds. I went back to my office to ask around if anyone had an emergency umbrella.
My office neighbor said she did, rummaged around and gave me a bright yellow umbrella about the size of a hot dog bun.
“Wow, that’s small,” I said.
“Well, you’re a big guy and—“ she shrugged. The shrug I understood to mean beggars can’t be choosers.
“I’m going to look like a circus monkey,” I said, grabbing the umbrella anyway. “Maybe I could get a tiny tricycle too?”
“I’ll try to hook you up with an organ grinder,” she said, and went back to work.
I went back outside and the umbrella proved to be just large enough to cover my shame. My hair kept dry, but my pants, having only in the last few minutes gone fully dry after I had to pull them out of the dryer at the stage of dry-enough-to-wear-but-still-kinda-damp started to get wet again.
I arrived home, stuck my power cord in my pocket, got my giant golf umbrella (I do not play golf, but I like the umbrellas) and walked back carrying two umbrellas.
I didn’t know how to hold the now pointless small umbrella. I started to think of the picture I embodied, a giant red-and-black umbrella in one hand protecting me from the torrents of rain and a tiny, limp yellow umbrella held in the other, looking like a dead sunflower in my hand. Maybe people will think I need another umbrella for my feet because I am so tall I thought. Maybe I could carry it opened, as if to cover an imaginary much shorter friend walking alongside me, a trained monkey perhaps.
I tried not to make eye contact with people. How could you explain such a sight? I kept the umbrella over my eyes until I passed another young man without an umbrella and then heard Sir? Sir?
Oh great, I thought. Someone wants to make conversation. Maybe I had him as a student and he wants to make this a reunion in the middle of the rain.
I tried to pretend I didn’t hear him and kept walking, but he was insistent.
“What’s that there?” he asked. I turned around.
“Um . . . an umbrella,” I said, trying to make it sound self explanatory.
“No, I mean, can I buy it from you?” He looked cold and wet.
“Sorry,” I said as nicely as possible. “I borrowed this; it’s not mine to sell.”
The next logical question would be for him to offer to buy my big umbrella. I could just give the big one to him. But then how would I get it back? Would it be my good deed of the day, or would it devolve into him wanting to bring it back and do you have a piece of paper so I can write down your address? The potential conversations swirled in my head, fueled by coffee, Ritalin, and the fact that there were exactly three minutes to get back to my office.
“Oh, okay,” he said, smiled, and trudged on.
“Yeah, ah, thanks anyway!” I said. Thanks anyway?
To avoid any further confrontation, I hid the little umbrella inside the big one when I got back to my office building. It made my big umbrella look pregnant, but at least I would not have to explain two umbrellas.
“Raining out there, huh?” someone said in passing.
“Yes. Yes it is. Raining,” I said. What else is one to say? Oh yes, and there’s oxygen too!
I got back to my office suite and delivered the large umbrella of its surrogate child and related the story back to my friend who loaned me the micro umbrella in the first place.
“Why didn’t you sell it?” she asked. “I could have used the money.”
I didn’t have an explanation, but I sat down with seconds to spare, just in time for my next student. Who never showed up.