Fall in New York
Sharp, able to take out your eye should you get too close, they parry and thrust … until one goes down, gasping, drowning in the water pouring over the twitching body--the victor scuttles away, the much smaller body moving quickly among the others of its kind … triumphant in its victory.
No, it’s not a battle of crabs on a beach … it’s Fall in New York.
The time we fear most; not because of slush or bad sweaters or despondent Yankee fans (who simply will not quit riding the 4 uptown, convinced the season isn’t over...or even worse, become pseudo Red Sox fans in the hope of winning votes). We do not worry about dashing through intersections, ignoring the helpful RedHand O’Death or the Friendly WalkingMan to guide us, instead taking our lives in our hands as we dodge traffic and rogue taxis. We scoff, HA! at black limos that careen down Park, and the multitude of delivery men who scream at us in a variety of languages, in a tone that lets us know they are not wishing us a good day. No, because it is fall, we know what is coming, what we must gird our loins against, what lurks around every corner...the biggest fear of all the Fall Fears--
The Umbrella Wars.
Yes, it’s that time when the first drop of moisture in the air signals the automatic response for a field of colourful sea anemones to dot the streets of New York. Black, blue, red, black, yellow, black, plaid, black, pink, black, black, black …okay, it’s a desolate group of sea anemones, but you get my metaphor.
As they open, the rib tips touch lightly at first … measuring the distance, the strength of their opponent. The crowd moves forward, tipping the umbrella to maximum advantage for facial and clothing protection … causing you to become completely blind to where you are going. The occasional lifting of the edge brings you into the "I'm defenseless" zone, your guard is lowered … they come at you, a solid wall of nylon… spikes at the ready … all aimed for your eyes.
Swiftly, you raise your own weapon, letting the rib tips shield you. CLICK! CLACK! Battles erupt as people jockey for position, desperate not to be pushed into the nameless muck that flows in the gutter, picking up strength with the storm … picking up strength, cups, small dogs, it waits to soak though those shoes, be they Payless or Ferragamo. A gasp can be heard …there is rumour someone is taking out people up ahead, fighting against the crowd on her way from Penn Station to the huge 99 Cent Store, where you never spend just 99 cents.
Businessmen fall aside. Women scream when small almost-but-not-quite-Burberry umbrellas flip inside out, caught by the larger ribs and tips, allowing their owners to be drenched, as they too, slip and are taken away, succumbing to the swift gutter flood, floundering like some poor one claw crab.
There she is, her 4'11" frame moving with a steady pace … her huge golf umbrella in one hand, her shopping cart in the other. Track suit Bedazzled, hair permed, patted, pinned and in place, a look of determination on her face, she triumphs in the battlefield.
She is proof that it’s not the cost of the umbrella; it’s the size and the steady hand wielding it that wins the day.
We have no choice but to bow to her, to the green and white stripes as they part the sea of wet, weary commuters. We bow, we curse, and we walk against the lights into the path of some idiot who thinks holding his horn down is going to scare us after we've dealt with her.
Who is he kidding? Did he see the size of that umbrella??