You Can Stand Under My Umbrella

Under my Umbrella

A wise woman never leaves home without an umbrella, or pleather booty shorts.

It’s raining.  Not men, mind you, but cats and dogs and I’m standing at the bus stop in Northern Liberties sans umbrella, despite the fact that my students all chipped in to buy me a lovely (and not inexpensive) travel umbrella at the end of the year.

I’ve just left a meeting for the Fringe Festival, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty and the bus is nowhere in sight.

Across the street is a large row home with huge bay windows on the first floor.  Inside is a man, perhaps in his mid-thirties, wearing a beat up fedora, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette, as you do in NoLibs…

He smiles at me and I nod back, leaning against a telephone pole because I never was very good in science and I’m convinced that the pole will offer some sort of protection against the weather (either that or it will increase the likelihood of my being struck by lightning and subsequently turning into some sort of superhero).

The bus is nowhere in sight and although I’ve waited at this particular bus stop before, it was always with Date #17, and not by myself, in the rain, sans umbrella.  The potential for a cinematic make out session is drastically reduced when you have no one to make out with.

It is at this precise moment that the man across the street gets up.  I freeze.  He’s watching me.  He knows I’m waiting for the bus.  What if he invites me in?  What then?  Do I hedge my bets and hope he’s not an axe murderer or do I stand there dripping wet on the sidewalk, mascara running down my face but blissfully un-murdered?

He approaches his front door.

I look away, pretending I don’t see him.

He steps onto the landing.

I avoid eye contact.

He weaves through the cars parked along the curb and crosses the street.

I fiddle with my cell phone.

“Here,” he says at last, proffering a large red and white umbrella.  “I saw you waiting just and kept thinking, ‘That poor girl!’”

I’m speechless.

I’m not even wearing heels.

Eventually I do manage to say thank you—after all, it’s not every day that a bone fide hipster turns out to be an umbrella-wielding knight-in-shining-armor.

Unfortunately, he lives on the side of the street opposite the bus stop so when the #57 finally arrives a full twenty five minutes later, I have to run across the street, lean the umbrella against his stoop and sprint back through traffic, all the while attempting not to get murdered for a second time (this time by an errant bus driver) but I manage.

I ride home in a state of complete euphoria (either that or the early stages of pneumonia), recalling the many strangers across the world to whom I’m completely indebted and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

If you’ve ever experienced an extreme (or even minor) act of kindness from a complete stranger, please share below.  (And although I doubt very much this particular NoLibs hipster is a member of my “public” I’d like to offer a great bit “thank you,” not only for the usage of your umbrella but for restoring my faith in humanity.)

12 Responses to “You Can Stand Under My Umbrella”

  1. Katie

    Mine involves an umbrella from a stranger as well. I was vising my sister in Miami and we were at an outdoor bar — you know, where the stools are all along the sidewalk underneath and overhang, and it was, of course, pouring ran. And we had, of course, no umbrellas. Since I had my fancy, schmancy camera, we didn’t want to run the several blocks through the downpour to our car. A businessman at the bar overheard our predicament and GAVE us his umbrella. He insisted we keep it. And the best part? He wasn’t “creepy” about it at all. Just nice.

    Also, one time all I had was some sour cream while standing in line at the grocery store. Of course, the woman in front of me had about 20,000 things in her cart, and likely 20,000 coupons to go with it. Just when I was getting insanely (and irrationally) irritated with her, she turned to me when the person in front of her had finished checking out and asked if I’d like to step ahead of her. It was the NICEST thing. Now, whenever I have tons of things at the grocery store and someone behind me just has a few, I always offer to let him/her go ahead.

    Pay it forward! 😉

  2. amanda

    i live in an area called west seattle, which is accessible by one of two ways: a pair of bridges to the north, or you can drive about 30 minutes out of your way and approach it from the south. last fall, a freak snowstorm hit a few days before thanksgiving (you may have seen it on the national news, and then pointed and laughed.) my bus, along with god knows how many others, got stranded on the wrong side of the bridges. the bus driver pulled over to the side of an overpass, let off about 50 passengers into the freezing wind, ice, and snow, and we set off on foot toward the bridges. about 4 miles later, i crossed the lower bridge along with another woman from my bus, who, as chance would have it, lived up the street from me. she then proceeded to call her husband, who braved the weather (by this time, the wind had picked up even more, the temperature had dropped another ten degrees, and the roads were covered in ice, snow, and more ice) and saved us the further 3 mile trek from the bridge to our respective houses. i have never been more grateful. also, next time it snows, i’m not leaving the house.

  3. jennywintersconsulting

    I lived on the prairie in Illinois back in 1995. The main streets quickly ended up in fields of soybeans and corn, unpaved. There was a 4-way stop in the middle of the corn, go figure. I didn’t bother to stop, because usually there was no one there (and the police had bicycle thieves to pursue). But in this case, there was a car at each of the stop signs that I didn’t see until I was plunging into the intersection.

    I whispered Oh My God as I started to whiz past the other cars. But in each car, the driver smiled at me, waved and shrugged.


  4. Rachel

    Once my boss noted that I had a low tire and that I should probably put air in it before driving home. I thought, “how hard can it be?” As I tried figuring it out at the gas station, a truck pulled up behind me. After several attempts and feels of the tire, I knew it wasn’t inflating and felt the pressure of someone watching in line. Finally the guy got out of his truck and as he walked over, I said, “I don’t think this is working.” He said, “well, probably because you are letting the air out.” Ha ha ha! So embarrassing. But he not only showed me how to do it, he checked all of my tires before I left. I should have asked for his phone number. 🙂

  5. Kate

    On my recent trip to Spain, I arrived in Madrid but couldn’t find my hostel, even with the directions provided online. I hadn’t yet figured out that the street names were on the side of the buildings, so I literally wandered up and down the various streets hoping to just happen upon my hostel. When I came back to the center square for the third time, feeling completely defeated (and lost), a nice older man came up to me speaking only Spanish. After a few seconds I finally understood he was telling me that he had been watching me wander aimlessly and wanted to help me find where I was going. Once I told him the address, he proceeded to go ask various people nearby where the street was and came back and gave me the directions. I thanked him profusely and was able to find the correct street and my hostel! If it weren’t for him, I would have spent at least the next hour continuing to haul my suitcase aimlessly around the streets of Madrid!

  6. Catherine

    I love this! Nothing like the good old kindness of strangers. You should definitely pay it forward…and this blog post was a good reminder to me to be nicer to people!

  7. Debbie

    When I was traveling in Peru, I found myself in the airport with a lost wallet. It must have disappeared after I piad my “leave the country” taxes. After much running around I had to admit that it was gone. Although it only contained my bank card, a little cash, and my drivers license, it was all the money I had left on my trip. AND I was flying into JFK and had to take a bus to LaGuardia in order to catch my flight to Baltimore. I was approached by an American couple who had been observing my frantic searching. They told me that they wanted to help and gave me $40. After thanking them profusely, I turned to put the money in my bag and get a piece of paper to get their address so I could pay them back when we all got home to the States. When I turned back around, they were gone. I made it home safely, and the bus and food costs in NYC came to exactly $40…


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