abandoned umbrellas

A common rainy day sight in the city is the abandoned umbrella. I find this practice of flagrantly abandoning umbrellas at their point of failure to be extraordinarily odd. Countless times have I seen these cast-offs downtown, their broken metal frames splayed obscenely on the sidewalk, or folded and perched forlornly on some faceless building’s window ledge. Their bright hopeful colors belie the tragic loss of function in their mechanisms. Certainly I sympathize with the frustration that suddenly vulnerable pedestrians feel when they are faced with the prospect of getting wet. I have been there myself. But a broken umbrella is a large piece of waste to simply toss aside in the street. Fast food wrappers I can sort of (painfully) understand. However, the step up to throwing an umbrella on the ground is one that my brain can’t seem to navigate. If I were to follow this logic, it seems like the sky would be the limit as to what is deemed “acceptable” as litter. However, I might just not be properly connecting the lines between umbrellas and what else I have found abandoned on the street. For example, during one recent 6-mile bike ride back from an early morning birding expedition, I counted no less than 5 pairs of women’s underwear lying in the road, quite evenly spaced between the park and my house. I felt like I was traveling along some sordid trail at the end of which I had no idea what I might find. I have also seen plenty of shoes, pairs or singles, littering the streets, as well as a surprisingly diverse collection of other clothing items. I always imagine the scenarios that might lead to a particular item ending up there. But maybe I’m over-thinking it and the answer is simple. Perhaps there is a certain fraction of the population for whom disposing of used and unneeded accessories in the street is a commonplace activity. I guess that after giving it some focused thought, it really wouldn’t surprise me.

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