Tuesday, November 13, 2007

gimme shelter

While standing at the 401 bus stop this morning I took account of people and their umbrellas. Even though there are still the standard types (of people and equipment), I sense a disturbing change in girth (of umbrellas) over the last few years. I first noticed it about a year ago when the Eleven came out into an evening rain after a Madeleine Peyroux show in D.C. Here’s a round-up of who you see on the umbrella catwalk on a rainy morning:

1. “Broken umbrella but saving money guy” – There is a reason that any person who commutes in the great outdoors carries a broken umbrella: he’s a tightwad…or he’s #2. Call it two reasons. In order to verify it’s this guy you need look for baggies over his shoes, threadbare sports coat, and a Patriots hat with the old crouching Patriot logo. Now you’ve pegged a man that’ll live with this half-clothed umbrella splaying three broken, eye-piercing spikes that attack passersby.

2. “Broken umbrella / Crap! I forgot to get a new one guy” – The easiest way to separate this guy taxonomically from #1 is that he’s pissed off. I’ve been this guy, I know. You pull the broken down contraption from your bag (forgetting it’s a broken down contraption), try to pop it open, and it immediately does one of two things: collapses back on your head or snaps over into the inverted position. This commuter is now forced to either hold up the canopy with one hand or, determine the proper holding angle to maintain the reversal problem. This angle, if you must know, is neither wind or gravitationally influenced, it’s merely some concoction of hope and experience. In any case, he’ll be cussing just loud enough for you to hear. The #1 guy above will simply be ambling along quietly while reading a two year-old copy of Time magazine naming “You” as person of the year….and stabbing every other person in the face.

3. “Guy with his wife / girlfriend’s umbrella” – I’ve been this guy…all too often. The first thing that crosses your mind when you see Bob with Debbie’s umbrella is this: “My, that’s a lovely pink toile pattern with lavender highlights.” The problem with this mean thought is that it cuts a little too close to home. Both of us know that he’s walking quickly to the Metro station fully aware that he’s been cursed by this device. He knows! It was a simple choice that morning: get wet or look silly. We know wherein lies his decider-ness.

4. “Guy with no umbrella” – He’s the decider who counters #3. He looked out the window, saw the rain, knew he forgot to buy a new umbrella and decided right then and there to go commando. He’ll walk purposefully (and man-ily) the two blocks from his car to the station looking like President Bush when he strikes that cowboy pose in Texas. (Also know as the “it’s only water guy”)

5. “Guy with no umbrella but nice clothing” – Same problem as #4 but - he doesn’t do patterned umbrellas - yet there’s no way he’s getting his cashmere jacket and Johnston and Murphy shoes too wet. You’ll know him because he’s running like a sonnofabitch towards the sanctity of the station. He’ll dab his shoes dry with a shining cloth pulled from this Hugo Boss leather eurobag.

6. “Guy with folded up Express newspaper over his head” – First, he’s already ridden the Metro because he actually has the Express in his hand. That being the case, you only see this rare species en route from the station to either work or a bus. He may be running, he may be walking, but he definitely is curious looking and wet. He should be grouped with those that jog to catch a train – it’s ineffective and has no value. Needs to get together with the “it’s only water guy” and have chat.

7. “Golfer” – Here’s the newest problem in our world: golfers who bring their golf umbrella to the commute. If you haven’t seen a golf umbrella, simply think of anything way too big for its assigned purpose and conflate those characteristics onto an umbrella. Think of a Hummer. It’s not simply the idea that you’ve got something big enough to cover a city block that bothers me – it’s the fact that no other human can actually pass on either side of your enormous pagoda without being crushed against a wall or pushed into the river. The reason it’s called a golf umbrella is because you use it on a golf course: big, open spaces. It’s even better when there are two polo-shirted, pleated khaki wearing, Nike-branded Tiger Woods wannabes walking together along a six-foot sidewalk commiserating about their inability to play long irons from a shallow lie.

That’s my morning.


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