20 November 2007

The Complete Urban Guide to Proper Umbrella Usage


The Umbrella: Some have argued its worth beyond even that of fire, or the wheel, or individually package snack foods. Known by many names--bumbershoot (or bumpershoot), parasol, canopy, sunshade--and appreciated by many cultures, the umbrella is an essential tool in humanity's war against the elements. Canes, hats, sock garters, they've all gone the way of the Dodo as far as standard equipment goes, but the umbrella has persevered in the face of fashion, and with good reason. It is versatile and seemingly infinite in variety, it is simple yet effective, and it's nifty.

This is why, dear friends, after enduring yet another day of the perils of a rainy city, I feel obligated to share with you the secrets of that ancient, nigh mystical martial art surrounding the sensitive and affective use of the umbrella in an overcrowded urban en(and "in")vironment. These many secrets of both external and internal practice have been passed down only orally through the centuries, handed from generation to generation of master, all the while cleverly disguised under the nomenclature "common sense." I think you will find, however, when next you visit New York (or Chicago, Washington D.C., Bangor, etc.), that there is nothing at all "common" about this "sense." Let's begin . . .

  • Rule the First: Best Defense for Rain, No Be There.
    I paraphrase Mr. Miyagi, of course. (Pat Morita, it is widely known, was a long-time secret practitioner of The Way of The Not Retarded With An Umbrella In Public.) This rule is pretty simple. If it's raining, don't go out. You won't get wet. Oh sure, you may spill some water on yourself at some point, but come on. Take some responsibility for yourself. While you're at it, call in sick to work. Think about it. Public transportation will be full to the brim with people convinced they're getting to work faster by not driving, all the while slowing down the public transportation with their numbers. In such an environment, it's an act of charity to fore go one's usual strident work ethic, and charity is one of the 99 Virtues of this style.


  • Rule the Second: Second-Best Defense for Rain a Hat.
    It's true. Hats still work. It may seem ridiculous to us, but not so long ago our ancestors (read: grandparents) wore hats out that had a little more style than just a logo and a standing deck on the front. These hats were not just stylish, but practical, with lots of air underneath to separate one's scalp from the elements and, more often than not, a wide brim all the way 'round what prevented elements from getting all elemental in our faces. This simple alternative, when combined with a long coat, will protect all the essentials from said elements.


  • Rule the Third: You Need a Coat
    No, really. You do. I know, I know, but -- you do. It's the city. Water's going to come at you from directions you never dreamed possible, and it doesn't care how good your legs look in those shoes/pants/eccentric ruffles.


  • Rule the Fourth: As With the (Hu)Man, So With the Bumpershoot
    So you are rash, young Padawan, and have chosen the Way of the Umbrella over the Ways of Responsible Delinquency and/or Hat. So be it. First: You still need a coat. I'm not letting go of this one. Coat, cloak, poncho, whatever--deal. Second, you are unique. You are special unto your own self. Your umbrella must reflect this. If you are larger than most, you may need an umbrella of greater radius, with corresponding longer neck. If you are more diminutive, so shall your umbrella be. Play to your strengths! Far more often than you may imagine, someone of insufficient height takes it upon his or her self to wield a Vorpal sword of a parasol, thinking bigger to be better. This is plainly untrue, and further, is contradictory to the virtue of Not Being a Punk-Ass, another of the 99 Virtues of this style. Further still, with an over-large umbrella, you are imperiling not only others, but yourself, owing to still another of the 99 Virtues: Tendency to Kill Umbrella-Punk-Asses.

  • Rule the Fifth: Know Your Place
    What is your "place"? TWoTNRWAUIP is a sophisticated philosophy and way of life, not just a highly effective art-form, and it recognizes that set rules and forms will ultimately limit our ability to adapt to different challenges. For example, a person who's 5'10" in D.C. might think of his or her self as a tall him or her. Odds are, however, that such a one will find themselves in the shorter margin of humans at some point on a visit to N.Y.C. Ergo, one should learn to judge one's opponent(s) on an individual basis. This is harder than it sounds. To practice properly, one must meditate daily on images of reeds in the wind, unconcerned about the battles of ego that might occur in rainy urban conditions. There is no shame in taking the lower stance. Especially if you're a 4'9", slow-moving, grocery-shopping grandmother.

  • Rule the Sixth: Movement is the Key to Successful Movement
    Herein lies all the complexity of the technique--that formless form that only masters of TWoTNRWAUIP may someday achieve. One must move with precision and ease through the myriad bumbershoots, maneuvering smartly whilst maintaining a sufficient velocity of foot travel, rather like a traceur (a practitioner of le Parkour), or those cooks who chop stuff really quickly. There are many movements, most of which only life can be the teacher of, but the key to them is this: It is not enough to avoid impaling yourself; you must avoid impaling others. Also: Understand that your umbrella is, oddly enough, wet, and can moisten others. Additionally: What is WRONG with YOU? STOP BEING RETARDED.

Dang. I think I need to meditate a little more.

2 comments:

Java said...

That you have had no other reactions to this post is a condemnation on the blogosphere in general.
I love this. It is most useful and helpful. I don't happen to live in a large city and rarely do I encounter other people in close proximity during rainy periods. With the drought we are experiencing in the south I've hardly had a chance to even be in the rain. However, if I find myself some time in the future encountering rain and masses of people simultaneously, I'll remember these words of wisdom.
BTW, I found this post by following a link from Patrick's blog Loose Ends.

Jeff Wills said...

Thanks for the props, Java (not to mention the reminder that draught may be a slightly more pressing issue than irresponsible umbrella usage). Any friend of Loose Ends is a friend of mine.