“What will people think?” Most of us move around in society motivated by association with other human beings. We dress ourselves for the eyes of others. We modify our behavior to be acceptable to others. We often even quantify our worth by the impact we have on our world. What do we do for ourselves?
For most of us, we hope to come to a balance of acting for our own benefit while simultaneously doing what we think will be accepted by or what will benefit others. Enter: ‘Umbrella Man’. We don’t know his name or his background. We only know him as the man who walks by our apartment every morning between 8:20 and 8:30 bobbing his umbrella up and down while singing out to his public in a voice that can be heard from a block away. “Here he comes!” My husband usually hears him first. We run to the balcony to watch and listen as he passes. His voice rises above the cacophony of horns, screeching brakes, and bus engines.
Many people roll their eyes at the ‘crazy man’ and the Chinese staff members of our apartment complex show surprise when we mention him. “You like him?” they ask incredulously. We love him. He makes our day. Not only do we enjoy the melodious flow of his voice, but we admire his sense of freedom and pleasure as he struts down the street. We are sure that we cannot be the only ones who benefit from his carefree singing. In fact, he is serious about it. He leaves his lane every morning at 7:30, returning at 8:30. He usually wears black velveteen pants, white gloves, and a baseball cap. He has a metal contraption of some sort strapped around his waist with a cord that sends the music to an earphone in his ear. He refuses to be interrupted by any obstacles or attempts at communication. He looks straight ahead. He sings without pause. He bellows with confidence.
As I watch him, I wonder why. Why does he do this every day in all kinds of weather? Is he pleasing himself? Is he trying to bring the pleasure of his voice to the masses? Does he know that he pleases us and quite possibly others? Is he showing off?
Then I wonder if it matters why. Or even if it matters whether or not he knows that we await his cadences on a daily basis. He alone knows why. He does what he does and we appreciate his efforts without applause or cheers. He is there and we are here. My only hope is that I might be able to do what I do because I enjoy doing it and, simultaneously, have an impact on others while I am going about my business of enjoying the simple pleasures of life. One of those pleasures is hearing the Umbrella Man every morning.