I come in to work, armed with my water-resistant Olympics (Athens, 2004) rain jacket and a pocket "Rainkist," one of those miniature portable, take-it-with-you-anywhere umbrellas, ready to cover Ernesto, whose leading edge began spritzing the Baltimore area in the morning. The only thing on the platter: look for flooding, rain, wind damage, and anything else that might make a front page image.
Already, I had no intentions of using the HVX-200.
With no rain gear for the camcorder (and, frankly, none for my Nikon D2H bodies), I figured it would be better risking 2-year-old still cameras than new gear that cost us $6,000 (and it's uninsured). One reporter chatted with me as I emptied my pockets at the assignment desk. "Are you ready for the big flood?" she kidded. Of course, I said, and I started unveiling my Rainkist umbrella. "Don't open that in here!" she replied, as the 6-inch portable telescoped to about 2 feet in length.
"Are you superstitious?" asked Chuck, our assignment editor. Pausing for a split second, I became unfazed, popping it open. Boy, did I get ribbing.
"What kind of umbrella is THAT?!" she scoffed. "It looks like it's for a girl. It looks like a purse!" Laughing, she continued yet I maintained, in defiance of her questioning my manhood. "I don't care what you think, and that shows that I'm self-confident. What, am I supposed to impress you with the size of my umbrella? Anyone uncomfortable with what your slinging has more to worry about than I do," I said with a smirk on my face.
Cut to 2 hours later, as I went from street to street, looking for weather art of people dealing with the storm. With my car parked on a side street, I walked along Lombard Street, trying to capture a good shot of people battling the wind as it caught their umbrellas. Walking west from Calvert Street, I paused to shoot some photos of the north side at Light Street, as commuters holding umbrellas stood among bright images of people smiling, which adorned a pharmacy at Light Street.
Still unimpressed with my images, I started heading for the USF&G building. Seeing that the "walk" sign burned for me to cross, I started into the street. The driver of a Ford Explorer yielded for me from the first lane of 3, and the amber "don't walk" hand began flashing. Knowing that I had time to cross, I continued, watching out the corner of my eye for traffic turning left. But I noticed a blue Saab, whose driver had her view of me blocked by the SUV. I was already in her lane, but she didn't slow down.
"What the--" I said, as I backpedaled, watching her bumper aim for my kneecaps. In a split second, I thought of my family and being thrown onto the hood of her car, my legs breaking at the impact, and laying up in a hospital, unable to move my legs. At that moment, as I scrambled backwards, she noticed in time, and her wet tires groaned for a moment as the car stopped a foot from my legs.
I shook my head as I completed crossing Light Street, my heart still pulsing with adrenaline from the experience. I did NOT want to become a news event while covering an event that wasn't news-worthy! Only moments later, I captured a nice moment as a woman, heading for the shops at Harborplace, grabbed at her umbrella which was blown backwards in a gust of wind while she stood beside me at Light and Pratt Streets. Only after I told her of my experience did she relent and give me her name (and permission to use the image in the paper).
As I headed back to my car, I recalled the talk about whether opening an umbrella is bad luck. If that was the worst of the luck I had today, I'm glad I opened it.