If you happen to watch the show that bequeathed this blog its name, then you know about the yellow umbrella. For those who don’t, here’s the story: Ted leaves a party early in the series grabbing a yellow umbrella that isn’t his. The umbrella in question belongs to the titular mother, only he doesn’t know it yet and didn’t encounter her at the party. Over the next few years, the yellow umbrella is a recurring theme in the show – he even ends up leaving it at the apartment of a girl he dated, whose roommate is the mother herself (though still unknown, and dammit, it’s been eight years and I’m getting impatient with this story). The umbrella is basically a representation of the woman he ends up with, and it’s what he’s always searching for, and it pops up in the most unexpected of places.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found my yellow umbrella.
I’m joking, sort of. But I’ve never had one of those moments where you see someone and think, “Whoa, I need to talk to him because this might be it.” I don’t believe in love at first sight – I like the idea of it, and I’d love to have one of those Hollywood-produced moments where you look across a room and everything starts moving in slow motion and my hair blows in the wind just so and the lighting perfectly illuminates a handsome man looking back at me… but I don’t know of anyone who has actually ever had that kind of moment in real life.
But yesterday I had something as close to that as I’ve ever come, and unfortunately I didn’t even get to talk to the guy.
The scene: a crowded Philadelphia Eagles bar, me in the corner with two girlfriends, one of whom is an Eagles fan and us her non-Eagles fans but very kind friends excited to watch the first games of the season with her. My Steelers weren’t playing until Sunday night, so I didn’t mind (too much) spending the afternoon with the enemies. We Pittsburghers don’t like Philadelphians in any way – it’s a bit of an inferiority complex – and even though our football teams play only once every few years, we still aren’t supporters of each other. The rivalry is a lot more vicious in other sports – hockey in particular; my dad once said he’d rather the Cold War era Soviets win a hockey game than the Philadelphia Flyers – and it’s probably a given that most Eagles fans in the place were also Flyers fans. And even if they weren’t, they didn’t like Pittsburgh teams in general just like I don’t like Philly teams.
So I showed up, wore neutral colors, took my seat in the corner and stayed quiet, even finding myself cheering for the Eagles since they were playing the Steelers’ oldest rivals.
It was early in the game when I saw him, very briefly, standing about ten feet away in the crowd. Taller but not too tall, dark hair, casually dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans… and a Pittsburgh Penguins hat.
Did I mention the rivalry is more vicious in hockey? Penguins/Flyers is as vicious as sports gets. This happened just a few months ago, and that’s just one game in a long history of hatred. I like confrontation when sports are involved – I thrive on it. I text my rival friends before and after games. I’m not exactly a gracious winner when teams I hate are involved. But I would never, ever have the guts to walk into a bar full of Philadelphia fans wearing anything black and gold, let alone a Penguins hat.
Who is this guy? I wondered. He’s got guts, that’s for sure. He probably has a few friends who are Eagles fans, so he’s got a posse if anyone decides to be an asshole. But this wasn’t wearing a Yankees hat at Fenway – even if the teams aren’t playing, you’re still within the territory of the rivalry. This was deliberately wearing the logo of one of the city’s most hated rivals, in a situation in which hockey has no relevance whatsoever. That takes balls. That is the kind of guy I want to know.
I know nothing about him, other than that he was wearing that hat. He could be a crazy right wing nut job or kill puppies or be an alcoholic. He could just be a total asshole and want to start fights, and that’s why he wore the hat. But my curiosity was piqued, and now I can’t stop thinking about him. I wanted to say something to him, to tell him he was my favorite person in the bar and offer to buy him a beer. But he disappeared into the crowd and I never got close to him again. And now I know he’s somewhere out there on the Upper East Side, and the Penguins hat has become my yellow umbrella.
Chances are I never see this guy again and never find out who he was. I might go back to that bar, and he might be there without the hat, and I’d never recognize him. But I’m intrigued, and I’d like to keep a little hope alive that I do see him again and I do talk to him and we end up together with this amazing story about how we met. When you’re as tragically single as I am, you need to hold on to a little bit of the romantic in you, even though your practical side reminds you it’s never going to happen.
But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my Hollywood ending.