How To Never Lose An Umbrella Again
“Goddamnit,” I curse as the bus drives off with my umbrella still a passenger.
It was a good umbrella too. Navy blue. Japanese design. A canopy separate from the shaft that spun with the breeze. Invertible ribs for an easy reset in case the wind did get in. Reasonably priced too.
This was A+ stuff. And now it’s destined for Mt. Umbrellimanjaro at some distant bus depot.
I mean, I know I could just ring the depot or go there — but, although great, this umbrella is worth just not enough to warrant the effort.
At least it’s not raining anymore.
Oh wait, now it is.
Maybe I shouldn’t have cursed the Almighty.
Did you know that, according to the robust intel of the London Business School, upwards of 80,000 umbrellas are lost on the London Underground every year? Across the ditch, 2000 lost umbrellas were auctioned off for $900 by the New York City Independent Subway System, alongside hundreds of other articles. One plucky Dutch designer (who has an umbrella start-up, so take this with a pinch of salt) estimates that 1.1 billion umbrellas are thrown out each year, a large chunk due to accidental abandonment.
Why are umbrellas of all things, our saviours on a rainy day, one of the most misplacement-prone objects on planet Earth?
I hypothesise a few reasons.
Firstly, umbrellas are an occasional carry. They’re not welded to our being like our phones or keys and wallet. They’re only with us every now and then, and so we aren’t in the habit of having them nearby.
Secondly, they aren’t pocketable. Most of the time when you lose an umbrella, it’s because you’ve used it and it’s wet and left on the ground, near the base of your barstool or train seat, far below eye-level. No one puts a wet umbrella in their pocket or handbag. I mean, there’s probably one guy who slips it into his ankle-height cargo pant pockets — but except for that guy, no one does. Because intentionally wetting your clothes or handbag defeats the purpose of using an umbrella in the first place.
Thirdly, the need state for an umbrella is variable. By this I mean, it rains on and off. And so you might enter the pub during a downpour, but by the time you’re done, the sun’s back out. You think, “What a beautiful day!”, not “Better get my umbrella!”. The need state that caused you to bring your umbrella there has now evaporated much like the raindrops on the footpath.
Yep, many things dampen our chances of retaining our trusty waterproof steeds. And while it’s easy to become a cynic and feel that, like big pharma, Big Umbrella is conspiring to keep us on the hedonic treadmill consuming and losing umbrella after umbrella, I prefer to treat this as a creative challenge. How can you ensure you never lose an umbrella again?
1. Always hold it
Like Jack and Rose, promise to never let go. Handcuff yourself to that door floating in the middle of the Atlantic, grip your umbrella by the handle and let it drip by your feet. Take it with you to the toilet if need be. People might look at you strangely as you take a tinkle with a tiny umbrella round your wrist. They might scoff at you as you gesture during an anecdote and spray everyone with rainwater. Your knuckles might cower. Your wrist might rash. But know that as soon as that umbrella leaves your grasp, it’s as good as gone. So fuse your hand and your brolly. Be one.
2. Keep the sheath
Maybe constantly holding your umbrella isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe the room you’re in is carpeted, and the room-owners would much rather you use the customary umbrella stand. Maybe you don’t trust the umbrella stand. Fear not. Most umbrellas nowadays come with a handy sheath. Not only does this keep your umbrella neat and compact, it serves as a waterproof layer, overcoming the non-pocketable nature of a wet umbrella. Shaken to remove excess rainwater then stored in its sheath, your umbrella can now be safely stowed in your handbag or pocket (if you have ankle-height cargo pant pockets), without fear of drippage. Perhaps stow it upright though, so that if any drips do occur they drip down into the sheath, rather than out the top.
3. Carry it in a separate bag
It’s an odd parcel of psychology, but you never seem to forget a tote or bag or backpack that you’ve placed near your feet or on the hook beneath the table. Or it’s at least a bit harder to forget. For some reason, it’s far easier to get emotionally attached to a bag over a brolly. So use this kink of your psyche to your advantage, and place your umbrella in a separate carry bag — one that you don’t mind getting wet. This bag should only be used for your umbrella. Unfortunately this technique doesn’t work for bigger golf umbrellas, unless you were to carry it in a rifle-case, though that mightn’t vibe with the bus passengers around you. So perhaps invest in a tripod case. Or keep on theme and put your golf umbrella in a golf club bag.
4. Smart tag it
Ah, technology. In April of 2021 when Tim Cook unveiled the $149 Apple AirTag to intelligently track your valuables, he probably didn’t intend it to be attached to a ratty parasol. But if you’re serious about keeping your umbrella safe, perhaps it’s worth the investment. Not for fear of losing your umbrella, but for fear of losing a $149 Apple AirTag. (Not a sponsor).
On that note, why not purchase the most expensive umbrella money can buy? Alexander McQueen sells a $645 Italian-designed umbrella, made of 100% polyamide and complete with an unforgettable golden skull handle. Or for the less ostentatious among us, Mr Porter retails the ‘Kingsman’ — a handcrafted, pinstripe and chestnut-wood handled umbrella worth a paltry 257 Great British Pounds. You might be questioning the need to enter the upper echelons of umbrella ownership, but perhaps the more your umbrella costs, the less likely you are to absent-mindedly leave it somewhere. Or at the very least, it’s worth the trip to the bus depot. Plus if you never lose it, it may eventually add up to all those cheap brollies you lose over the course of your life.
6. Get Bon Jovi to sign it
I get it, money doesn’t grow on trees, and a $645 umbrella is very hard to justify. So instead, look for ways to add alternative value to your umbrella. Incorporate your umbrella into key life memories, like birthdays or funerals. You could cut your wedding cake with your umbrella, or place it on top of your Christmas tree in lieu of a star. At minimum, you could get your favourite band to autograph its innards, or even your kids to decorate it with a silver marker. The more your umbrella means to you, the more consciously you will carry it.
7. Accept your fate
Take a leaf from the Buddhists and accept that umbrellas, like all things, are transitory. They come and go. One never really owns an umbrella, but leases an umbrella momentarily from the universe, to which it is destined to return. You will lose your umbrella, because you are human. So think of that $10-$20 pop whenever you’re forced to buy a new umbrella as a ‘humanity tax’, and surrender it to the collective unconscious. Your umbrella now serves a higher purpose. Amen.
With climate change inexorably altering the face of global weather patterns, more severe rainstorms, monsoons and wet seasons are upon us. Umbrellas are not going away any time soon — well, except when you lose them. So don’t lose them.
In the words of the great Rihanna, “Umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh, eh, EH EH!”. Take the proper precautions, think creatively, and you will never get caught in the rain cursing the lord again.