Mother was right, I think it’s fair to say now. After all, I’m 60 years old, still unmarried, and the way things are going, I’ll stay unmarried not matter how long I live. She was right about that, but she wasn’t right about everything. Oh, no, Mother dear, you weren’t right about everything.
She thought it was my essay on tea, the wildly popular “An Essay On Tea, Considered As Pernicious To Health, Obstructing Industry, And Impoverishing The Nation: With An Account Of Its Growth And Great Consumption In These Kingdoms” that would make me unpopular among the lady-folk. Mother said that a true lady couldn’t read that piece of writing – which I personally found rather eloquent, if I may say so – and think there was a man she’d want to sit down for a cup of tea and some delightful conversation.
Fine, maybe that essay wasn’t popular and maybe I went a little overboard with it. Impoverishing the nation, you ask? Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened. Anyway, with all the noise in the media, I felt I just had to shout louder to get some attention. The bottom line is that it didn’t make me that much less popular among the ladies. Many of them didn’t like tea, either.
Mother also warned me about traveling so much, she was always worried about me going off to the Netherlands, or Russia, or Persia. Anybody who’s been in a long-distance relationship knows that it takes a lot of work to keep it going, but it doesn’t help how eloquent the prose of a boy is, if he forgets to give the letter to a courier. I understand how a year may seem like a long time to be alone.
Anyway, Lady Mary may have been the one. She had spunk. Twice I went to St. Petersburg and back and she was waiting there for me, bombarding me with letters every three months. And yet, even she finally gave up on me. I’ll never forget reading her breakup letter in Baghdad.
But. BUT! Even my travels didn’t keep ladies from making their acquaintance with me. The thing that made me the pariah of the London society had more to do with with common sense. I had it, most others didn’t. Have you ever been to London, dear reader? If you have – and I hope you have, it is one of the most charming cities I know – you’ll know that it rains here quite a bit. And if you’re like me, an experienced traveler, a man of the outdoors, you like to keep yourself in shape by walking.
Logically, then, you need protection from the rain, which is why I, Jonas Hanway, never leave my house without an umbrella. The last thing I do at my door before stepping out, is to check that I have my scarf, my top-hat, my key, some cash – and my umbrella. If it’s not raining, I will use my umbrella as a cane, and if it is, I will protect my hair, my top-hat, and my cape from the rain with it. Also, this being London, even if it’s not raining when I step out, you can rest assured that it will rain later.
Do you know who doesn’t like that? The coach drivers, that’s who. If I had a penny for every time I’ve been hurled insults at, by them, by the men who watch horses’ asses all day long, I would have enough money to dine at the Fleet Street’s Old Bell Tavern every night for the rest of my life.
They yell at me, they spit on me, and they try to drive their carriages through puddles next to me, so that I’ll get wet. I’m “bad for business” they say. I say I’m a disrupter. It’s time to “think different”.
I keep telling people that someday, everybody will be carrying an umbrella, that I can see a future in which a man without an umbrella can walk from the Tower to the Buckingham Palace without getting wet because the streets will be covered, filled with others that do have umbrellas with them.
It’s funny how it’s always the little things that make a difference. Anyway, a long story short: the ladies don’t want to be associated with me because I can never get a cab.
So I walk alone.