It's cold and rainy here in Boston. That sucks when your commute involves a walk, whether it's a walk from car to train or even all the way to the office. You know what dawned on me today, watching everybody deal with the same problem in different ways? Umbrellas might well be more trouble than they're worth. Let's look for a minute at all the ways that an umbrella can fail to do the job for you:
- You forget to carry it. The biggest and most obvious problem with an umbrella is that you have to actually have it with you. Since you don't plan on carrying it with you wherever you go, you have to know whether it's going to rain or not. Not always possible. Sometimes you forget even though you knew it was going to rain. Sometimes the rain is a surprise. Sometimes you left your umbrella at work yesterday and the next morning you're stuck without it for the commute in to the office.
- Rain doesn't come straight down. If the rain is so light that it's nicely coming directly down on you, then fine, an umbrella is nice. I don't know about the weather where you come from, but in my neck of the woods the rain tends to come at you sideways. In situations like those you have to lean in to the umbrella and basically put it in front of your face, which in turn makes it harder to pay attention to where you're going. And it still doesn't end up doing much of a job for you as the wind whips the cold spray into your face around the edges anyway.
- It's too small. As someone who doesn't carry an umbrella I think it's funny when the wind pulls those tiny little collapsible ones inside out. I remember watching Regis once upon a time (I think it was Regis) where they did a person on the street experiment, handing this woman larger and larger umbrellas to see how big you could get and still have it turn inside out. They ended up giving her a beach umbrella and then stopped the experiment when it began dragging her down the street. Speaking of which...
- It's too #$%^&*( big. Forget about the fact that you're poking your fellow commuters in the eye left and right, but you're also probably banging it on street signs and doorways because it's just that much bigger than your shoulderwidth. It's a freakin beach umbrella for pete's sake. If you could huddle your entire project team under one of the things, it's too big.
- It gets stolen. Carrying an umbrella someplace means you have to put it down someplace when you're not carrying it. That means you can lose it, or it can be stolen out from under you (the classic "Oh, I just helped myself to one of those umbrellas by the door" argument).
#5 is the problem that finally turned me off umbrellas. I had a nice one. Big enough that it never flipped over on me, and I don't think I was ever poking anybody in the face (although I did often bang it into streetsigns). But, alas, it was stolen, so I've had to make due without. Which leads me to my next argument...
Get a raincoat! Seriously. When was this concept lost, like seatbelts on Star Trek? What's wrong with a raincoat? You have to wear a coat anyway, for the most part. So it's not like you have to carry it around extra. You don't really lose your coat now, and although I suppose that someone could steal it, I can't say I've had that happen to me. Get a nice raincoat with a hood. When it's raining, put up your hood. Done. Now shove your way past the crowd of people at the door who are all trying to get their umbrella open without getting a drop of rain on themselves and trudge out into mother nature.