Illustration by Jim Cooke.

What’s in the size of an umbrella, if not the circumference of its shelter?

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The answer, my dude, is the previously negative space that an umbrella occupies by way of protecting its owner—the area which is frequently known as “my bubble” or “your bubble,” and marks a personal space universally reserved and respected as a buffer between one mouth-breather and another. The same precious few inches of safety net that allows for a deft side-stepping of some sidewalk dog-poo, or for a clumsy coffee splatter to be thrust away from your body instead of onto it. An umbrella misleads its carrier into thinking they have extended that bubble’s normal parameters, when really they have just made its boundaries more plainly visible to all. An umbrella is more than a shield against the rain—it’s the easiest way to gauge a person’s arrogance.

When living in a city, where people share the tiny stacked boxes they inhabit with other people and probably a couple of rent-free critters, the amount of space we occupy outside of our bubbles—especially in spaces we do not pay for, and that do not pay us to occupy them—become a matter of public consideration. The decent among us would not “manspread” on a crowded train, for fear of the niche tumblr backlash and the risk that you’ll intrude on the space that someone else might comfortably take up next to you. The decent among us would not carry an umbrella with a canopy so large that its excess of 12 inches on all sides (it’s a circle!) would prevent another person’s umbrella to pass, or worse, force their fellow pedestrian off the sidewalk and into the street so they can get by. It’s raining—think of the puddles, brother!

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A wise person once said that those who carry an oversized umbrella truly don’t deserve an umbrella at all.

For those of you—with broad shoulders and impressive height—who equate umbrella wingspan with torso-dryness, can we suggest a raincoat, instead? One with a hood? Only the weak use an umbrella in a light rain, when a waterproof jacket is both the more manageable and the more respectful way of protecting yourself from the elements. It could be argued that a waterproof raincoat is more preferable, and less of a headache, when the rain is the sort that wishes to drench your very soul with its wind-assisted torment. An umbrella in the wind is no good most of the time anyways, and is easily influenced by gusts and the vacuums created by tall city buildings. (There are umbrellas specifically designed for windier cities, though they’re not so great at keeping you dry.) The tool meant to save you from harm shouldn’t be fleeing or flip-flopping on you in your time of need. Man, you’ve got enough to deal with already.

These bubble umbrellas seem to look the most reliable, and their name and appearance outwardly suggests some understanding of personal space. No, it is not always easy to stay in your bubble, but maybe it is better to think of this particular umbrella as a comforting space—a womb wherein you are warm and protected from Mother Nature and all that comes with her. There will be no need to duck and weave, or acknowledge the complications that come from being a person with an umbrella surrounded by other people with their own vexing umbrellas over their own, anxiety-addled heads. Under this umbrella, you won’t have to worry about your hair, or the existence of anyone else at all.

Maybe it’s best if you just stayed inside, after all.