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Charlie Hatton
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Hell Is Other Umbrellas

My wife and I have umbrella problems. Which is to say, we each have our own umbrella problem — except for those times when her umbrella problem becomes my umbrella problem, and then I have all sorts of umbrella problems.

I’ll explain.

The two of us have very different philosophies when it comes to umbrellas. Frankly, if our relationship was built on umbrella management alone, we probably wouldn’t be together any more. Likely, we’d have never gotten married. We’d have gone on a couple of dates, had “Umbrellagate” blow up in our faces, and we’d have bad-mouthed the other’s umbrella decisions to our friends for a few weeks. That would have been that.

(Happily, we’re much more compatible in a number of other, more important areas. Like overy-undery toilet paper rolls and pizza topping preferences.

But not ice cube tray management. Good lord, never ice cube tray management.

If we ever go our separate ways, it’ll be “irreconcilable ice cubes” on the divorce papers.)

Anyway, her umbrella strategy goes something like this: In the morning, before heading out, she checks the weather. If there’s a chance of rain, she’ll look inside our coat closet, pull out an umbrella, and take it with her, just in case.

This seems very reasonable, on the face of it. There are, of course, a few extenuating circumstances.

The first is that she’s somewhat prone — in the same way that a dog is “somewhat prone” to enjoy bacon — to losing her umbrella. She’ll get it to the car, and maybe use it during the day, but somewhere along the way, by the time she gets home she’s often umbrellaless. By that point the rain has usually stopped, so it may actually be days later before she realizes that she’s an umbrella short.

“The upshot of this is that at any given time, there are between zero and fourteen umbrellas in our hall closet.”

And then one of two things happens. Either she’ll go buy another umbrella and put it in the closet, starting the cycle anew — or she’ll find my umbrella, take it, and, basically, start the cycle anew. But with my umbrella. I’ll get back to that.

Meanwhile, one of her “lost” umbrellas might turn up somewhere. Stuffed in the trunk of the car or jammed into her purse, maybe. So that goes back in the closet, too. The upshot of this is that at any given time, there are between zero and fourteen umbrellas in our hall closet. The time remaining until any one of those will be lost — temporarily or permanently — is approximated by the equation (time until next thunderstorm) + (3.4 hours).

It’s a system, I guess. Not my system. But it’s a system.

(Until it involves my umbrella. Then it’s a problem.)

My strategy is completely different — and, on the whole, wildly less effective. I don’t lose umbrellas (except to my wife’s “system”). But I also don’t check the weather. If it’s raining when I leave the house, I take an umbrella.

(Usually from the hall closet, if there are more than two in attendance. Which is most of the time.)

If it’s not raining the moment I leave the house, I tend to assume that it’s not going to rain for the rest of the day. Because ‘an object bathed in sunshine will remain bathed in sunshine for the foreseeable future.’ Isaac Newton taught us that.

(Or maybe it was his meteorologist brother, “Stormchaser” Newton. Less famous. Probably for good reason.)

Suffice it to say, my umbrella plan leaves me, more often than not, without an umbrella when I need one. At least, if I’m depending on the stash in the closet. So I don’t. Instead, I bought two umbrellas, and placed them at strategic and high-value locations. Namely, one’s in my office. And one stays in my car.

(Which is to say, it stays in my car now, because the missus has her own car. When we shared the Nissan, my vehicular umbrella stash was under the same constant risk of falling into her system’s maelstrom as all the other umbrellas we owned.

Of course, that was fair. I used to chew all the gum she left in the glove box.)

Recognizing my chief deficiency — that is, that I’m too lazy to check the weather before I leave the house — I’ve covered as many bases as possible. If it’s raining on the way to the car, I’ll get wet, yes. But from the car to the office, the office back to the car, or even from the car back into the house, I’m covered. Literally.

Or so you’d think.

Sadly, my deficiency works overtime — and conspires with the fact that I park underground to get to the office, and work in a spot that has no window. And I’m still too lazy to check the weather.

So from the car to the office, I get wet… with a perfectly good dry umbrella resting in the backseat. From the office to the car, again, wet… and with a backup ‘brella sitting on my desk. By the time I get home and park in the lot — above ground, exposed to the elements where I might actually realize it’s raining — I’m usually too wet and clammy to bother dragging the car umbrella out for the short walk to my place. And when I do, that umbrella becomes fair game for “the system”, because the odds of me remembering to take the stupid thing back to the car before the next typhoon rolls in are approximately never-going-to-happen-to-one.

In summary, I guess I should revise my original statement. My wife doesn’t have an umbrella problem. She takes them. She loses them. She buys more, and occasionally finds them. Probably she stays dry a good ninety percent of the time. And she doesn’t really think about umbrellas very hard.

Me, I obsess over umbrellas. Where to best stash them, how not to lose them, whether they’ll be whisked away from under my nose at any given time. And I’ve reliably got two — not one, but two — of the things at my disposal, under my full control, and available at my merest whim.

I’m also soaked by rain on a regular and maddening basis. Including right now, sitting at my desk, staring at an unused umbrella that I didn’t think to take to lunch — and will, no doubt, forget to bring with me at the end of the day.

So, my wife doesn’t have an umbrella problem. And I have a problem, for sure. But I can’t blame her. Or the umbrellas. Or even the rain.

Clearly, it’s the Weather Channel’s fault. That must be it. I’m going with that. Just as soon as I wring out my socks. Stupid Weather Channel.

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