Rainy Days

As we brace for a big storm, I ponder the things that are going to sell like crazy. Bread, water, candles, batteries, flashlights - all things that people probably already have a set brand for or will buy the cheapest kind available. (Nature's Own, cheapest, cheapest, cheapest of Energizer v. Duracell, Magnalite, in case you were wondering.)

But what about umbrellas? What differentiates them? There's Totes, of course, which is probably the only brand name I know. But when I think of them, I don't think of innovation. I think of tiny, wussy umbrellas that fit in my purse then inevitably find their way below the seats in my car. What do I really want in an umbrella?

First of all, I want one that's not going to be difficult to carry around but provides protection that I would not refer to as "dinky." Secondly, I want it to dry quickly. Third, I want it to look awesome and unique. This is an accessory, after all.

So the umbrella needs to be super compact, yet powerful. Like Mighty Mouse. Is there a way it could fold into a flat rectangle and slip into a sleeve? Could it fit in my pocket? Is there a way to attach it to my belt loop or carry it over my shoulder? Perhaps there is an attachment that goes into my pocket and makes an extra pocket on the outside. Like an add-on pouch.

Or maybe we should reverse the situation. Maybe the umbrella could be a consolidator and carry your other things. Imagine an umbrella where the inside has a zipper pocket that hangs down and a little clip for keys. You'd put your wallet and phone and lipstick or whatever in the pocket and go. When you got inside, you'd carry your umbrella like you normally would and your stuff would still be tucked inside the closed version.

Now to the drying quickly. Nothing sucks worse than to get inside all nice and dry only to smack yourself in the leg with a wet umbrella. There's got to be some better repellant on these things. Nicer establishments, like Nordstrom, offer umbrella sleeves at the door. And if you really trust someone, you could always leave it beside the door to wait for you - hmmm... umbrella locks? You'd have to have something to lock it to, but malls could most certainly do that. Could you check your umbrella for free?

Back to the umbrellas solving their own problem. Could umbrellas come with a little matching drying towel? Or a bigger bag to put them in, because let me just say, you still get soaked trying to wrap a wet umbrella and shove it in a tiny bag. Maybe a disposable layer for the top of the umbrella, but that's not very environmental. This is a problem best left to the scientist. And I'm not the only one complaining, another girl I know mentioned the same issue today.

Design... What a neat shape. You'd think there would be more available. I've seen different shapes like the bubble umbrella or the golf size one, but those are hardly revolutions. Neither are the sections of color or the occasional polka dots. This is my safe place, my shelter and I think there's a lot of space here to do something more. What could be written inside there to make you feel happier and warmer during a storm? What else could that pole be made of or shaped like? Could there be a mobile in there or would that make a mess?

The outside is clearly a blank canvas. I admit, I have seen a few things but nothing ultra-simple and hip. Could you make an umbrella where you could change out the top to match your day?

What other additions could make an umbrella better? A beeping feature if it senses rain so you don't leave it in your car. Or just a simple scale of percent chance so you can look and see before you go. A way to connect your phone to the handle, so you'll have at least one hand free. A censor for your car so your door will unlock when the umbrella comes toward it, eliminating the need to search for keys and locks in the rain. I'm sure my bubble would feel more complete with music, can I use my iPod without it getting too wet?

There are probably a million ways an umbrella could be better. And an umbrella company could take the lead.

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