Last updated on March 26th, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Exquisite historic homes, all immaculately landscaped, absorbed Mr. Jones’s and my attention as we explored—with Dog—this high-end neighbourhood in a coastal Florida city. It was filled with near-castles, some displaying majestic water fountains on their front lawns while others boasted formidable columns heralding entrances into palatial abodes.

We marvelled at the craftsmanship, the architectural feats, the beauty and grandeur. How thankful we were that all of these residents had spent so much money so that we could enjoy these sights at no cost.

Our walking journey had begun several blocks away, where we’d parked and asked around for where to explore. One local suggested this neighbourhood and also let us know there was an area with boutiques and restaurants not too far from it.

By the point we’d walked a fair bit of the neighbourhood, we were ready for a small indulgent snack. Using our cell phone’s GPS, we found where the trendy area of shops and dining options was and made our way there.

The streets were lined with independently owned coffee shops, farm-to-table restaurants and small bookshops. There was even an old-style movie theatre complete with art-deco architecture and a front-of-building box office. We chose a café patio—outside is the only way to go when Dog is with us—and sat down to some enjoyable desserts.

Into each life, some rain must fall


The one thing we’d failed to do on this delightful outing was check the weather report. If we had, we surely would have taken two of the three umbrellas that were sitting in our vehicle precisely 28 minutes’ walking distance from where we currently were.

As I looked down at the last few bites of tiramisu on my plate, a few small drops of rain sank into the fluffy mascarpone cream. It was time to go.

While gathering up our belongings to leave, we felt those small drops begin to grow and multiply. We ducked under a bookstore awning and decided to wait it out. As is our custom, Mr. Jones and I took turns checking out the store while the other waited outside with Dog.

The rain soon formed sheets of water that blew across the road in waves. For the first time, we consulted Google. The storm was going to continue for several hours. Our vehicle was 28 minutes away, and we had to stay outside because of Dog. Sigh!

Mr. Jones had an idea: Buy a cheap umbrella or two and make our way back to where we’d parked. Good idea.

Next door to the bookstore was an eclectic shop with all manner of fashionable goods. I entered and was greeted by two enthusiastic salespeople, a man and a woman. We small-talked about the weather and I inquired about an umbrella. They had several, starting at $25 and going all the way up to $75. Not really the price range I was looking for, especially given that we already had three.

The customer service had been so pleasant that the story of our delicate situation flowed naturally into our conversation. The man, who had on a bright red tie with a blue collared shirt, proposed a solution that was free. He offered to gift us with two large, heavy-duty garbage bags, one for me and one for Mr. Jones.

I loved his creative thinking and willingness to help a stranger, so I gladly accepted the offer.

He went to the back of the store and emerged with the bags and a pair of scissors. While he cut out holes for our heads, I picked out an overpriced greeting card to buy as a token of my appreciation.

I thanked our benefactor, left the shop and proudly presented Mr. Jones with the answer to our predicament.

It was not what he was expecting.

The free gift that kept on giving


I convinced him that this was was function over fashion and got the bag over his head. It stopped at his shoulders. The rain kept falling. Hard. The bag needed to get further onto his body. I squeezed, pulled, stretched and wiggled until … success!

If you’ve ever seen the look of utter humiliation and thirst for revenge in one of those drenched cat memes, you have seen Mr. Jones’s face just then.

I stepped back to admire my work.

Now, if you’ve ever seen the look of utter humiliation and thirst for revenge in one of those drenched cat memes, you have seen Mr. Jones’s face just then: furrowed brow, steely gaze, unkempt beard and hair sticking out from all sides of his ball cap.

Add to that arms squished tightly against his body, as if wrapped in black Saran Wrap, and the huge floppy corners of the bag sticking straight up like football shoulder pads. How could I not show my complete and total support by doubling over in the loudest belly laugh I’d had in weeks?

Words would not come out of my mouth, just squeals of delight and maybe even a little snort here and there. Oh, what a sight he was!

Mr. Jones decided to take action. He put my garbage bag over my head and tied the bottom around my arms so I’d have a hard time moving my arms. Revenge. His turn to laugh. I didn’t care, I was too busy reimagining him as a football player on team Garbage.

And so, for 28 minutes, we walked past high-end boutiques, million-dollar homes and all the traffic going through this well-kept part of town in our garbage bag outfits.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

And then, we passed by a window with reflective tinting, and for the first time, I saw what I looked like. My hair was plastered to my head and my eye makeup had decided to take up residence further down my face. My upper body was encased as if it were in a black balloon with pointy corners that was tied around my torso. My scrawny legs poked out like sticks and puddles came out of my shoes with every step I took.

And I laughed and laughed and laughed.

I thought of what a pair we were, along with drowned-rat Dog. I thought of how much entertainment we must have provided for all the traffic going by those fancy mansions. I thought of how wonderful it was to laugh at each other … to laugh at myself.

And I thought of what a gift it is to find humour in looking silly and out of place. What a marvellous luxury that doesn’t cost a single penny.

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