New York Lesson No. 328: Umbrella Graveyard

As cold weather siezes us by the short and curlies, I begin to see more and more the signs of winter. I have lost count of the number of single gloves I have found littering the sidewalks and subway platforms of New York. Makes me sad, really. Sometimes I see a complete pair left behind by a passeger in a hurry or a distracted mom or a fussy child. But when I see one glove, it reminds me of when I lose one glove. It’s an incomplete loss; I’m left with one glove, which I can neither use nor bring myself to throw away. (It’s a perfectly good glove.) I’d rather lose two gloves: They’re both gone for good and I know where I stand.

The dead-glove phenomenon reminds me of the springtime equivalent: abandoned busted umbrellas. New York sidewalks become a graveyard of umbrella carcasses whenever it rains. First, it must be noted that New Yorkers will pull out their umbrellas at the first sign of any precipitation, be it a single drop (probably from someone’s high-rise air conditioner, anyway), a misty drizzle, a light snow flurry — whatever. (Those of us from Michigan and Minnesota wonder: “an umbrella in the snow?“)

They’re ubiquitous and cheap, and therefore easy to leave behind. How they miss the garbage cans on nearly every corner remains a mystery to me. Maybe the useless, impotent spines of a stripped and torn umbrella, shreds of soggy fabric flopping in the wind, are more demonstrative. You can count on it — someone right here earlier today had a hell of a time. Right here. You can almost feel their anguish, their rage, their frantic searching for a 99-cent store, their wet pant cuffs and sopping socks. It’s a testament to man’s struggle against nature. Poetry, almost.



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the untallied hours

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