Rockin’ A Hard Place | Is there anything more useless here than an umbrella?

About this time of year, as the drizzle sets in and the darkness hastens earlier every day, friends who visit the Rock from America sometimes ask me in advance, “Should I bring my umbrella?”

My response is always the same: “No need. We have a bunch.” Indeed we do. My favorite is a big white umbrella printed with New York Times headlines from around 1989. It’s always handy to have something to read while dashing to the car. Several others are printed with the logos of various nonprofit organizations that graciously acknowledged my generous donation by sending me an umbrella.

During a downpour, it makes me feel warm all over knowing I have helped my fellow humans. And I guess that’s better than getting a ballpoint pen or some return address stickers.

We have an umbrella stand by the door that has three or four of them in it. The other day I noticed it was cluttered with cobwebs and dead houseflies, the effects of obvious disuse.

Really. Is there a more useless item on our Rock than an umbrella? By the time you search for it, remember how to pop it open and pray that an errant prong doesn’t stab the person next to you in the eye, the drizzle has ceased. Or, more likely, just as you pop it open a strong burst of Whidbey wind will flip it inside out, entitling it to a quick trip to the dump.

Our rain comes and goes on the Rock. That’s why hoodies, baseball caps and fleece vests work better here than umbrellas. They soak up our raindrops then dry out as soon as we get inside the coffee shop, grocery store or wherever we’re headed. Besides, most Rock dwellers are smart enough to wait until the rain stops before they go outside in the first place.

We’ve had rain earlier than normal this autumn, but it’s been welcome after a long, dry summer. The other day, as I drove to the Red Apple in heavy rain to buy a loaf of bread, I noticed several Coupeville High School students walking slowly toward the grocery store. Their hoodies and jeans were soaked through, but they were laughing out loud and having fun.

I flashed on Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain.” Gene was in Hollywood while he danced and sang with an umbrella as a prop.

These Rock kids didn’t need an umbrella to feel that same way. I guess they knew they’d dry out quickly while waiting in line at the store to buy after-school rewards like Ho-Ho’s or fried pork rinds.

As I dusted and cleaned out the umbrella stand at home, I thought that perhaps I should toss out the little-used umbrellas and use the stand for a better purpose — garden stakes, perhaps, or walking sticks. But I thought better of it.

I wouldn’t want my friends from America to think I promised them an umbrella and then reneged. That would be un-Rock.

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