Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Umbrellas and the Balance of the Universe

Okay, here's a great piece of trivia: Which major US city buys the most sunglasses per capita?

Ask this question, and people usually suggest Miami, Honolulu, Phoenix...or the really crafty ones try San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The correct answer is gloomy, cloud-covered Seattle. Why? Because Seattlites don't need them for months at a stretch, and so they get buried and can't be found. And since people aren't used to picking up their sunglasses as a matter of habit, during the sunny season they leave them on restaurant tables, on buses, in waiting rooms...or walk out of the house without them for a day sailing and have to buy another pair down at the harbor.

I mention this because I have a similar problem with umbrellas. I'm constantly traveling without them and finding I need them; and once I have one, I'm bound to lose it.

But not this time. For once, I remembered to take an umbrella to London, and I resolved not to lose it. Be mindful, I told myself. Remember to pick up the umbrella. You're sitting down at this table. What are you going to do when you stand up? Look for the umbrella.

And it worked. I passed three full days in London with the umbrella along everywhere, and I arrived back home for once with the umbrella I set out with. (Or should that be 'the umbrella out with which I set'?)

However, I was so conscious of the umbrella the whole time that I left a present I'd bought for Pamela in a coffeeshop, never to be seen again. (The present, I mean. Not Pamela or the coffeeshop.) I could have bought a whole crate of umbrellas for the price.

The lesson, as is so often the case in bad science-fiction movies, is that one should not tinker with the cosmic balance of things. My role in the ecosystem is to provide umbrellas to something which presumably eats them (otherwise we'd all be up to our knees in the umbrellas I've lost). Deprive the Bumbershoot Beast of its natural prey and it will turn to other, more costly items.

From now on, I'm not going to pay any attention to keeping my umbrella, and if I still happen to have one toward the end of a trip I plan to place it on some sort of altar--a park bench would do--and sacrifice it to propitiate the Beast. I run into enough problems on travel already without deliberately courting cosmic retribution.


Matt Curran said...

Hi, David

Not to worry. Karma says you'll find an umbrella with a $100 note lodged in the spokes.

You'll have to go someway to beating the fiasco of my travelling history. In the past I've lost scarfs, gloves, books, CDs, aftershave, a shoe (just the one) and during the latest holiday, my wedding ring. Thankfully, we've never lost luggage (nor my mind) but losing stuff when we're on holiday is just a way of life for myself and Sarah.

(The classic example is going around Australia and New Zealand for six months with a Psion netbook that didn't suffer a scratch, only for me to pour a softdrink over it 48 hours after we landed back in England...)

Nikwdhmos said...

Thank god I seem to have gotten beyond this phase. I have trained myself not to misplace items.

There is still a balance, tho. Now I just randomly forget people's names (like my wife's) in conversation.

My theory is that there is a finite amount of memory in the Universe and that most of it has been eaten up by computer hard drives ;)

Jen Ster said...

Joan left her purse, with her passport and most of our money in it, on a London tube train once. A passenger jumped out with it just as the doors were closing (missing his train in the process) to return it to her. Since then we're both hypermindful of trying to return lost items to people who seem to have inadvertently left them behind, all in the name of karmic balance. So if we find the umbrella with the $100 note, we will return it to you. :)

Janet said...

This was hilarious. I don't have this problem. Ever since high school, I've been trying to carry too much stuff: purse, guitar case, briefcase, diaper bags, grocery bags, and other assorted oddments. I automatically look around before I go anywhere, because I feel incomplete if my hands aren't full.

On the other hand, (yes there is a balance in the universe) I never remember to take everything when I go on a trip, so I end up having to buy things that I really don't need duplicates of.

You know, the corollary of the sunglasses statistic is the space heater one. Where in the US do you think space heaters are most popular?

David Isaak said...

Hey, Matt--

One shoe? Now there's a serious downer.

Pretty much all I lose is umbrellas. Well, and my wallet once in Rome, but I didn't exactly 'lose' it--somebody took it.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Nikwdhmos--

Seeing as the number of computers and the size of hard drives is on the rise, you propose a rather frightning scenario.

If it comes to pass, you'll be famous for predicting it. Except no one will remember you proposed it.

David Isaak said...

Hey, Jen--

I'd welcome it. But the Bumbershoot Beast eats them. Really.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Janet--

If I want to make Pamela really nervous, I make her go out sans purse. Every time we stand up she has a rush of fear and she fumbles around for her purse.

Our biggest duplication problem is when we move from one house to another--which used to happen very frequently. We'd have to buy duplicates because whatever we needed was buried in an unpacked box.

Hmm, space heaters...? Based on your corollary warning, I'll guess Florida...

Janet said...

I kind of undermined the suspense, didn't I? Anyway, you're close, but no cigar.

LA. The temperature is so uniform there, that they perceive any variation as being intolerable.

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