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Random Thoughts

Rain Gear

Hudson Cooper, Columnist
Posted 6/25/21

While we enjoy those sunny summertime days in the mountains, there is always a chance for an ominous event in the afternoon.

Dark clouds suddenly begin to creep up on the horizon like in those …

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Random Thoughts

Rain Gear

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While we enjoy those sunny summertime days in the mountains, there is always a chance for an ominous event in the afternoon.

Dark clouds suddenly begin to creep up on the horizon like in those alien invasion movies. Distant rumbles of thunder do a drum-like cadence. The cardinals, blue jays and finches that have been warbling grow silent. Even the birdseed snatching squirrels head for cover. It is time to batten down the hatches as a summertime afternoon rainstorm is coming.

I wonder why these afternoon storms are often part of my Sullivan County summers. So, I contacted my friend Harold Kaine formerly of the Rural Atmospheric Intelligence Nexus known as RAIN. Harry gave me a long-winded explanation that I will summarize for you.

The air in the middle atmospheric levels above the mountains is moist enough to cause the development of unstable clouds. The heat from the afternoon sun increases the cumulus clouds instability often resulting in thunderstorms.

So, if you are planning to venture outside, be prepared for the sudden downpours by bringing your rain gear. Most of us do not want to be encumbered by hauling raincoats, ponchos or galoshes. As an aside, the word galoshes is listed as one of the top 10 funny sounding words in the English language. It joins others like nincompoop, covfefe and malarkey.

Instead of all that rain gear, most of us just carry an umbrella, which is the subject of this column. Like so many objects we use today, we can thank the ancient Greeks and Romans for advancing the use of umbrellas.

The Greeks introduced a device that became a parasol to shade wealthy people from the Sun. Not to rain on their parade, the Romans introduced a crude version of the umbrella to keep from getting soaked during storms. The Asian influence made it possible to help protect Chinese people from sunstroke by fashioning parasols out of bamboo covered with feathers and layered leaves.

It took a while for European men to begin using umbrellas. Back then, men thought of umbrellas as a feminine accessory, so they preferred to tough it out with hats, coats and head colds. Eventually they caved in and joined the umbrella movement. It became suitable for men in the 18th Century when an Englishman named Jonas Hanway began carrying a sturdier masculine-looking umbrella.

Hanway, a noted philanthropist, was the subject of ridicule for his carrying an umbrella around London. At that time, using an umbrella was considered a showing of a character weakness for a man. He was often pelted with trash and subject to verbal abuse. Looking back most of the rancor over umbrella use was because many thought it resembled the parasol which was considered too French.

Today, umbrellas are used all over the world. In the United States 33 million of them are bought every year costing about 348 million dollars. For some reason, in England only about 1.50 million are sold even though we are led to believe that it rains quite often in foggy, soggy London town.

Japan leads the world in ownership with each person averaging 3.3 umbrellas. In America we each own about 2.1 of them to tote around. Nobody really knows how statisticians came up with these numbers. I doubt a census taker asked, “How many people live in your household and more importantly how many umbrellas do you own?”

Years before Einstein developed his famous “Theory of Relativity”, he worked on his “Conservation of Umbrellas” hypothesis. He postulated that for every umbrella you lose, you find one within a few days.  His hypothesis holds true in big cities. If you misplace an umbrella there, you often soon find another one on a bus or train.

I know his umbrella conservation theory is not as useful as his famous one. However, Einstein knew that everything is relative, especially if you get caught out in the rain without an umbrella.

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