Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Challenge : U is for Umbrella


U is for Umbrella.

Now I know some of you may be thinking, "Of course she's writing about Umbrellas. Didn't she recently say she's in the Pacific Northwest, which is famous for their amount of rainfall?"

But in that you'd be incorrect. At least for those of us who claim native or near-native status. For us, we don't usually have umbrellas. We're so accustomed to the rain that we don't bother. And with the winds and the gear we carry when we're out in the rain, really - what use is an umbrella? It's more of a hindrance than a help.

See, out here, we tend to have coats with hoods. Several of them to go with the varying seasons. And they're waterproof or at least water resistant. A hood gives you more mobility by keeping your hands free and by not fighting with the wind.

So I'm talking about Umbrellas not because I'm from here, but because of a recent trip to San Francisco in the late fall and the extensive use of Umbrellas that I saw. It was fascinating to watch people with their Umbrellas - their rituals, their struggles, their variety. And I was quite content with the hooded coat I'd brought along with me.

Umbrellas can be fun or serious or make a statement. I loved watching the colorful sea of umbrellas as people jostled for space. Some of them had personal sized Umbrellas which barely covered the circumference of their personal space. Some were giant golf Umbrellas (I think; I'm not a golfer so I may be wrong) which were intended to cover the golfer, the caddy and more (I think: did I say I'm not a golfer?) - but they weren't sharing on the streets of San Francisco. And everything inbetween: copies of art
photo from Virtual Tourist: Chinese New Year in the Rain
masterpieces; jokes; pieces of body parts which were silly when combined with the person holding the Umbrella; and the standard business compatible colors of blacks, grays, blues and reds.

The Umbrellas jostled for space over their owners heads, like bumper cars or overfilled helium balloons. Except that some people's heads were shoulder height to their neighbors.

When the rain stopped, people took out a few Umbrella bags, but those without had clear plastic bags, shaped like cake decorating cones, into which they put the now dripping Umbrella. And inside the doorways of stores and restaurants were racks of these same Umbrella bags, with cutesy names depending on where the shop owner purchased them.

There were discarded Umbrellas in the standing pools of water in gutters; their bent and broken spokes sticking out in different directions. On some the fabric had some loose from their spine; some were completely disheveled.

U is for Umbrellas. Now you see them; now you don't.