Today the Golden State is looking a little more like dull silver. I try, on these rainy days, to cultivate my dad’s appreciation for the drama of a storm. This is always easier if I can find all my rain gear, which so far today I cannot.
Looking for it, though, I’m reminded of something really special that I saw on the street in New York, on another day when I was caught without an umbrella. I was out and about, in the middle of what was to be a long day, and suddenly it was pouring rain. Well, probably not suddenly. Other people were pulling umbrellas out of their bags, meaning that it had been possible to know that it might rain that day if I had paid attention.
Still, I was in New York, where a great thing happens that I have thus far not seen happen anywhere in California. Within moments of the first raindrop hitting the sidewalk, there was a man on every corner selling umbrellas for $5 or $10. I rushed up to the first one I saw, asked for the $5, smaller, version and handed him a $20 bill. I think I didn’t notice he was blind until he asked me what I had given him. When I told him, he asked another umbrella seeker to verify what I had said and when my story had been corroborated, he made change for me. That third person was neither with me nor with the umbrella man, he was just another guy waiting to buy a tiny piece of shelter and so, though we two could easily have been winking and nudging and swindled an old blind man, he actually made a great reference.
That’s stuck with me for years, an old blind man’s system for trusting the world. He didn’t have faith in any particular individual, which is reasonable, but he did have faith in random strangers holding one another accountable. That is, he had faith in the larger community of people in general. And, in fact, faith isn’t even the right word, because it was working, out there on the street. People were keeping each other honest.
Anyway, enjoy the rain, it’ll be gone by tomorrow.