Miss(ed) Manners

July 30, 2004

Miss(ed) Manners: So, King Wet

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 8:20 pm

Last Friday night it rained. I don’t mean that kind of drip drip dick trickle that turns every girl into Gilda Radner, neither. No, it was balls to the wall pouring, like God was trying to finish up in the bathroom cause Fear Factor was back from commercial break.

Normally I don’t buy into that whole umbrella fad. As the seminal author, Tom Robbins once said, “The rain’s just doing what it does, falling. Why stop it from doing what it was made to do?” Although I’m never sure if I walk around getting soaked because I’m having a literary moment, or just cause I look good wet.

Also, I grew up in upstate New York. We never used umbrellas as a kid for the same reason I complain about the cold, we were just never outside when it was snowing or raining. If you had to go somewhere, you went right from the house to the car and then from the car to the adult book store, all three of which, thankfully, were equipped with the latest in rain blocking and heat providing technology.

I wish I could say the same for the teeming masses of New York. Any time rain is threatened, or the high up perched air conditioners start overreacting, this city reaches into its collective closet and pulls out its umbrella.

Its pointy edged, sight blocking, battering ram of an umbrella.

So quick, rewind to last Friday night. I’m out and about gallavanting around town like a slightly drunk sailor during Fleet Week. The soaked city that doesn’t sleep is my oyster, and I’ve got a bounce in my step like my reeboks were pumped too much. Little did I know that by the end of the night I would be viciously assaulted, three times by these one legged nylon bandits.

When it’s raining out and you’re not holding an umbrella, to the rest of the tarp carrying street walkers, you’re less than a second-class citizen. People generally think you’ve just forgotten to check the weather today, which translates to you not having the Internet at home, which then means you’re poor, or worse off a homeless person, and obviously crazy to boot.

The first time I got hacked, it was around 7pm, I was rushing to meet a friend for dinner before we were off to see a movie (or strip club, whichever, it’s all semantics). It was coming down pretty hard and I was doing my best to hug the exterior building walls in a feeble attempt at staying only a few levels below moist. As I turned a corner off of Third Avenue, I saw something that immediately set me at unease, scaffolding.

Scaffolds are a common sight on the streets of New York, Ewoks need a place to sleep after all, right? During the dryer times, they don’t really pose much of a problem to sidewalk traffic, however, when it gets wet, this is ground zero eye gougings. Thankfully, I didn’t see anyone coming, so I made a break for it, nearly jogging to get through the tight squeeze ahead.

Just as I was about four feet from the phone booth/blue wall bottle neck, a group of about six giggling college girls came breezing around the corner like a leopard print and blue eye shadow tsunami. They were coming on hard and fast, no doubt trying to make it to Bar None before the semi-employed game watchers still had enough sobriety to remember how to pay for drinks.

I looked about frantically for an exit into the street and was met with waist high metals bars all around. As I tried to edge against the wall to let the ladies by, I was caught, right under the lip by a protruding umbrella spike. The owner, sensing the tug the dirt-stached impediment, spun to deflect off me and continue forward, raking the aluminum support up inside my mouth. In short, I got fish hooked by a 19 year old girl (Those of you who know what a fish hook is, will understand the irony here).

Unfazed, half soaked and possibly bleeding from the mouth I made it to dinner. My best friend, Nick, was waiting inside, umbrella in hand and a look of silent bemusement on his face, fucker. I stood in front of a fan for a few minutes to try and evaoporate a little bit of the shame from the first attack away.

Almost out of nowhere a young couple stepped inside the door behind me. They had been cuddling together under their one umbrella like a Rockwell painting in cargo pants and 80’s kitsch tee’s. The umbrella comes down, the man holding it pulls on the center spoke to collapse the canopy and then proceeds to shake the excess water all over me.

Insult to injury, and that was two drive by umbrella attacks in less than ten minutes. Following a light meal of shalamarawarma (I have no idea how to spell or pronounce that stuff, you know, the non-falafel non-vegetarian stuff at pita joints?), we headed off to the movie.

Two hours later I’m finally dry, have a stomache growling for some vodka and the rain has picked up to Mekong Delta monsoon caliber. Forsaking my silly principles in favor of not getting pneumonia, Nick and I huddled together under his five dollar God-Smite shield and headed off in search of some drinks.

There’s something about sharing an umbrella with someone that you’re not sleeping with that’s exceedinly creepy. Not to mention all the class issues involved. Is the person carrying the umbrella acting out of charity, or is he being your butler? Move a little, my shoulder’s getting wet, no, don’t press your chest against my back… etc. etc.

Somewhere east of Second Avenue we spotted something that made me giggle, which adding to the already “Annie-esque” scene we were acting out, didn’t help things. About half a block away was a midget carrying an umbrella. Now, by midget I mean she was about four feet tall, and by umbrella, I mean one of those giant Lands End beach umbrellas.

The advancing lilliputian comedy resembled one of those walking mushrooms from Super Mario brothers and we both laughed. Laughed that good kind of laugh, like when a baby farts or something. The merry times would not last, however. When the wee lass was but twenty feet from us, the wind shifted directions and blew the water right at her face (at our backs). To keep her jeans (they could have been jean shorts) from getting wet, she bent down the six foot diameter umberella, effectivelly blocking her view of the street ahead of her and forming Voltron style into a red and white bowling ball.

Nick tried to jump out of the way, and I tried to jump with him, to stay under the umbrella, but the ensuing sidestep only landed us right in the middle of the oncoming midget freight train of doom. We got slammed pretty hard. For a little girl, that midget could tackle like LT. Again, insult being heaped onto injury, our solitary umbrella was lost in the collision, bent and reversed. We stood, looking at the wreckage, and the teeny shadow of our assailant running off to the corner, getting drenched by the second.

What’s there say here? Why does our civilization dip a notch when weather rears its ugly head? I’m all for umbrellas, if that’s your bag, but for chrissakes, if you’re going to be a bitch about getting that perm wet, at least realize that while getting wet may not be such a big deal, risking tetanus at the end of your corner bought street kite is

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