Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The short life spans of umbrellas

'Big Red' was what I called it. A corporate gift from some shindig way out on Tsing Yi island from as far back as four years ago. It was so robust it could even handle typhoons. Given my giant frame (six foot six with an expanding girth to boot), Big Red's wide circumference made it the ideal tool to combat Hong Kong's stormy summer months.
I've been through more umbrellas than there have been typhoons in my seven years here in HK. Left at bars/ferries/meetings/more bars/yet more bars, umbrellas generally have had a lifespan of approximately one month. Oh yeah, I forgot to add just how many have been pilfered from the office over the years as the heavens opened and those less hard working than yours truly scuttled out to face the downpours with my brolly never to be seen again.
But Big Red was different -- it led a charmed, protected life as I looked out for it. All that changed a month ago when, on a truly gargantuan night out that ended circa 5am on a sampan back to the Fantasy Island where I reside, the umbrella somehow went missing at one of countless hostelries frequented on that tempestuous night.
All of which preamble brings me to my main point of all this drivel - the strange existence of that seemingly most constrained of business sectors in this roaring metropolis that I call home, namely the humble umbrella repairman. You see them in shacks around the lanes in Central, often next to a shoe shine/key making kiosk. Now, here's what I don't get: an umbrella costs all of HK$25 from the ubiquitous 7/11 stores that line our streets. How on Earth can you earn a living out of repairing an umbrella?
Now, if anyone has laid eyes on a large red umbrella with the letters HUD emblazoned on it, please let me know - that's one brolly worth repairing!

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