Yay! Yay! Today’s Umbrella Day!
Hold your umbrellas high and … what?
How do we celebrate Umbrella Day? Put up an umbrella tree with little paper umbrellas we’ve collected in a lifetime of drinking fruit flavored nerve poison? Hey! Here’s one way we could celebrate: get rid of the necessity of a nuclear umbrella and while we’re at it, why not get rid of war altogether? It benefits very few of the people involved. Look it up.
No, I suspect that how we are really supposed to celebrate “Umbrella Day” is to buy more umbrellas. Buy more umbrellas? That sounds right. No doubt, this was something cooked up by manufacturers of umbrellas. I doubt the raindrops lobbied for it. A group of consumer fans who just happen to love umbrellas to an inordinate degree? Possible, but extremely unlikely. It’s not the umbrella’s fault; it’s that an umbrella addresses a miserable problem: getting wet when you don’t want to get wet. And, the umbrellas never do a perfect job. They wet the interior of your car and home. They pinch your fingers. People use them! I use them. They are useful. But I don’t think people love them enough to spontaneously beg their government for Umbrella Day. You can call me a cynic; it’s okay. I’m pretty sure it was the Umbrella Manufactures.
That doesn’t mean I won’t appropriate Umbrella Day for my own purposes which are to have fun writing and to entertain some folks out there. Whenever I think of umbrellas, one of the first things that comes to mind was a “QUALITY” meeting all managers in an anonymous telecommunications company (ATC) were required to attend. We listened to talk after talk, many with exciting PowerPoint pie charts and bar charts. No fewer than seven members of the audience were carried out on stretchers for tachycardia brought about by the sheer exuberance of the final slide showing the PILLARS of ATC QUALITY.
At the conclusion, to make sure that the excitement we all feel when sitting for non-interactive presentations all day didn’t somehow dissipate when we walked out the door, each manager was presented with an ATC QUALITY umbrella of our very own!
Whether ATC management arranged for the downpour that hit the city the moment we left the meeting or whether it was sheer happenstance, I don’t really know. In any case, it was a fortuitous event from the perspective of the quality folks because now we would instantly see just how important quality is in our daily lives.
The raindrops came down.
The umbrellas went up.
The umbrellas broke.
The umbrellas served their purpose: they showed just how much top management cared about quality.
(By the way, there really are useful approaches to the important topic of quality. This wasn’t that.)
The umbrella is a device that can be used in many situations. In the summer between my Junior and Senior years in college, I worked as a child care worker at a psychiatric hospital for kids. I lived in a tiny basement studio apartment in the “Little Italy” part of town. My cheap bed had a line of broken springs so my umbrella served as a brace so that I didn’t sag onto the floor. The umbrella bent but did not break. I was much lighter then.
On one occasion, one of those tiny non-human vampires some might call “a bat” broke into my tiny room and flapped endless noisy loops inches from my head.
Slowly, I eased my way out of bed. I slid the umbrella out of its place and when the bat was at the far end of my cell, I opened the umbrella and slowly worked my way toward the door end. My left hand held the umbrella shield before me, much like a muggle version of a Patronus Charm. I slid my right hand over and opened the door. The next time the bat approached the door, out they went. Yay! I like win/win solutions even with mini-vampires. Bats, incidentally, are really cool critters! They are useful to us for a number of reasons, and that’s pretty nice. But they are also just cool in their own right. Their “bat-ness” is every bit as marvelous in its own way as our “human-ness.” The point is that we can use the umbrella in ways the umbrella manufacturers probably never envisioned.
Now, we turn to the one of the most powerful umbrellas in the world.
For several years, my wife and I attended the Newport Folk Festival — a wonderful outdoor concert with two score of the very best folk performers. One of the reasons I like outdoor concerts is so that I can dance. I mean by that that I can dance the way I want to and not get ejected from the venue.
The Newport Folk Festival was no exception. Typically, we had very good luck weather-wise, but one year, it poured. It wasn’t a drizzle. It wasn’t a sprinkle. Nor was it short, hard summer shower that lasts a half hour and then the sun comes out and the rainbow comes out and everyone’s clothes dry in the sun. Nope. This was a constant downpour.
We knew it “might” rain so we came prepared with rain clothes and large umbrellas. The stage was protected so the performances went on as scheduled. I, like most, huddled under layers of clothing and beneath an umbrella.
I was cold.
I was not dancing.
I thought to myself, “I came here to dance. I am going to dance.” So I did. I shed my clothing save for my bathing trunks and I traded in my UMbrella for an UNbrella.
Four hours later, it was still raining. But the mood was completely different. Now, half the crowd was dancing in their bathing suits. Everyone was happy! All thanks to the power of the unbrella.
Speaking of vampires and werewolves…
“Beware when you wear ware that you are aware that it is merely ware you’re wearing. You are not your wear.”
Remember the power of the UNbrella.