Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Portlanders exclude umbrella as rain gear

Portland is an infamously rainy city. Before people move here, they may often think, “I do not mind a drizzle every now and then, as long as I have my trusty umbrella.” It is not until they actually make the move that they discover something horrific: the only thing more severe than Portland’s rain is its anti-umbrella culture. 

Portland residents vehemently deny that they would ever be caught holding an umbrella, and are responsible for the city’s anti-umbrella culture. They are quick to pass judgment onto anyone who is holding, has ever held or has ever so much as pondered the possession of an umbrella. It can be shocking at first to see such radical views against a seemingly useful day-to-day object. However, as a Washingtonian and an anti-umbrella conspirator myself, I hope to explain why using umbrellas is the wrong move when it comes to protecting yourself against Pacific Northwest rain. 

The first aspect of umbrellas that I (and my fellow Pacific Northwesterners) take issue with is their cumbersome unwieldiness. “Oh, just let me take out my umbrella,” you say. Now you are holding a gigantic dome of material, which is just waiting to snag on a string of low-hanging lights or a tree branch, which will cause it to tear. Umbrellas are sinister beasts: they will destroy themselves just to sabotage your day.

Furthermore, in order to use an umbrella, you have to surrender at least one of your hands. The moment you unfurl the umbrella, you resign yourself to a life of single-handedness, with all of the associated inconveniences and agonies. Want to eat a cheese Danish? You will have to let go of your dog. Want to open a door? You will have to abandon the cheese Danish. The indignities never end. Furthermore, the hand that is supporting the umbrella turns frigid in the rainy winter air.

You may be willing to sacrifice your hand’s livelihood for the greater cause of your dryness. However, imagine that the day is not only rainy, but also gusty. An unpredictable breeze is liable to grip your umbrella and yank it from your hand, leaving you to run helplessly after it as the rain cascades down on your unprotected body. Even if you do manage to hold on to the umbrella, your arm will be wrenched about at the wind’s mercy.

In all fairness, umbrellas do have some advantages. What is more intimate than offering a friend or a partner to join you under the umbrella so you can both stay dry? This kind of experience can certainly create fond memories. However, this does not work when you are with two friends. If you offer for one of your friends to join you, the other is left shivering and alone, as the rain runs off your umbrella and onto their face, mingling with their tears. To avoid subjecting your dear friend to this tragic fate, you must hunch your shoulders and draw the umbrella close to your head, an obvious gesture that shows you are unwilling to share with either friend. The umbrella forces you to choose between third wheeling someone and being selfish. Either way, you will feel bad about yourself in the end. 

Another pro-umbrella argument is that umbrellas can be fun and expressive. I will not challenge this argument, as I have seen some umbrellas in the past that have made me smile. However, why limit yourself to an umbrella? Parasols are just as expressive without any of the hassles of umbrellas.

When you wield an umbrella in the Portland rain, you may prevent yourself from wearing moisture, but you instead wear a badge of shame; you jeopardize your hand’s wellbeing and you alienate your friends. Just wear a rain jacket, I say. Better yet, wear no rain protection at all, fling your arms open and cry out to the heavens as sweet life-giving water soars down and imbibe pure jollity.

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