Need to Text In the Rain? They've Got It Covered

Hey, keep your eyes on the road! The reporter goes about her business inside a hands-free Nubrella, which straps to the wearer's shoulders.
Hey, keep your eyes on the road! The reporter goes about her business inside a hands-free Nubrella, which straps to the wearer's shoulders. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 5, 2008

April showers could continue clear through May, and your Burberry and your BlackBerry are already waterlogged.

Perhaps you need . . . a Nubrella.

Priced at $59.94 and looking like a leftover set piece from "Bubble Boy," the hands-free umbrella is marketed as the ultimate tool for the modern rained-upon. Folded up, it's the size and shape of an Olympic regulation archery bow. Then you pop it . . . right . . . er, wait, how does this thing -- ah well, you can always log onto http://www.nubrella.com for a tutorial, and get that baby open in five simple steps.

Five? But my current umbrella opens in --

But is your current umbrella the ultimate tool for the modern rained-upon? "Hands-free changes the whole game," says Nubrella inventor Alan Kaufman, who was running Cingular outlets in Manhattan when watching his wired and wet customers struggle provided inspiration.

Think of the 21st-century possibilities. No more one-handed texting. No more rummaging for the ringing PDA while trying to keep the groceries off of wet pavement. Chatting, waving, toting, umbrella-holding: four tasks that were never before simultaneously possible.

The Nubrella is worn with a harness, and closes around its user like a clear, private cocoon, guaranteed never to turn inside out. It feels secure and oddly soundproof. Someone is going to try to go over Niagara Falls in this thing, and they might succeed.

Progress!

Or is it?

The sleek umbrella has been around since Babylon and ancient Egypt -- as seen in hieroglyphics! -- its ingenious engineering essentially unchanged, although man is a tinkerer.

You have your collapsible canopy, you have your central supporting stick. (You have umbrella hats, but those are more gags than ultimate tools, sold on a Web page next to a pirate hat and a pimp hat.)

The "brolly" hit England in the 18th century. The Brits took a while to warm up: An 1871 history reads, "Only a few years back those who carried Umbrellas were held to be legitimate butts."


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