Can Two Walk Together?
Monday, February 21 at 4:45 p.m.
I don't know if I've said this already, but somewhere around the beginning of winter1 I heard it mentioned on the radio that this season would be a fickle one. And although it has been, it also seems to me that we haven't had this much snow in quite a few years. On the other hand, I don't know if we've ever had as much rain during February as well.2 But that's okay - something good did come of the rain, all the rain last Tuesday in particular: I was given a chance to try out my new umbrella on my way to work.

My 'new' umbrella is actually a few months old. (But considering that it was a Christmas gift,3 I'm sure you can imagine why I never had a chance to use it till Tuesday past.) And, it's big. Very big.4 It can easily cover two people, if not three. It's also technologically advanced - it has 'wind flaps'5 that allow the frequent gusts of air that might find a way under it to leave without turning it inside out. And it's black. Of course it's black.

Needless to say, the umbrella did a great job of keeping me and my bag dry on the way to and back from work. But there are caveats to carrying such a large umbrella about: you will, invariably, hit other peoples' umbrellas - and sometimes other people - as you walk down the sidewalk. And I am no exception to this rule. I hope they weren't too mad.

As I was making my way to UofT's al&d building to fill my 6-9 shift, I was reminded of an essay that we read about umbrellas on the first day of my twelfth grade English class. I remember sitting at the back of the class, as usual, and thinking to myself as I began to read, "It's an umbrella for #!&# sake."6 Of course, I didn't say that out loud. And strangely, that essay is pretty much all I remember from that term.7

The author was writing of a time she was in Japan (Tokyo?) for a conference. On the day of, as she stepped out of her hotel to walk to a seminar, she stepped into a sudden downpour. As she was considering the bleak prospect of walking the several miles to her destination in the rain, she was overtaken by a gentleman who kindly offered her some cover under his umbrella. So, the two of them walked together to the conference centre, where he disappeared never to be seen again. It was her description of how they walked, however, that came to mind last week.

She said that as the two of them began to walk, it quickly became obvious that if they continued as they were, one of them would always have a shoulder in the rain. So, she did the only thing that she could: she wrapped her arm around the man's back and held8 on to his elbow. A very intimate gesture, she admitted, but at the time it felt like the natural thing to do.

I had never thought about it before, but it's very, very true. If two people want to share an umbrella comfortably and stay dry, that's what they'll have to do. Walking side-by-side won't do it. Even taking the other person's arm isn't enough. You have to get close - till you're practically joined at the hip. And you have to be intimate enough with each other for one person to put his or her arm around the other. Then you can walk pretty much anywhere without having to worry about anything that may come your way.

And if you think I'm still talking about umbrellas and the rain, well, I'm not sure what I have to say about that.

1Should 'winter' be 'Winter'? I'm not sure, and I really don't feel like checking.

2That reminds me of a bit of a Samuel Marchbanks selection that I read in a Reader's Digest when I was around eleven or twelve; he tells April to stop dribbling and wipe its chin, I think. Someone should tell this February to stop daydreaming and make up it's mind about what season it is.

3And now that you know how I got it, you must be asking yourself, "What kind of person asks for an umbrella as a Christmas present?" Well, I have an answer for you: this kind of person. So I'm very practically minded. Sue me.

4Please get your mind out of the gutter. My big umbrella is in no way a euphemism for anything else.

5Truth be told, I don't know if that's what they're called. But 'wind flaps' sounds about right.

6As hard as it may be to believe, I used to swear quite a bit when I was in high school. Well, in my head at least. And sometimes out loud when no one was around. Not so much anymore.

7No, that's not true. That was also the year we studied Hamlet and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That was also the year I wrote "The Stars Shine On". And Coldplay released Parachutes around that time as well. That particular bit I remember, and associate with English, because the teacher in the room next door - Mr. Knight - happened to be listening to the album during his spare period one day while we were discussing the possibility of Hamlet's having an Oedipus complex. Or something like that.

8Have you ever noticed how some words just look awkward when they're written down? I think 'held' is one of those words.

Ideally, I suppose, I would add something like "Walking in The Rain" (The cover by Jay and The Americans, not the Ronettes version. 'Cause I don't swing that way, you know?) to this part of the post, but what in life is ever ideal? And since I mentioned them, here's something from Coldplay's second album:

The Scientist
From the album, A Rush of Blood to the Head

Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry
You don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you
Tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets
And ask me your questions
Oh let's go back to the start

Running in circles
Coming up tails
Heads on a silence apart

Nobody said it was easy
Oh it's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard

Oh take me back to the start

I was just guessing
At numbers and figures
Pulling your puzzles apart
Questions of science
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
Tell me you love me
Come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start

Running in circles
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are

Nobody said it was easy
Oh it's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard

I'm going back to the start

Sorry about all the footnotes. Think of this post as a tribute to Mr. Baker.
I think the term you're looking for is
"wind vent"
My goodness... That's an exact description of my umbrella. "Wind vent" it is. Try saying that ten times fast.
I think the term you're looking for is
"wind vent"
My goodness... That's an exact description of my umbrella. "Wind vent" it is. Try saying that ten times fast.