People are afraid of almost everything. They’re scaredy cats, all of them. One of the things they are most afraid of is being different, of standing out, or of breaking with the molded one-think of the microcosm of society they happen to be living in.
I am the Umbrella man. I’ve walked with my umbrella for about ten years, every day or close to it – on the streets of Cary, North Carolina. I was semi-retired ten years ago, and am fully retired today. I have a lot of time to walk, and it’s the walking time that is the most productive thinking time for me. I think a lot.
Cary, North Carolina has a population of about 125,000. Actually, I don’t know exactly what it is, and never will, but for fun let’s say that today it is 125,153. Of that tally, I’d say – with almost certainty – that 124,839 of them know me. They don’t know my name, so they know me only as “that umbrella man” – the man with the umbrella. Why? Because a couple decades ago I had the most terminal form of skin cancer – melanoma. It was stage two and three quarters or something like that – I don’t remember exactly. Anyway, stage four is certain death. Once you defy death – even once – you are no longer afraid. Of anything.
So, when I see people who are afraid, I recognize them. I like to say it’s like the designated driver in the drunk-party bar. The guy sits on the barstool and observes – that which none of the other partrons can observe. Daily, that “guy” is me, as I walk the streets of this medium sized towne in the center of this relatively picturesque state of North Carolina. Why do they recognize me? Because, every day I break the mold. Every single day I affront their insecurities – those which are engendered by the need to be the same – the exact same – as everyone else. I carry the umbrella in the blazing sun. It terrorizes them.
For the longest time I had to endure loud boisterous accusations of insanity, by fast passing cars and passerbys. It was outside of the envelope of what’s allowed – to carry an umbrella in the sun. I am the Umbrella Man. I will forever be the Umbrella Man. I stand by it and under it. Every day it saves my life, albeit I could slather on some greasy junk and call that a better solution.
It’s a theory now, accepted by some of those on the tumor survivors list – that staying in the shadows of a windowless room provides for higher mortality rates than a reasonable dose of sunshine. A couple studies seem to verify this. So, yes – I walk for my health. As a secondary motive – my wife still works during the day, and the evening is taken up with her. So – daytime is my window of walking opportunity. I use it liberally.
I don’t see many pedestrians during my walks – except in the park. This has to do with North Carolina heat more than North Carolina couch potatoes. Tumor listees are slightly more likely to get eye cancer. I’ve donned a pair of ultra UV resistant wrap-around sunglasses to complement my walking wear, and this too terrorizes the citizens of Mouseville. It’s just too far outside the envelope of what’s allowed. It impinges on the average citizen’s self-given role of ensuring modular, compliant, and authorized walking equipment. There’s no law against using an umbrella outside of a thunderstorm, but there doesn’t need to be one. The citizens self regulate.
The last sentence was a little tongue-in-cheek, but I’d like to share some information that shed’s light on why it’s only a little tonge-in-cheek. Asians don’t get skin cancer as often. In asia, it’s quite common to see people carrying umbrellas in the blazing sun. They even sell special ones with UV absorbing material known as “Sunbrellas”. This is not to be confused with the trademarked fabric, also called Sunbrella. I suppose here I put a disclaimer about this site, and how it has nothing at all to do with the fabric people, just like we see at the bottom of TV pharmco ads.
OK, I guess I am afraid of something. Lawyers.
In Asia, they have the inverted-cone straw hat. Did you know that the Ancient Chinese invented the umbrella by making that hat a little bigger? Now you know. I regularly pass sweating, panting, near-heat-exhaustion joggers who are obviously without the benefit of that kind of hat, umbrella, or (most likey) suntan oil. They are within the rules with that.
I am the Umbrella Man.