Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bountiful Bumpershoots - Bold or Bland?

Where I live where rain is part of coastal living, many complain about it yet still live here. And since it comes whether we like it or not any time of the year, we have no choice but to just flow right along with it. Resistance is futile on the West Coast; just put on your boots and raincoat and get on with it.

Packing an umbrella is typical, and not having one is ludicrous. I carry mine right up until July. Some folks think I am silly, but I was a Brownie then a Girl Guide – I am always prepared.

As I walk around downtown Victoria, the crazy quilt of umbrellas intrigues me. And as someone’s umbrella almost pokes out my eye in their rush to pass me, their umbrella of black fabric printed with red kisses makes me wonder - are umbrellas an expression of age, gender, and status?

There’s the typical businessman decked out in a dark suit and tie with his black raincoat flapping around his knees. What does he carry? A sombre black umbrella. There are those who prefer the compact sort, the perfect size when collapsed for a briefcase. Or there is the ultra-dapper businessman who opts for the classic cane-style, complete with a U-shaped wooden handle. Whether he is hoping for an impromptu fencing match, or whether he thinks of it as a weapon of self-defence, who knows. But it’s all in the ‘look,’ I guess.

The average office worker can be seen carrying any kind. A man in chinos and a casual shirt and tie sets off his attire with an umbrella that either a/ is used as a promotional piece, b/ is one he won in a raffle and has no other choice, or c/ is one he just really likes. Brightly coloured never-ending comic strips circle the top, and although it's not an umbrella I would consider ugly, it just didn’t match the rest of him. Oblivious to the fact that he stood out among all the dark and dreary umbrellas marching past him, I must say I was rather impressed with his bold choice.

Or maybe he just borrowed it from the girl in the cubicle next to him.

Then there is another fellow, similarly dressed, marching by carrying one of the iconic beige, black, white and red check of Burberry. Although Burberry fashions everyone, man or woman, this fellow caught my attention as I usually see women sporting this pattern in scarves, bags and umbrellas. But I should talk. My unfashionista-self owns nothing Burberry, and the holes in my socks are testament to my priorities. But as he turned to go in the other direction, I couldn't help but notice the bent, broken, flattened back of the umbrella had the rainwater running down the back of his jacket.

There are the women who have umbrellas of bright and colourful pansies, or of kittens prancing around the edge, or of happy little polka dots – anything to bring joy during dark and dreary days. I have yet to know a man who would happily walk down the street carrying a pink umbrella with pansies and smiley faces all over it. I wouldn’t exactly walk down the street with an umbrella sporting skulls along the brim.

Some women match their umbrella to their coat and carry in style - class versus flash (hello Gucci?) There are the young with their dinosaur umbrellas (my house saw many of these) for boys, or Barbie for girls. Some folks simply opt for the dark and unassuming, hoping to blend in and be anonymous, and not draw attention to themselves. There are those who snatch the closest one from their friend or co-worker, eager to preserve their hair and clothes. For some it's simply a matter of staying dry; they don't care what they use and are happy to find one in a corner somewhere. Lost and found departments are usually overflowing with them.

As for the rest of the world, there is the soccer mom who huddles under her leaking brelly while faithfully cheering on her son. There is the urban walker marching along on his daily walk, his cane-style, pointed tip brolly at the ready to fend off coyotes, rabid rabbits, and pyschotic cats. Then there is the mother who struggles with a stroller in one hand and a toddler in the other - both mom and toddler tote clear plastic bumpershoots with Hello Kitty always smiling.

As for me, I used to have a cane-style umbrella with multiple cats dancing around the brim - something like what is sold by the London Humane Society. Naturally like the demise of most umbrellas, I lost it, but would I carry it around now? Not likely. I have moved on in the umbrella department.

I carry an understated black compact umbrella, one I can tuck in my bag or purse. One that lets me people/umbrella-watch, unnoticed.

In the end, it doesn't matter who you are and what kind you have, as long as you have one at all.


  1. It's so deeeep, this brelly thing... I had no idea!! When I go brelly shopping, it's going to be so tough now, Lisa. What shall I replace that back drenching umbrella with before soccer next weekend? I might have to pull out the old poncho, because this is serious business and I need to spend some time at it. For some reason, I really want to make a statement - maybe something that says classy, fun-lovin', stylin', feminine, Mommy, with a little bit of bad girl. What does that look like? lol! I love it! Janelle

    1. Maybe you should opt for one with the map of the world, you world traveller! Thanks for reading, Janelle

  2. I'm the exception that proves the rule. I hate carrying an umbrella - always have, although I grew up on the Wet Coast. The only ones I've ever owned have been gifts and they're gone. I don't even have one in the house any more. Except…when my stepson was five or six, he asked for an umbrella for his birthday and I was thrilled. Mary Poppins! He liked Mary Poppins!
    I found the requested umbrella and he opened the package on his appropriately rainy birthday and promptly turned into the Penguin, that Batman villain.
    I was crushed.
    But I think the umbrella's still here, almost twenty years later. Maybe I should dig it out next time it rains.

    1. Awww....Sorry about your stepson being Penguin...but at least it was a 'good' memory, sort of. Hope you find the umbrella, and fly around the world like Mary! Thank you for reading, Rachel - missing you! Lisa

  3. I still have the overpriced umbrella we bought in Portugal years and years ago when we were caught in a torrential (literally) rainstorm in Portugal. Unfortunately, it doesn't see much use. Loved your story of umbrella watching. Not something we get to do on the prairies.

    1. What a neat keepsake from Portugal, though! Oh the stories that umbrella could tell, having been around the world, and all! Hope your writing is going well, Ryshia....thank you for reading! Lisa