Monday, April 14, 2008

Umbrellas

The other day, there was a heavy rain, and I was excited as I actually enjoy walking in a nice, warm downpour during the summer months. Of course, it's not exactly summer just yet, nor was it warm, so my excitement dimished quickly, only to be replaced with a mild case of hypothermia.

One thing that's always facinated me is the umbrella. You'd think these are simple devices, but alas, they are not. They're complex, annoying devices that require a great deal of thought and care.

Sometimes even just opening an umbrella can be a chore. You've got the manual umbrellas that you have to slide open yourself, and then there are the more automatic versions where you push a button and it just pops open. I'm one of the idiots that'll push the button without thinking first where the umbrella is pointed and almost knock someone out as they wander by -- or in some cases, it'll open in my face. I can see it now: Walking into a hospital with an umbrella injury.

Once it's open, that's just the beginning. Then you suddenly have to become a physics major.

  • What direction is the wind blowing?
  • What direction is the rain coming from?
  • How can you angle the umbrella such that it protects you from the rain without the umbrella collapsing or blowing away?
  • What is the optimal walking speed to keep the umbrella pointed in that position?

It's a very cool feeling when you get it right. You're walking, totally dry, the umbrella almost floating there as you barely hold it. But I'm not a phyics major, so more often than not, I open my umbrella, whap someone in the head; then by the time I have everything figured out I'm drenched anyways.

It's also rather amusing watching someone who's a bit shorter or lighter in stature dealing with the wind. You're almost waiting for them to pull a Mary Poppins and just fly off into the sunset. One day it'll happen. I just hope I have my camera -- with a good zoom lens.

Ever buy one of those umbrellas for $1.99 at a convenience store? It's like buying flowers at a convenience store. They last about as long as you can walk out of the store. Those umbrellas collapse faster than the U.S. housing market -- it's incredible to watch: It's raining, so you manually open the umbrella only to watch the entire top portion pop right off the handle and clatter on the ground and roll down the road as others look on in amusement.

Speaking of opening umbrellas, isn't there some sort of umbrella etiquette or handbook or guide of some sort? What is it with people shaking out their umbrellas in enclosed areas? Would you like it if I brought my wet dog into your house and had her shake herself dry on your couch? Then why would you shake out your umbrella in the stairwell or hallway as people walk by? There must be a 10 foot radius of clearance -- minimum.

Similarly, when you have your umbrella open, be mindful of your surroundings. Those umbrella collisions can be horrific: handles flying, umbrella shards flying through the air, metal and umbrella debris strewn all over the sidewalk. Pedestrians have to walk around the mess; backups form; ambulances are called; lawyers sue... Ok, I'm getting carried away.

Ultimately, an umbrella is like the mind: It works better when open and it gets slippery when wet. (Don't ask me what this means.)

1 comment:

Canadian Girl said...

Those variety store umbrellas are so crap.. and yes there should be umbrella etiqutte but alas some people are too self centered and don't care or bother to pay attention to their surroundings when it comes to shaking out an umbrella.