Search This Blog

EXCURSIONS IN LATERAL THINKING FROM

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS AND THE PIONEER VALLEY








Sunday, August 15, 2010

To Sheathe or Not to Sheathe . . .

Here’s a suggestion that will bring magic to your next soiree. Have your guests fess up their attitudes and behavior toward umbrella sheathing. This, of course, applies principally to umbrellas that collapse in on themselves; not to most traditional pole umbrellas, which rarely come with sheaths. (Don’t worry about disenfranchising the owners of pole umbrellas at your party. They will revel in smugness as guardians of umbrella tradition. And they will gloat over the behavioral foibles of your other guests, particularly if they happen to be their spouses.)

The big question, of course, is whether your guests use or ditch their sheaths. Wig & Pen put that question to thirty owners of collapsible umbrellas. Twenty-four confessed to a sheathless lifestyle, five said that they sheathed religiously, and one said that she wasn’t sure. Among the sheathless majority, eight,
including the author of this blog, admitted to setting sheaths aside for possible later use. None of them got around to using them, though, although several confessed to micro-twinges of guilt. In contrast, six nonsheathers disposed of their sheaths immediately after the point of purchase—some with relish; some with indignation.

The five dedicated sheathers all exuded a passion for organization. Some admitted to creative ordering systems of everyday artifacts like clothes and cutlery. One sheath-abiding informant noted that he had learned respect for umbrellas from his father, who had lived in London. England, he emphasized, is an advanced civilization in the ways of rain, fog, and rain gear. (When poring through his late father’s personal effects, he had discovered different colored umbrellas that coordinated smartly with the dead man’s differently hued suits.)


James Smith & Sons: London's Largest Purveyor of Umbrellas

Another dedicated sheather was a health educator who had imparted sex education in a variety of venues, including a county prison. A show-stopper in her act involved the proper ensheathment of a condom on an oversized latex “demonstrator.”

Share your sheath-worthy research with the Wig & Pen community! For starters, you might consider the following avenues of inquiry: Is umbrella sheathing behavior positively related to traditional demographic variables like age, gender, and income? How about differences in attitudes and behavior between boomers and Xers? between florists and roofers? between Shriners and Albanians?

Do dedicated umbrella sheathers have a lower incidence of STDs than their sheathless counterparts? How do couples with contradictory sheathing habits mediate their differences? (Is counseling advisable? And If so, how does one find a sheath-neutral therapist?)

Before you begin your research—one more insight, inspired by a friend in marketing. Umbrella sheaths are hybrids—part packaging, part umbrelloid. If you want them out of your life but are conflicted, view them as packaging. You’ll toss them post haste, unless of course, you get mired in proper sheath recycling.


1 comment:

Diane said...

It's funny that you bring up this subject. I inherited a black umbrella (sheathed) from a nun who is now ninety eight years old. she gave it to me on a very rainy day and said,"you don't have to return this because I am no longer going out in the rain." It has embroidery on it that says SSA 2130. This means that she was a Sister of St Anne and she was the 2130th sister to take her vows (poverty chastity and obedience)for that order from Lachine Canada. I'm ashamed to say that I took the sheath off and have not seen it since. That was some three years ago. It is the most sturdy umbrella I have ever seen. It is made of wood and the spine is a strong metal. It never turns inside out, and opens and closes easily. I do have to protect it from my husband and children though because they do lose everything.