The world over, umbrellas are useful in so many ways besides the rain, and they've come a long way since their creation back in ancient Egypt, the Middle East and China.
There is a lot of misconception about who buys parasol umbrellas," says Scott King, manager of Vancouver's The Umbrella Shop.
"Typically people believe that women of Asian descent use them more than others. We have actually noticed a larger number of Caucasian customers requesting sun protection as their skin tends to burn easier."
In Vancouver, umbrellas and people means protection. But there's more to umbrellas than just evading the rain.
King's family business has been around for over 75 years. In their store on West Broadway, you have many styles, colours, patterns and price ranges to choose from. And it seems that the variety is met with just as many superstitions.
“There's not one day that goes by that someone doesn't ask if it’s bad luck to open umbrellas in doors, " says King. "We usually tell them that it’s okay in an umbrella store and that we have personally done it thousands of times... on the rare occasion ...to calm a customer, the umbrella will be taken outside to be opened."
Although the origins of this long withstanding superstition are up for debate, North America has some little known watermark superstitions of its own surrounding the umbrella.
Some examples are that it is bad luck to give an umbrella as a gift. If you drop an umbrella, do not pick it up, but instead, have someone else do it for you. If a single woman drops an umbrella, she will never marry. If an umbrella is opened outside when it is not needed, rain and other bad weather will follow.
Whether the weather and tools to protect yourself from it dictate such bad luck, is up to you.
Michelle Payne, from
England and says her hometown's weather is similar to Vancouver's. She says British summers consist of two fine days and a thunderstorm.
She says she will buy a $10 umbrella when it rains because her umbrellas often break.” When asked if a more expensive model would be better, Payne replies, “It’s an umbrella, not a coffee machine!”
On the type and colours of umbrellas carried in Vancouver, Payne says, "I notice the colours and styles are different depending on the area. In Yaletown, the umbrellas closely match the clothes people are wearing." As for superstitions, Payne says, "I don't believe in them at all."
Mohammad Saadvandi, from Iran, fits King’s observations that men mostly carry a golf umbrella in their car and a portable one at home - both black, so as not to stand out perhaps.
It appears that Saadvandi has good luck with hanging on to them as they have been at his side for as long as 6 years. And speaking of luck, he also doesn’t believe in the superstitions - as they don’t exist in his native country.
This post originally appeared in The Source, October 18, 2011 © Copyright (c) The Source