Just Me and My – Umbrella-Cycle

By Lynn Ingram

It turns out that singing the multi-syllabic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” without missing a beat may not have been Mary Poppins’s most impressive talent.

And while analyzing Ms. Poppins’s abilities, not to mention emulating them, has never been at the top of my to-do list (or even on my to-do list, for that matter), I have lately had an opportunity to do a bit of both.

Remember that bicycle-riding she did while holding that umbrella?

While wearing a dress?

Ah, yes. Of course you do.

The distance from my home to my office is a mere six blocks. One of the great blessings of my life is that this allows me a peaceful walk through a lovely historic district of elegant old homes surrounded by graceful magnolias and oaks and rainbows of flower beds. This accomplishes a couple of things: One, it clears my head and reminds me of all the beauty my world contains. Two, I get some much-needed exercise, which I fervently hope will help to remove some of these excess pounds that have attached themselves to my body with absolutely no invitation from me. Clearly, they belong to someone else and were erroneously rerouted to my mid-section, and I am doing my absolute best to give them an unequivocal message of “return to sender.”

My exercise program is three-pronged, with the aforementioned walk, or such amblings, constituting Prong One. Prong Two is the swimming I do most days at my local YMCA. This allows me to feel young and lithe and fit, as long as I avoid the mirrors in the bathroom. When I finally got around to getting the tires inflated, I added the third exercise prong: riding my bicycle. Shortly thereafter, I figured out how to navigate my city streets safely enough to ride my bike to my office. And, with uncharacteristic grace, I sorted out how to mount and dismount that bicycle, while wearing a skirt, without exposing anything that should remain unexposed. In addition to providing exercise, riding the bike to the office solves a couple of problems for me: When it’s really hot outside, riding the bike is ever so much cooler than walking, because the movement of riding generates a pleasant breeze. When I’m pressed for time, riding the bike gets me to the office in about half the time it takes to walk.

It’s that second condition that was in play on Thursday. Where had the time gone? A mere hour before my first client was scheduled, I was certain that I was going to enjoy a leisurely walk to the office. Clearly, there is a black hole in my house where minutes dive in and disappear, because suddenly, I had only ten minutes before that appointment. Out the door I dashed with my bike, only to discover that it was raining. Oh, well, I thought, I was going to learn how to do this sooner or later, so I popped back inside for my umbrella, mounted the bike, holding my open umbrella in my right hand, and off I went.

Not yet being entirely brain-dead, I experienced a tiny bit of trepidation about biking with umbrella in hand. Still, the first couple of blocks of the ride went so smoothly that I detected a smidgen of self-satisfaction at my ability to manage both bike and umbrella. Hey, not every middle-aged woman is out blazing such new trails, right?

And then I came to a red light. I had forgotten about brakes. Brakes that typically require both hands. Clearly, I had a problem. Or did I? I didn’t know what would happen if I only used the left-hand brake, because I’d never before needed to find out. So I slowly and carefully squeezed the left brake handle. As I did, I realized that this was going to be a very bad idea, because my bike was going to skid. Okay, I thought, that’s why there are brake handles on both sides, because you need to use them both at the same time. (I may need to revisit the earlier assessment of the level of my brain-deaded-ness.)

There was nothing for it but for me to put my right hand on the right brake handle at the same time that I put my left hand on the left brake handle. If you’re visualizing here, you are correct in noting that, yes, that would be the right hand that was holding the umbrella. So when I put my right hand on the right brake handle, the result was that the umbrella handle moved from a vertical position to a horizontal position, placing the umbrella itself in front of my face. There are two things wrong with this: One, as the umbrella is no longer over my head, I am now getting wet, and two, I can’t see, because the umbrella is blocking my view.

But I am stopped, all right. I’m just not entirely sure where I am stopped. Fortunately, there’s not a lot of traffic, and I am indeed stopped short of the roadway. I’m also now feeling pretty flustered. I’m wet, I’m running late, I didn’t think ahead about this brake problem, and I have four more blocks to go. Please, God, let there be green lights.

Fat chance.

At the next red light, I thought maybe I could hold the umbrella handle horizontally with the umbrella itself sort of behind me. It was a clumsy maneuver and it sort of worked, until that lovely breeze I mentioned that is created by the bicycle’s movement inverted the umbrella. This required me to stop altogether, put my feet on the ground, and restore the umbrella to its proper umbrella-like shape.

If you’re still getting a visual on this, I probably don’t have to explain that, at this point, having brought the umbrella along was very nearly purposeless, as I got a little soggier each time I had to move it to a horizontal position, not to mention during the un-inverting process. But I had the darn thing with me, so I had no choice but to keep wheeling along, holding the umbrella, praying for green lights.

In the last block before my office, there is a multi-story apartment building where the senior citizens are always sitting outside on benches, and we always greet each other. There’s a roof overhead, so sure enough, despite the rain, there they were, a dozen or so of my downtown buddies.

I called out: “How the heck did Mary Poppins do this?” The gales of laughter followed me down the street. Just consider me and my antics a public service, spreading joy and laughter wherever I go.

Naturally, at the very last cross-street, a friend of mine was stopped in traffic. When it registered with him that the spectacle before him – sodden woman in dress and pearls on bicycle with dripping umbrella – was indeed me, he made a valiant attempt to stifle both his initial look of incredulity and the guffaws that followed. A failed attempt, but valiant, nevertheless.

No such restraint occurred on the part of my client when she saw me wheel the bike and umbrella up to the office door. I suspect her laughter was audible a mile away, perhaps joining the chorus from the senior citizens’ apartment building.

Well, the upside is that there is more than one way to contribute to the mental wellbeing of my clients. And if it works….

About this writer

  • Lynn Ingram

    Lynn Ingram

    Lynn Ingram’s writing has appeared in The Charlotte Observer, Progressive Farmer, Lake Wylie Magazine, and a number of other publications, including Cape Fear Living Magazine, for which she writes a monthly column. She teaches psychology at UNCW and sees clients in her private psychology practice in Wilmington. She has recently resumed acting at TheatreNOW, and she’s on the verge of becoming an avid contra dancer.

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3 Responses to “Just Me and My – Umbrella-Cycle”

  1. Lucinda Barksdale says:

    As usual, your article cracked me up. And yes, I was visualizing you in riding your bicycle in the rain, wearing a skirt and pearls and carrying an umbrella. I tjink your client got her money’s worth tgrom you that day. Keep writing my friend. ❤

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Lucinda, this was a very enjoyable and fun read, something that could surely happen to me.

  3. Rose Ann says:

    LOL . . . I don’t think I’ll be trying to ride a bike in the rain anytime soon. At least you made someone else’s day–it was so worth it. And, you got a great story to tell, as well!

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