A couple of weeks ago I saw somebody advertising beach umbrellas for sale. As I slowly try to transform the back garden from something Jeff Foxworthy might mock to a floral and social Eden (as soon as this recent rash of mosquitoes dies down), I am expanding my outdoor furniture to accommodate all those lucky enough to be invited to one of my soirees…ahem. When I saw this ad, I figured I’d go and take a look in case I could add a blue umbrella to my somewhat emerging colour scheme. There was my purchase-to-be, sitting in the corner amongst many, many other “brollies.” Now I should have just picked it out, paid for it and left, but the Vicki in me couldn’t resist what I perceived to be a great idea. These were a nice price and I knew of a sports club that could possibly use them. I can’t turn my back on a bargain, and as I thought of all the shade they could provide in the hot months ahead, the whole plan was irresistible.
Despite my degree in Math, it didn’t initially occur to me that 28 umbrellas + 1 Ford Expedition = False. There was no way I could fit them all in my vehicle, so now I had to reluctantly leave them behind and come up with Plan B. A-ha! Good friend Lynne had a van – we could use that! An hour later we were driving back to the warehouse in her mobile toaster with no working air-conditioning. Opening and closing 28 beach umbrellas in their hot storage space to ensure they were in good condition had been quite the workout, so the perspiration had already begun in earnest. The loading process began once again, and again, they weren’t all going to fit. As Lynne stood by looking unconvinced, I tried to make it work. The passenger seat was framed by a mass of material and ferrules, and the 14th umbrella had nowhere to go but over the top of the handbrake and the gear shift. Basically if I had been really pigheaded we would have been stuck in first gear for the journey with no emergency brake. Luckily Lynne put her size 7 down and refused to allow me to kill us both. Out came all but five, and as the proprietors resigned themselves to being stuck with their colorful charges for a little longer, we drove off. I wracked my brain for ideas of alternative transport. Waitaminnit, waitaminnit, waitaminnit! My roommate Dermott was off the island – I could use his truck. Ah yes, it was all falling into place now! Plan C!
I had to transfer the five from Lynne’s van to my Expedition to take home to the truck. I tried sticking them through the side window, but they were so long and unwieldy that they would have decapitated cars coming from the other direction. As the sun beat mercilessly down upon me (ironic considering how many umbrellas I had at my disposal), I began to pull them out again. The bottom of the spokes kept whacking against the door as these gigantic things attempted to open while I pulled and swore under my breath. If opening an umbrella indoors is considered bad luck, I can’t imagine the doom that was to rain down upon me with five of them opening inside a car. Everything with these was difficult. It would have been easier to transport giraffes. Finally all five were in the back of the car and I sat down to blessed air-conditioning. Time to go home and get the truck.
I moved my cargo over to the truck as quickly as possible, and sat down on a seat that could have seared a steak. No A/C once again, but no time to quibble. I wasn’t even out of Snug Harbour before I felt something funny. I remembered Dermott’s warning that one of the tyres might have a slow leak. No – not a flat, not now! Out I got and braced myself for a pancake. Thankfully all was well – it was just a gentle shimmy courtesy of a pothole.
I baked as I drove. The truck had preheated to 400 degrees F and I was cooking like a Thanksgiving ham. I think when I arrived at the warehouse I was greeted with a touch of skepticism. Really? Were we actually going to be able to manage it this time? They began to fit them in and I went further into the oven to help as much as I could. Suddenly there was a shout in my direction. “Miss, is this a standard truck?” “Yes!” I yelled back, figuring that he wanted to reverse it to make the job easier. Nope. I had left it in neutral with no emergency brake employed, and now it was gaily slipping down the parking lot towards an infinitely more expensive automobile. He leapt in spectacular fashion from the loading area into the parking lot and sprinted to the truck which was picking up a bit of speed. Feet shoved into the tarmac like something out of the Flintstones, he managed to stop its forward motion before these umbrellas suddenly became very, very expensive.
We finally got the last one onto the load, and just for good (necessary measure) my new best friend tied both ends down with rope so no driver behind me on the road was suddenly blinded by a magnificent beach umbrella in full flying regalia.
Off to the sports club I went, trousers sticking to my legs from sweat. How did I get myself into these pickles? It had all begun with the simple purchase of a patio umbrella from my back garden, and had descended into a scene from an old comedy. Speed up the film, make it monochromatic and call me Buster Keaton.
Was it all worth it in the end? Absolutely! By the time I had unloaded the last umbrella I was spent, but to see them all set up at the club a couple of days later; well it just made my heart soar. Maybe Mary Poppins was onto something after all…