Severe thunderstorms were in the forecast. Being the good boy scout that I am, on my way out, I opened the entry hall door and pulled an umbrella off the shelf. It was one of my favourite ones, if one can really have a favourite umbrella, but my little black one was perfect: sturdy, wind proof, lightweight and didn’t cost me a fortune.
Unfortunately, as I opened it up to prepare for the showers outside, I was reminded that on its last use, it didn’t open as easily, so I forced it and unfortunately broke one of the spokes. What a sad day that was. It was like I had lost a best friend, yet still hadn’t had the heart to toss it until I found another one. I knew I had a spare or two stored here and there, maybe it was time to take a second look and see if one of the understudies might be able to take over for the star umbrella.
Over the coming days, the umbrella hunt yielded a surprising collection of eleven: two in the car, one at the office, four in the entry hall closet, one already in my messenger bag, one in my suitcase, one in the basement workshop and one in the bottom of the Saran Wrap drawer (…don’t ask… I don’t know either!)
So I lined them all up on the dining room table and prepared to check them all out like a royal performing a ceremonial inspection of the guard. It did not take long to realize that out of the eleven, only eight were truly functional. Three were ready for their final resting place where I am sure it is all sunshine, rainbows and never a scattered shower.
When I say the remaining eight were functional, I use the term loosely. Sadly, it seems that umbrellas come in four categories:
1) lightweight, but only suitable in a perfectly vertical rainfall.
2) heavyweight, windproof and suitable for all rain, vertical, diagonal and horizontal.. but heavy as a brick
3) lightweight, windproof, completely weather resistant, but the sticker shock is enough to make you think you were just struck in a lightning storm (my recently departed star umbrella was a #3. It lasted me at least five years)
4) cheap, lightweight, will probably pop upwards if you exhale too stongly. Planned obsolescence: one or two uses.
The eight remaining seemed to fall in categories #2 and #4.
You would think that in this day and age, industry would have developed the perfect umbrella, not too heavy, not too flimsy, sturdy enough to withstand all types of wind and rain and not cost an arm and a leg. You would also think that in these eco-friendly and eco-conscious times industry would not be making umbrellas that were practically disposable, filling up our landfills and protecting old garbage from the elements. You would think with all of the people in the world carrying umbrellas, and a steady flow of rain year after year, sustainable umbrellas would be the rule not the exception.
If you read my story about the quest for the perfect clock radio, you know that shopping can become an endless series of experiments, sometimes making me feel like Goldilocks (too this or too that). It’s not a question of analysis paralysis, just a question of finding the RIGHT one when you know what you are looking for.
Before heading out, I did a little speed reading of a couple of chapters from Ekhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, as a spiritual tune up to prepare for my new umbrella journey.
Ironically the days I went shopping for a new umbrella, I looked like a total weirdo as it was bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky and with temperatures above seasonal for late spring. Of course, I couldn’t get the Rhianna song out of my head the whole time.
I stopped in at my friendly neighbourhood drug store that had quite an interesting selection. Once I eliminated the Barbie ones, the Tinkerbell ones, the Cars ones, the pastel polka dotted ones, the leopard print ones and the “hot fashion colours” ones, there were a few basic black ones.
The first one I picked up was as heavy as a barbell… no sale.
The next one I looked at was strangling in its own plastic loops from which its numerous tags were dangling. I couldn’t even get the umbrella condom off it (incidentally, does anyone actually keep or use those things?)
The next one I opened already had a broken spoke on it, so that one was easy… no sale.
I decided to move on to the department store down the hall. After a full lap around the store, I realized I walked right by them on my way in and missed them.
Again, after eliminating the character ones, the ones with a duck on the handle, the one that weighed and looked like a firelog, I ended up with a few basic black ones, but this time I had several different models to choose from. I like it already!!
I was drawn to a very small one that seemed light as a feather, was reasonably priced yet not too cheap either, all the spokes were intact, it opened and closed easily several times, and best of all it came with a “lifetime guarantee”! Magic words! And you better believe the guarantee and the receipt will be saved very preciously in case that day should ever come. The fact that the tag on the shelf said “purse size” was a bit of a turn-off, but I thought, in the middle of a major downpour who the heck would know… or care. It’s a simple black umbrella.
It didn’t take long for this little guy to become my go-to umbrella suitable for all weather. It was the mighty mouse of umbrellas, able to withstand gusty winds and horizontal rain on any given day and bounced back every time. It was the perfect umbrella that practically had me singing in the rain.
After a while, the 8 backups became a little redundant, so I cut back to just one at the office, one in the car and one at home in case a guest needs one while the rest were donated to a second hand store.
It is truly interesting the extent to which we rely on umbrellas to shelter us from the elements. The difference between a good one and a bad one could be the difference between having a good day or having a bad one. At the end of the day, if you have a good one, take good care of it, treat it well and it will keep all your days sunny even in the biggest of downpours.