I chalk it up to the much vaunted persistence of vendors, when T. insists on coming into the office to drop off documents that require my assent rather than pop them in the mail. Part of me is more than mildly irritated at his insistence, given how much I have got on my plate at the moment – and the hour or so I will have to carve out of my day to attend to him. He comes bearing gifts, two large, sturdy umbrellas with alternating green and white panels; splashed with a large copy of his company logo. That does little to mollify me, but I manage to be courteous enough to make small talk and have a quick whiz through the documents I need to sign off. Just before he leaves, he enquires about the potential for future work, a subject I am unwilling to discuss given the state of the industry. When it is time to go home later that day, I leave the umbrella, that decision my nod to its unwantedness.
A few days later, the bright lunch time sunshine – deceptively sunny is how we choose to describe these days, given how one is always only a misstep into the shadows of wincing at the bitter cold – morphs into a deluge. In three or so hours, it rains enough to flood the street; the drains overpowered by the burst of rain. I still insist on leaving my umbrella, believing that my wind breaker and hood would do me just fine, until just before I step out of the back door a fresh gust of rain convinces me otherwise. That makes up my mind for me, as I grudgingly walk all the way back in to pick up my unwanted umbrella.
That unlikely sequence of events – a vendor visit, the gift of an unwanted umbrella which I leave at work and a fresh gust of rain just when I am about to leave – is what leads to me standing next to a petite woman who is wet to the skin at the corner of East North Street, waiting for the lights at the pedestrian crossing to change. I catch her eye, and seeing how wet she is offer her the cover of my umbrella. She accepts, and I end up walking the short distance until she has to turn off to her house with her.
Just before we split up, she asks if I am Nigerian, when I hesitate, she adds that the green -white-green umbrella is what makes her ask. I confirm I am, but explain that the umbrella was a gift, an unwanted one at that and that if the rain hadn’t had chosen the exact moment I was heading out of work to dump a fresh load, we might not have had an umbrella to share.
Just how fortuitous it all is is not lost on her, I suspect I feel the same way.