The Pacific Northwest is considered a temperate rainforest. For you nonscientific folks, that means it rains all the time. In the southern part of our fair state, where I’m from, it doesn’t rain all the time. It snows, it’s sunny, there are thunder and lightning shows, but it rarely rains.
Imagine my shock at my first year at the University of Oregon. By November it was raining steadily in huge, cold drops that soaked everything. My apartment felt damp, my food was always soggy and I had to keep many raincoats because there isn’t a raincoat invented that Eugene rain can’t soak.
The one thing people in rainy climes always have is the umbrella. At the University of Oregon, I had a plain black one that folded into a tiny package, and when I lost that one, I got a blue and white checked Eddie Bauer umbrella. It got stolen from the umbrella thingy at my sorority house, but I found it in someone’s room. She shall remain nameless.
Losing your umbrella is a hazard we rainforest dwellers have come to accept with an almost Zen-like resignation. “Damn. I left my umbrella on the MAX. I’ll have to go and get a new one.” No anger, no regret.
I lost the aforementioned Eddie Bauer umbrella during my move to Portland. So I bought another plain, black umbrella that folded up small and fit in my backpack. I saw no point in spending extra money on a fancy flowery umbrella that I’d only lose. I was also morally opposed to those HUGE golf umbrellas.
I started hating golf umbrellas at U of O, on 13th Street, the main campus drag. It seemed as though everyone who had one was a selfish asshole. They poked you in the eye, bonked you in the head or displaced your own umbrella altogether. When golf umbrellas are furled, they become dangerous weapons. They will trip you or knock over displays of expensive Waterford crystal.
In Portland, golf umbrellas are even less practical. There are more people, and we have even less space to be wielding an umbrella the size of a medieval sword. So, why did I buy one?
Those of you who remained in Portland over the break probably recall the day we had the huge windstorm. The aforementioned small black umbrella decided to turn completely inside out. It had lasted two years and was now completely useless. I was not the strong, Zen-like Portlander when it broke. I think I was misty eyed as I threw it in the nearest trash receptacle.
I went straight to Meier and Frank, as it was a day I couldn’t do without an umbrella. I hate shopping at Meier and Frank, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding between us when I was an employee (they thought I was lying about my mom having terminal cancer, imagine that!).
I stood in front of their meager display of umbrellas. They were overpriced, one of the few items in the store not on sale. I stared at the stupid things for a while, wondering if I should quit being such a big baby and just go out in the rain. But I have hair that frizzes if you touch it the wrong way.
I looked at the golf umbrellas for a long time. They are a menace on the streets, but they keep your whole person dry! My last umbrella covered my head, often leaving my butt and bag soaking. They were also of much sturdier construction than my previous folding model. I purchased the stupid thing and I paid too much.
On one hand, a golf umbrella is a very effective weapon. Just today I rapped it on the hood of a minivan whose driver was too busy picking his nose to see that he was turning the wrong way on a one way street. The thugs who hang out on the front steps of my building don’t bother me either, because I could just reach out and BAM, tap them on the head.
It turns out I should have stuck to the folding model. So my ass is dry and nothing in my bag is wet. I can’t walk down the street without knocking my umbrella into a person, place or thing. It cannot be easily stored when it is furled. I’ve almost destroyed several displays of fine crystal and china (I’ve been bridal shopping with a friend). I’ve hit old ladies in their shins. Since it is way too big to fit into my schoolbag, I keep leaving it places. I’m going to lose it. I predict this umbrella will not last two years.