Monday, August 09, 2010


I almost always carry an umbrella with me. Calgary's weather is less predictable than the lotto, and since I haven't had a 649 ticket pay off, well, ever, I figure I better adopt the 'better safe than sorry' motto in most facets of my life.

I used to carry around these beautiful compact black umbrellas. They were light and easy to hide in my bag. However, I kept running into the same problem: it would start to pour as I left work for the day. I would get on the bus (which, at the time, was my second home due to an exuberant daily commute), and place my wet umbrella at my feet. Sixteen hours later (which was the equivalent of 90 minutes in 'bus time'), I ring the bell and push my way through the wet asses and grabby hands to escape into the fresh air, entirely forgetting my inconspicuous umbrella on the serrated floor of the bus. I only let this happen about twelve times before enough was enough. No more petite, classy umbrellas. I went to buy the most inexpensive, horrid umbrella of all time.

There used to be this dollar store a few blocks from my work. Perhaps "dollar hole-in-the-wall" would be a more appropriate word for it. It was in between a Supercuts and a laundromat, and they often gave you your change in rolls of pennies. This may have had something to do with the ten-year-old that, I'm pretty sure, was running the joint. If he wasn't the main boss (sometimes there was a very old woman who didn't speak any English that also hung out behind the till), he was most certainly the assistant manager or something. A high ranking title, nonetheless.
There were shelves in the store, but the owners chose against stacking their wares on them (except maybe the odd empty soda can or used Kleenex), and preferred the "dig and hunt" method of shopping.
One lunch break, I rifled though the boxes on the floor until my knees were sore. I only had an hour for lunch, and when I asked the kid at the front if he knew where the umbrellas were hiding, he looked at me like I was crazy, and went back to pretending to shoot a faux-gun lighter at his wrinkled partner behind the till. Some sorts of 'Cowboys and Indians' game, but for dollar store employees, I guess.
I came back the next day, and only had to dig for a few minutes before finding the perfect umbrella. Even when folded, this umbrella stood higher than my knee and the price was right- $3. The print on the outside, a Blossom-esque peach floral, was just a bonus. It didn't matter if I lost this umbrella- it was cheap and ugly.

As Murphy's Law often has it's way in such cases, it's been almost three years that I've been carrying around this monstrosity. I haven't left it behind anywhere, and for the money I paid, it is abnormally durable. It's heavy, and it clashes with everything I own. However, it is safe to say that I have gotten my $3 back, tenfold, for all of the times that this awful umbrella has saved my ass.

The weather in this city has a funny way of working. It tends to like to play cute little tricks on me, like how it can be the most lovely day ever, all day long, but as soon as I'm about to clock out, it starts to downpour in a way that makes me wonder whether or not I should go start building an ark...
Today was no surprise: the blue skies turned to black as I stepped out the door on my way home. Drizzle progressed to rain, and pretty soon my trusty umbrella was shading me from sheets of water and hailstones. By the time I had reached the stairs right by my house, the rain had slowed down, but the wind was still fairly heavy. The wet plastic handle of my umbrella slipped through my fingers, and my umbrella floated halfway down the hill. From behind me, under the shelter of a half-built duplex, were a whole gaggle of construction workers, applauding as they watched me chase my airborne umbrella down the slope. At that moment, I wished that they'd just get back to hammering and sawing things, and making comments about my tits and ass like they normally do.

I held onto the long blades of grass to steady myself as I reached for the peach plastic handle. I bent down to pick up the umbrella, entirely forgetting the age-old rule: Never bend at the waist to pick something up if you are in front of twenty construction workers. With my ass in the air, I was almost requesting the barrage of ass-related comments that were being yelled from behind me. Ass this, ass that.
I was so wrong... The ass comments were way worse than taking a little guff for the umbrella gag. I stood up and, without turning around, opened my hand and let the wind carry the umbrella all the way to the bottom of the hill while I chased behind at a pseudo-panicked pace. You know what they say: always leave on a high note.

~sarah p.

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