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Melissa Kirsch

Melissa Kirsch

Posted: December 22, 2008 10:40 AM

The Bumbershoot Manifesto

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The entire country beset by storms, umbrellas -- an at once brilliant (a little roof you carry with you) and unwieldy (given bags and winds and the inevitable presence of other umbrella-carriers) necessity -- explode across the urban landscape. In aerial view, any city in a storm
is a riot of color, but on the ground, it's an ugly fight for survival. Enough, already. Herein, some pointers to ensure no one loses an eye, no one buys a super-expensive novelty umbrella, and no one ends up soaking wet.


I. Sidewalk Umbrelliquette

In which the great ungoverned territory of stormy urban sidewalks is given some shreds of decency.

Moving Violations: Common sense even on sunny days, but when umbrellas are out, it should really be illegal for pedestrians not to stay to the right. There's nothing more jarring or rude when navigating the sidewalk during a hailstorm than to veer into the oncoming traffic. Stay in your lane.

Too-Close Encounters: In the event of umbrella collision, both parties are to adjust trajectories outward and not, as is so tempting, barrel forth, undeterred, causing a small waterfall or hailfall to beset the other person.

Neighborliness: It is good manners to shelter unfortunate fellow pedestrians, covering their heads with a flimsy sheet of newspaper in vain attempt to ward off a spot of "wintry mix." If the umbrella-less pedestrian tells you thank you but no, it is intrusive to continue to try offer your umbrella or to insist on sheltering him/her to the nearest bus shelter. Let it go.

Your Own Big Top: Golf umbrellas are for golf courses, large expanses of green where there are three people to every thousand acres. They are not for crowded city sidewalks. Yes, they keep you dry. They also take down every collapsible Totes-carrying umbrellist in your midst. Come on. Get a single-serving-sized umbrella like everyone else.

Indignant Disposal: Should your umbrella turn inside-out in rough winds, rip off its spokes and be rendered useless, it's not acceptable to throw it on the sidewalk in a fit of pique. The Breakdown of an Umbrella is indeed maddening, especially after you've wrestled with it for ten minutes and are already late and wet. But it's no excuse for littering.

Height Disparity: Taller people must raise their umbrellas over those of shorter people.


II. The Umbrellical Universal Law of Return

In which the author puts forth some slightly controversial but ultimately correct maxims regarding umbrellas.

1. Never buy an umbrella unless you absolutely have to (e.g. you are caught unwittingly in a downpour). Umbrellas are like currency (or like currency used to be before we started wildly printing money on demand): there is a certain number of umbrellas in the world, they just circulate amongst us.

2. If you must buy an umbrella, never buy a fancy umbrella. Especially not that gorgeous museum gift-shop one that's black on the outside and has a sunny sky printed on the inside and costs the same as fifty normal umbrellas. They are so easily and commonly lost, stolen and left behind that it never, ever pays to have an umbrella that you can't bear to lose. Reconsider giving people expensive umbrellas as gifts, as it's kind of like giving them a non-paying job (the job of keeping track of a fancy umbrella).

3. Never get upset about losing an umbrella. If you leave an umbrella in a restaurant, it is not worth it to weather a monsoon to go back and fetch it. Another umbrella will present itself to you in timely fashion. Let it go.

4. This is the most morally corrupt part of the Law, but in order for everything to fall into place, we need to move towards accepting this controversial rule: Never feel bad about taking an umbrella. If you find an umbrella on the floor of the movies, or you get one from the lost and found at the office, you can feel okay about taking it. All umbrellas belong to all of us. If someone leaves an umbrella at your house, since they will hopefully be observing #3 above, it becomes your umbrella. Caveat: If you find that obviously precious museum store umbrella or its equal, try not to steal it, even though it's tempting.

Adjustments and addenda welcome.

 
 
 

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