When I first moved here I didn’t get it. The broken bodies of umbrellas littering city blocks, spines broken, torn nylon skin flapping weakly in the wind, The splintered spokes jutting skyward like a mute plea. I didn’t understand how this many brollies could end up not just discarded, but horribly mangled. I didn’t get it then…
But I do now.
Heavy rainfall isn’t common in San Francisco. The weather gets shitty, but precipitation doesn’t fall straight down in a torrent so much as it atomizes into top to bottom mist. The fact that wetness is coming at you from below as well as above renders umbrellas pointless. There is now way to escape the endless billowing dank so just resign yourself and buy an ugly windbreaker from Ross.
However just because it’s uncommon doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. periodically the heavens over my fair city will unzip and unload like a row of fraternity boys in a Chicago ally on Saint Patties day. All of a sudden that nasty ass windbreaker doesn’t cut it.
When this happens it’s not simply rain. It’s a driving rain that is borne by ferocious non stop gale directly into your eyes. Sometimes there are twenty minute hailstorms thrown in intermittently just to keep things spicy.
It’s been like this for about two weeks now and in those two weeks I have gone through four umbrellas. The smaller cheaper ones perish quickly, blown inside out so frequently that in the time it takes to bend it back into concavity I’m soaked through. The first couple times this happened I tried holding the nylon bit down with my free hand but that’s exhausting and had the added result of accumulating a bucket of water in my elbow via my upended sleeve. Eventually I’d run out of patience and heave them into the nearest trash can or hobo cart and just walk the rest of the way to work furiously. The third time my new umbrella decided to become defective at Green and Van Ness I didn’t take it as well. The nylon covering saw fit to blow half way off and I held it in front of myself aghast and then collapsed it back together, wrapped the nylon around it and then hurled it, javelin like into traffic. A cab in the path of my defunct rainproof fury missile honked at me and I gave him the finger and stormed down to Das Hotelenstien with rain dripping off of my glasses and smelling of damp Shetland pony.
The fourth time I shut down completely and entered into what my Swedish forebears would call a “berserker rage”.
I’d managed to get my hands on one of those sweet well made umbrellas with a wingspan like an albatross. If you had flipped it over it could have been used to house one of every two animals. Who’s got two thumbs and is getting to work dry above the knees tonight? This girl!”
I stepped triumphant from my stoop and opened it defiantly in to the face of the pouring jerk faced sky. Or at least I tried. The band of the umbrella seemed to have some difficulty catching on the little bit of metal that kept it open. I pointed it at the ground and shoved downwards as hard as I could. Success!
I got to the end of my block when it snapped shut around my head and shoulders like some sort of beartrap. I fixed it and made it another two blocks before it happened again. I swore and fixed it. Then it happened again. And again. And again.
And again and again for six cocksucking blocks.
By the time I hit the seventh and the one of the spokes knocked against an over hanging branch and snapped down to deep throat my upper half I went three kinds of Charlie Sheen. The scream that came out of me worked it’s way out painfully at first and then charged forth.
This wasn’t even about the umbrellas anymore. This was about something deep and existential. My womb deep rage was born of the certainty that there is a god and he was yet again putting his balls on my face while I’m asleep and then putting the pictures of it on Facebook and tagging me. I wanted only one thing in life and that was to get to work dry. One fucking thing. I’d made peace with my looks, my bank account and my inability to be a functioning member of society but a working umbrella? I can’t just have that one thing?
I raised the umbrella over my head and brought it down on the concrete, dimly aware I was still yelling. People on the same side of the street as my temper tantrum made the choice to cross to the other side. If you live in a city where it’s routine to see a dude try to pick a fight with his own reflection in a store window it always pays to err on the side of “Meth Psychosis” and vacate the area calmly and quickly. It’s not like I was putting people at ease with the intensity with which I was beating the now totally destroyed umbrella against the ground, a tree and then a post box anyway…
A spoke broke free and flew up towards my face and barely, just barely, grazed my cheek.I flung the broken spine of my twenty dollar umbrella into on coming traffic and unleashed a torrent of screamed curses at the torrential sky.
Like all temper tantrums anger gave way to exhaustion and I slumped with my hands on my hips to look around at the deserted street. Over in the turn lane the carcass of my umbrella fluttered.
I flipped the hood up on my sweater and continued on.
If you happened to be on that block Van Ness when I had my break with reason I’d like to apologize. Just please understand that if you have to walk to work 6 days in a San Francisco down pour for forty minutes, one day it will be you beating your umbrella like a mouthy hooker against a newspaper box.