Tue Dec 5th, 2006 at 12:07:29 PM EST
A few weeks ago I bought a lovely stick umbrella at a great discount price at TK Maxx. The company that made it is proud of the product and offers a lifetime warranty. My umbrella is raspberry red with about three hundred miniature pictures of various female accessories, very cool and contemporary. It has a dark wooden handle curved generously so that you can hold it with both hands, the kind of handle you just want to stroke over and over, velvety smooth. It's also fitted with a rather sharp and long metal tip, which could prove useful when I walk back home from yoga late in the evening (and also during rush-hour to make my way through the crowds). It opens automatically in one fluid movement. The embodiment of grace and elegance, you could say.
Or at least, it was, until about 10:13 a.m. today, when I decided to use it for the first time. About ten seconds after I stepped out of my house, a gush of wind attacked my beautiful, life-time warranty equipped umbrella and gave it a few good slaps. The ribs were strong, with joints like knees, not designed to be turned up (warning: grave injury), which was one of the reasons I bought it. I wanted a sturdy umbrella that remains an umbrella and doesn't turn into a wobbly water tank at the first sign of bad weather. Well, my umbrella bravely resisted the violence for a few moments, but the wind was cunning. No matter which way I turned, it kept slipping underneath with the force of Midwestern tornadoes. Before I thought I might be temporarily transformed into Mary Poppins, I heard a metal SNAP! and my dreams of lifetime elegance and stroking smooth wood during peaceful walks in Kew Gardens or Hyde Park got dissolved in piercing rain that pummelled my unprotected face. Mixing guttural sounds of frustration with various four-letter words, I stomped into the surgery where I was supposed to interpret this morning, almost ready to ask the receptionist whether my insurance coverage included broken umbrellas, and if she said no, attack her with the only useful part of the umbrella that was left, the metal tip. I sat down, opened the wreckage of my raspberry wonder, probably to the horror of all superstitious patients in the waiting room (ladies and gentlemen, don't worry, the worst has already happened), and began to inspect the damage. Three dangling broken ribs and one of the six supporting (read: key) top bars broken in half. Ouch. Nothing I could even try to fix. Needless to say, I was one grumpy interpreter when they called me into the office.
So. As I hate the thought of "just-throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one-it's-cheaper-that-way", and I don't want the velvety handle to become a part of the London landfill after having held it for mere minutes, I would like to ask you for an advice as to how to find, in this day and age, a place that will be willing to repair my umbrella without charging me triple of what it cost me. How do you deal with your broken umbrellas? Do you try to bring them back to life, or just dump them? Do you have any tricks as to how to prolong the life of an umbrella? You might think it's a trivial subject, but every day I see at least two broken umbrellas sticking out of a bin somewhere on the street. People throw them away like newspaper. Very polluting, to say the least. All this metal, plastic, cloth and wood (sniff) thrown away just like that. It's a serious ecological issue. Don't you agree?