In addition to pocket combs and nail clippers, one of the the common objects I seem to buy an awful lot is the common umbrella.
This is, quite possibly, because I live in a very windy city with extremely ugly weather.
Last year, in the aftermath of a particularly nasty rain-snow-sleet-hail-wind storm, I started counting dead umbrellas lying in the gutter or shoved into a trash can. I stopped counting at 50 - and this was during a walk of a bit more than a mile.
I don't end up with a lot of total blow-out umbrellas, but I do suffer my share of partials - irreparably bent out of shape spokes, or shafts that no longer fully extend. I tend to ignore these problems until I end up caught out in a storm with a largely dysfunctional non-brella, holding on for dear life to the now-four inch handle that's not really holding up the flaccid, non-water proof material that is awkwardly draped over my head.
At any given time, I have in my possession a good half-dozen of these suckers. (Off the top of my head: I have the Mickey Mouse print, the tan, the maroon, the periwinkle, and two blacks, in various locations around the house, in closets, in pocketbooks, briefcases, etc.)
If I had any sense, I'd toss each umbrella in the recycle bin the moment that its sheath disappeared, since this always seems to be the precursor of gradual yet pronounced umbrella decline.
Fortunately, I don't end up spending that much money on any given umbrella, and I won't have to as long as there's a Filene's Basement within striking distance of my condo.
Still, I buy an awful lot of umbrellae...
So I was delighted to see (in an article in The Boston Globe) that a native entrepreneur, Alan Kaufman, has come up with the better mousetrap of umbrellas: the Nubrella "a radical reimagining of the staid old umbrella."
Other than the fact that it looks like those dopey, $3 plastic bubble umbrellas that were popular in the 1970's - popular, that is, until everyone who was going to buy one did so, only to have it collapse and near-smother them when the first moderate wind hit it - the Nubrella seems to solve most of the problems that plague regular umbrellas.
First off, there's no handle taking up valuable real estate exactly where you want to be, in the center of the umbrella, trying to stay dry.
This means it's hands free, so, as you can see, you can both listen to your phone and wave to someone at the same time - although I must point out that, if you're waving outside of the umbrella, your hand is going to get wet.
It also means that there's no collapsible shaft to jam up on you. (It's been years since I had a non-collapsible umbrella by the way. The last one was, I believe, a corporate giveaway at a sales conference or other fun-fest.)
Most important, you can see through it - no small thing, given that most of the time, in these parts at least, when you're using an umbrella, it is not poised nicely over your head but is, rather, used as a windshield in front of your face. This makes the average umbrella-using pedestrian look like a Roman centurion who's afraid of the enemy slashing his face, and also results in all sorts of near misses and run ins, since you can't see whom you're approaching and, if they're similarly umbrella'd up, they can't see you, either.
Thus, our sidewalks, treacherous enough in bad weather - whoever decided that brick paving made sense never had to walk down Beacon Hill in a storm; wheeeeeeee! - become collision courses. Likely, some of those 50 wrecked umbrellas I saw were totaled in two-umbrella crashes.
"[The Nubrella] rests on your shoulders, and straps under your arms," Kaufman says. "You can ride a scooter with it on, or walk around in 40 mile-per-hour winds. It also blocks the wind chill and keeps you warmer." Kaufman says a first batch of 3000 Nubrellas that went on sale in 2008 sold out, but that he didn't have the capital to ramp up production or increase his marketing expenditure.
Kaufman's trying to solve that by submitting his product plan on the Shark Tank, an ABC reality show in which inventors pitch their products to a panel of investors who, I guess, thumbs up or thumbs down the idea. (I haven't seen the Shark Tank and had not, in fact, even heard of it. But I will be tuning in at some point soon - hey, if I can sit through episodes of Bad Girls and Hoarders - and no doubt posting about it. It actually sounds pretty interesting - kind of the like the MIT New Enterprise Forum meets American Idol. (For those not familiar with the New Enterprise Forum, back in the day, it held regular, public sessions during which a startup could submit its business plan to experts in the company's domain, in finance, and in marketing, and the experts would give advice. I went to quite a few of them, and the advice always seemed to be "get money to grow, or die". Sort of like the outcome of a morality play, only good did not necessarily vanquish evil.)
I will definitely be tuning the Tank in when they consider Kaufman's Nubrella. And I'm absolutely considering a purchase - although, at $49.99 plus shipping, that's a good 5 or 6 crappy, fall- apart umbrellas from Filene's....
Plus there's the goofy-looking factor. Do I have the courage to be seen in one? Can I, for once, be an early adopter of brave new technology, rather than a second-waver?
Stay tuned. I'm seriously considering a purchase. (I will be ordering the one with the black back, which looks like a cross between a gun turret in a WWII bomber, and an Amish buggy. What's not to like?)