Russell’s dog Betty was restless, so I decided to take her for a lap around Schiller Park. When we got there the park was packed with people, and there was even a traffic jam of cars cruising around the perimeter looking for a parking spot. When I looked more closely, I noticed that every person in the throngs was staring like a zombie at their cellphones and tapping away. Apparently they were playing a Pokémon-like game — and, of course, they weren’t exactly enjoying the park to the fullest in doing so.
Why use an already busy neighborhood park as the location for a game? If all people are going to do is stumble around looking at their phones, hoping to capture fictional creatures, why not send them to some desolate concrete slab instead?
We’ve had rainy, blustery weather in the Columbus the past few days. It’s been unpleasant, but it gives all of us Midwestern walkers a chance to demonstrate a little appreciated, but essential, life skill: umbrella jousting.
At least, that’s what I call it. It comes into play on rainy, windy days when you’re trying to use an umbrella. Unless you position your umbrella very carefully, an unexpected blast of wind will turn your umbrella inside out and pull the canopy off the umbrella ribs, leaving the fabric flapping in the wind, the ribs exposed in unseemly fashion, and the walker completely unprotected from the elements. It’s not an easy thing to master, and it takes some practice. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see umbrellas ruined by Mother Nature sticking forlornly out of trash cans on downtown streets. Until you acquire the knack of umbrella jousting, you’re likely to lose a few Totes.
The only way to prevent unwanted umbrella shredding is to position the umbrella precisely against the maximum amount of wind pressure, brace yourself, and lean into the point of the wind as you walk forward. You’re like a knight using his lance in a medieval joust, or a fencer using his foil. Either way, it’s you against the wind. And it’s not just a matter of brute force, either. Because the wind is an unpredictable, devilish adversary, you have to be able to sense the shifts in the wind direction and promptly reposition your umbrella at the first movement, or risk disaster.
Veteran Midwesterners become remarkably adept at umbrella jousting. It’s one of the skills that distinguish us from the desert dwellers. I’m proud to say that I’ve had some umbrellas that I’ve navigated through the wind currents for more than 20 years.