No fewer than two readers have recently contacted me about the serious issue of umbrella abuse. (No more than two readers have contacted me, either. In other words, exactly two readers have contacted me.)
We're not talking about the abuse of umbrellas. I think once you've bought an umbrella, you're pretty much free to do to it what you will. No, these readers were talking about abuse by umbrellas.
Elaine Lozier of the District has noticed that more and more people seem to be favoring larger and larger umbrellas.
She watched during a recent rainstorm as pedestrian after pedestrian lugging those jumbo golf umbrellas tried to navigate the sidewalk of K Street. Every now and then, a few would collide on the crowded pavement, spinning their owners around like cogs in a machine.
"I don't think I've seen so many big, big umbrellas carried generally by small people who really don't need them," Elaine said. She thinks the umbrellas are a "silly symbol of macho power," an affordable alternative to a Humvee.
The Freudian iconography of a large umbrella in the rain is vast. But I'm not, as they say, going to go there.
Elaine could perhaps form a society with Arlene Halfon, another D.C. resident with umbrellas on the mind. Arlene called recently to rail against furled umbrellas carried horizontally. This is dangerous, she said.
"I keep expecting people to get stabbed in the eye. . . . I haven't seen a kid get blinded yet, but I'm waiting."
As a public service, I'll describe the proper way to carry a regular umbrella (not the mini, foldable kind that you stuff in the outside of your briefcase, or the king-size kind that Elaine has noticed):
Grasp the curved handle gently. Allow the long, black umbrella to hang loosely by your side. Flick the metal tip up in front of you as you walk, allowing it to fall to the ground with each step, as you make a satisfying ching as it strikes the ground. Imagine you are Lord Mountbatten or Noel Coward.
Don't poke anyone in the eye.
Those painted pandas popping up all over the District go by the collective name "PandaMania." My colleague David Fahrenthold is disappointed in the moniker. He thinks "PandaMonium" would have been much better, since it echoes an actual word: pandemonium.
Tony Gittens, head of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the folks behind the pandification process, disagrees: "This is the name that we thought was most appropriate for the project, and folks seem to be responding fairly positively."
There is one little problem with pandemonium. Not only does it mean a wild, disorganized place, it's also a city in John Milton's "Paradise Lost." Which city? The capital of Hell.
Shameless Misuse of Newsprint
My daughters will tell you that my employment at The Washington Post has brought them nothing but heartache. When I was editor of KidsPost, I announced all sorts of contests for readers. My daughters were not allowed to enter. "How would it look if you won?" I explained, knowing that under their breath they were muttering, "Well, it would look pretty good to us."
I have occasionally trotted out either or both of them for comic effect in my writing. They really love that.
But you know what I say? Too bad. What kind of father would I be if I wasn't providing them with years of material to share with a future therapist? And that's why today, in this very public forum, I am wishing my younger daughter, Beatrice, a happy 11th birthday.
She doesn't remember when we first met, but I do. It was at the Columbia Hospital for Women. I knew I was going to meet someone that day, but I didn't know who. Would it be a boy or a girl?
It was a girl. More specifically, it was a Beatrice.
Happy birthday, Beatrice. Now clear the table, and get ready for school.
Out of the Starting Gates
Our Send a Kid to Camp campaign is off to a great start. We need to raise $750,000 by July 23 to support summer activities at Camp Moss Hollow. As of yesterday, Washington Post readers had donated $59,830.41.
That didn't all come in last night. It represents dribs and drabs that arrived after the 2003 campaign had finished, as well as new donations from readers who just couldn't wait to get started.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of a summer camping program for at-risk youth. A donation of $100 would be a nice bit of symbolism.
Here's how you can contribute: Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."
To contribute by Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.
Eat Out, Feel Good
Here's another way to support the campaign: Every Wednesday between now and July 21, area McCormick & Schmick's Seafood and M&S Grill restaurants will donate all proceeds from certain menu items to Camp Moss Hollow. Today's magic item at McCormick & Schmick's is the coconut shrimp appetizer; at the M&S Grill, it's the Maryland crab cake appetizer.