I’d just finished getting my hair cut and styled at the one salon in London that specializes in curls only to walk out the door to find it was pouring rain. The nearest Tube station was shut that Saturday for engineering works, so I scurried down the side streets of the West London neighborhood to the closest alternative, about a 20-minute walk away.
Determined to protect my neatly defined coils from unravelling into a mass of frizz, I huddled under the red umbrella with a duck-head handle I carry with me every day. Google Maps recommended I walk through Portobello Market, where merchants selling vintage clothing, handbags and antiques seemed as unperturbed by the rain and near-zero January temperatures as the hundreds of would-be shoppers crowding the length of the road.
With no interest in shopping, my entire focus was to protect my hair from the rain. I tried carefully to navigate my way through the sea of umbrellas without poking anyone in the eye with the exposed metal spike that never failed to come undone from the nylon canopy at inconvenient moments like that one.
Before entering the final stretch of the street market, I came to an intersection. The pedestrian signal had just turned red, so I waited at the corner of the sidewalk, oblivious to the large puddle of water that had accumulated at the curb beneath my feet. Before I had a moment to look down or back away, a car sped through the pool of rainwater, which splashed up and left me totally drenched from the waist down.
I paused for a moment from the shock.
But I didn’t get angry.
I didn’t feel moved to curse out loud at the driver or complain bitterly to whoever was close enough to hear.
Nor did I feel embarrassed at being the only pedestrian at the intersection who seemed to lack the foresight to leave a little distance from the curb.
I felt — grateful.
“Alhamdulillah,” I mumbled to myself as I looked down at my skirt and tights that were soaked through to the skin. “Ashukrlillah.”
The reaction surprised me. Not that long ago, a similar sequence of events would have sent me spinning into feelings of self pity, self-consciousness and whining at how unfair the universe was.