I truly look forward to this post, in large part because it is meant to be a very lighthearted one. My recent blog posts have been very real and raw. I have opened myself up in new ways and it has all been a bit scary and a bit freeing, all at the same time. As the title shows you, this isn't a deep post. We shall see how this all goes as I try to type with an ice pack on my wounded robo-cop type hand.
There are so many wonderful things about NYC, many of which I have already addressed in past posts. There is one aspect of NYC living that I am not sure many realize. Growing up in a small town, we would drive pretty much everywhere, aside from walking or running around the loop and on the field, court or diamond. If we needed to pick something up at CVS, we would drive, if we wanted to get groceries, we would drive. I am sure I owned an umbrella in high school and college, but I don't particularly remember owning one. I always knew I never had to walk further than the distance from the car door to the front door of wherever I was headed. I never needed to really worry about the weather, except for the excitement that would come along with possible snow days and those freezing field hockey and softball games that would occur in the rain and cold.
Even now when I go home sometimes, it feels weird getting in the car to drive to CVS or driving to my friend Sarah's house, which is just a few houses down from my parents. Living in the city really has skewed my perception of what is walkable and for that I will be forever grateful.
One thing I learned quickly as a commuter in the city is that much like the Post Office, whether rain, wind, or snow, New Yorkers must "go through." No body cares if it is cold, windy, rainy, snowing, storming or really hott. It is not a valid excuse to not go to work because you didn't want to go outside and you didn't want to walk to the subway. Now, granted, there are a few rare occasions where mother nature gets the better of NYC public transportation, but I have to admit, it is rather amazing how on top of everything public transit is.
All of this means, if you aren't willing to call in sick every time it isn't walkable, you have to become a true NYer and be prepared for everything. When I was living at East 90th and working at East 88th for those 3 years, commuting was a breeze. I didn't really feel like a commuter in that if I forgot an umbrella, it was only two blocks, if it was really hot out, it was only a few minutes before I would be back in air conditioning and if it was snow, unfortunately I never had an excuse about being "stuck" at home, it was only two blocks away.
Once I began my new role and moved to our main office down on 22nd Street, I began to feel like so much more of a commuter and hence, more of a NYer. I would go shopping for things I never had in the city, rain boots, snow boots, a rain jacket, scarves, hat, gloves and of course an umbrella. Since moving to the city I have had very close relationships with now the two umbrellas. When I first started commuting down to 22nd Street, I pretty much refused to use my umbrella and I would just wear my raincoat whenever it rained. I learned quickly this wasn't sufficient, as I have a rather long walk after I get to 86th street.
I quickly learned that an umbrella was essential. I am now that person that always has an umbrella in her purse, always. This way, I never get stuck in a rain storm and can always attempt to stay dry on the way home.
The first real umbrella I had in the city was a gift from Greg's parents from Sharper Image. It was the most amazing, spectacular umbrella ever. I still have it, but it is enjoying its retirement and now only comes out during special occasions and really crazy rain storms. It was wind proof and while all of the other umbrellas were dying and popping out, my umbrella would stand its ground. As we would pass all of the umbrella carcasses on the sidewalk, I would continue to walk proud with mine, seeing its broken joints as battle wounds, repairing them with paperclips to try and extend its life. I really loved this umbrella and he really seemed to impress others, as well.
Greg was nice enough recently to order me a new umbrella, a nice bright lime green one. While I do appreciate its ability to keep me dry, it just isn't the same. It is so much more light weight and doesn't have the bells and whistles of the other umbrella. I am fearful it will soon be alongside the other dead carcasses on the sidewalk. I continue to keep this lime green umbrella in my purse, as I know the Sharper Image one deserves a nice retirement.
Greg and I's life together does seem to have a nice rain theme. There are three key events I feel like I need to discuss whenever I think of rain. The first would be Greg's graduation from B.U. My parents, Greg's parents and Greg's sister Cindy all came to Boston for Greg's graduation. It was so nice to all spend time together, the problem began when the sky opened up and we all just got drenched. Greg is nice enough to remind us that he stayed nice and dry the entire time under the tent as we all got soaked. B.U. was nice enough to hand out red ponchos, but they def. did not help at all. Cindy and I laugh about this all the time and I am truly grateful to have shared this memory with everyone.
The second life event would be Nate's proposal to Cindy. Cindy had always wanted to get proposed to on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, as a life-long figure skater. Nate totally surprised her and flew to NYC to propose to her while Cindy and her family were here on a brief stop-over before their family vacation. The weather forecasts quickly made Nate realize that skating on the ice rink would not be possible. Looking back on it now, I am unsure if I have seen rain like that since. It was crazy driving rain, going sideways, kicking out umbrellas, I think Nate actually lost his (one of our) umbrella that night and it quickly became another carcass umbrella on a NYC city street. We were all laughing hysterically as we were getting drenched, as at that point there wasn't anything we could do, the umbrellas almost were not even helping.
Our time out in the back country and Glacier also needs to be mentioned here. Now, obviously these aren't the only time it has rained, but the most memorable. Although, Greg hitting himself in the head with the cab door and bleeding is also quite memorable. Maybe the real theme here is rain with the Crams :)
While we were in the back country at Glacier National Park in Montana, we had one storm, in particular that just shook us. The rain was driving and I heard thunder like I never did before. Nothing to help you get over your fear of thunderstorms like being in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception, in a tent. I now love thunderstorms. I loved laying in the tent that day and hearing the rain come down and bounce off the tent, it was really a memorable day, for sure.
I can only assume our wedding will also be pouring rain, but we shall see :)
As someone who is rather vertically challenged, just shy of 5'4, in addition to have challenges with the weather, umbrellas are an entire struggle of their own. I am not sure if you can fully appreciate my following rants if you have never needed to use an umbrella in a crowd full of people. The two main challenges I have with using an umbrellas are 1) everyone using them is relatively the same height as me and 2) people that do not know how to walk with umbrellas.
While I have no doubt that not everyone in NYC is 5'4 sometimes it feels like it, as I swear everyone in the world has their umbrella at the exact same height and hence makes it nearly impossible to walk in any way other than single-filed. Forget trying to bob and weave around people if you are in a hurry. I think the problem is that even if you aren't 5'4 there must be some sweet spot for umbrellas, where holding them above your head at that height causes the least amount of splash back, wet shoulders, bags and feet. I think someone should study this and test if there really is an umbrella sweet spot. I always get extremely jealous of those tall folks (probably 5'8 and above) who because they are holding their umbrellas that much higher can almost appear to float through crowds.
Greg and I really feel this vertical challenge when we try and walk around together in the rain. We are both relatively the same height. Walking next to each other is nearly impossible, as our umbrellas constantly bump into each other, almost taking each others eyes out if we try and point things out and interact in any way.
My second beef is with people who just do not seem to be able to walk with umbrellas. No umbrella ettiquette, if you will. Part of this is because it feels like everyone in NYC is the same height when it rains, but then there are those people, you know them, the ones that are totally unaware of their surroundings at all time and never seen to understand how they could possible have any affect on the world around them. Totally clueless and more annoying careless about how they interact with the world. Perhaps they walk in the middle of the sidewalk at a snails pace and never check behind them to see if someone is trying to pass, perhaps there are four of them walking in a line and you are trying to get around them, perhaps someone is walking straight at you and unwilling to move, or adjust their umbrella location to ensure you can pass safely (without losing an eye). It is often like a draw in the city, two people walking directly towards each other, who will break left, who will break left, oh no, you are getting closer and no one is breaking either way, and then, then I always break because I cannot imagine being so bold as to keep walking directly at someone.
There are some moves I have learned over the years, however, that while they do not guarantee a stress less walk with an umbrella, make it a bit less likely I will want to hurt someone after my time outside. The challenge here is to really take ownership and realize others may not be so considerate. I like to call it the umbrella dance. While I walk around the city in the rain, I try and be super and hyper aware of people around me and where everyone is trying to go. Traffic jams are common in this umbrella madness and I try my best to not add to the pile up that can occur, especially at crosswalks, intersections and subway entrances. The one thing I do more and more is raise my umbrellas up as high as I can. When everyone is walking with their umbrella at the same height, it is hard to maneuver, whenever people are walking towards me, clueless, I usually raise my umbrella up as high as I can, to go around them, as they clearly were not moving for me. When it comes to bobbing and weaving around people if I am in a hurry (I am a fast walker, so I normally am) in addition to the up and down motion of my umbrella, I also have no qualms about the side to side motion. I know this is totally rock science, right? You would think others would be more aware of these alternatives to make walking in the city with umbrellas more possible. I feel like Mary Poppins whenever I walk around in the rain, dancing with my umbrella and moving it around as I pass by.
The last scenario I will throw out there would be subway etiquette when it comes to umbrellas. Now, after writing a good amount of real meaningful posts, I feel a bit silly going on too long about umbrellas, but am hopeful that if nothing else, others may start paying more attention to how they interact with the world.
So, whenever I come close to the subway in a rain storm, there is always a pile-up. The pile-up is due to the fact that no one wants to put their umbrella down until the last minute in an effort to stay as dry as they can, for as long as they can. While I understand this, at 86th Street, at least, it causes a huge back-up and I think it takes everyone longer to get down into the subway in the end, as everyone starts putting their umbrellas down at the last minute. Then once they get inside, they are spending time tying it off (Velcro, etc). I recently started putting my umbrella down when I am 10-15 feet away from the entrance, so that when I get inside I can go right down the stairs and not have to pause momentarily to fix-up my umbrella and cause a back-up behind me.
The same thing then happens on the other end, people coming up out of the subway. Everyone tries to open their umbrella as soon as they see those stairs and the gray sky. This is fine if people are willing to adjust the height of their umbrellas, but as soon as everyone tries to keep it open at the same time and at the same height, it causes a back-up of coming up out of the subway. I do one of two things when coming up those stairs. I either suck it up and wait until I get out of the crowd and open my umbrella, or if it is really pouring, I will open it and put it up higher, so it isn't in anyone's way and isn't bumping and interfering with other people's umbrellas, or worse poking out someone's eye.
My last tiff is about how people handle their umbrellas once on the subway. Often dripping and soaking wet, I always make sure my umbrella is not dripping on someone feet, lap, or dripping on the floor and bouncing back up onto someone's pants. I often look around and see people getting dripped on and just glaring at the person cluelessly on the train having no concept of, once again, how they are affecting the world around them. Don't get me wrong, there are times when the train is so crowded, it can be difficult to find empty floor space to drip on, but I always do my best to find it. If this is not possible, I often put the umbrella in the center section of my bag and just suck up to the fact that my bag may get a bit wet, or I hold it close under my arm to try and absorb some of the drips.
I know in the grand scheme of the world all of these little things don't mean much. They don't really make or break anyone's day. I just really think it is important to be aware of how your presence impacts the world and those around you. While I am sometimes jealous of those aloof folks out there, that just kind of breeze through life with no regard for holding doors, picking things that have been dropped by someone else or watching the umbrellas and doing the umbrella dance as necessary, in the end, I do think it is important to remind yourself that the world does not revolve around you. I know I say this all the time, but it is everyone's responsibility to leave the world just a little bit better, even if it means nothing more than a smile and a super dooper bob with your umbrella on your commute home. Someone will surely appreciate it, even if they never say thank you, you just may avoid an eye roll.
Coming up next:
What 5 year olds teach me
Morals and ethics in an ever polarized world
And that's all she wrote...