First Lecture

Day one of specialized courses on human awkwardness and uncomfortable situations.

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Welcome, everyone, to today’s lecture on changing your entire vibe with a simple umbrella.

If you’re in this class, I assume you’re tired of being overlooked. You yearn to be more than just another face in the crowd, am I right? Your whole life, it seems, you’ve faded into the background as a nondescript, uninterestingly accessorized person, who may or may not be prepared for inclement weather. In other words, you have been a non-umbrella guy.

Today, I'll show you how to change all that. The moment has arrived, my dear students, for the complete metamorphosis that will forever alter your identity in the eyes of society. How, you ask? From now on, you will carry an umbrella—everywhere. You will become an umbrella guy.

Everyone knows an umbrella guy when they see one. don't they? Casually dapper in a sport coat and snug-fitting jeans, umbrella guy is over there twirling his foot-long umbrella around his index finger like a Cessna propeller. Outside it’s 75 and sunny—and the last time you checked, there wasn’t a cloud in sight—but this man is equipped for a downpour. Does umbrella guy know something you don’t? Of course he does. With a practical accessory like that on his person, he probably knows a lot you don’t.

Umbrella guy controls his own narrative. You judge him on his terms. Is there a reason he hasn’t leaned his umbrella into a corner now that he’s indoors? That’s the whole point. You don’t know. Whatever secrets lie in wait within his collapsible moisture shield, he’s not telling. His mystique is undeniable.

You cannot help but survey umbrella guy as he swaggers towards his Center Orchestra seat for the Philharmonic’s performance of Wagner’s Die Walkure. How perfectly does his four-foot, cane-handled umbrella complement his ascot and three-piece suit? You tell him. You won’t, of course, because approaching umbrella guy is out of the question. Your unconscious mind registers his white-knuckled grip for the danger it represents, and without realizing, you stay six feet away. Outside of his swing radius.

Umbrella guy’s bearing lacks violence, and yet, he wields a weapon. His refined, be-monocled facial features show no sign of deception, and yet nothing is as it seems. The last time you checked the ten-day forecast, not a drop of precipitation threatened the foreseeable future—and yet there sits umbrella guy. Prepared for a monsoon.

How many could fit beneath the poly-fabric canopy of his seven-foot long hydrophobic implement? A dozen? A score? The answer, of course, is zero. It was a trick question. As you observe the crisp lines of umbrella guy’s Vanquish II Tailcoat, the jutting perfection of his top-hat and the elegance of his generously oiled moustaches, you become subliminally aware of his covert depths. This man is a spy. This master of espionage has hidden an assassin’s blade within his innocent-looking umbrella, and some unfortunate dignitary at this UN Summit will never leave this room alive.

Should you alert security? If you wish. They’ll never believe you. Who would suspect a man as conscientious as this? Even if they do believe you, it’s futile—umbrella guy infiltrated the security team months ago. More than likely, you will report him to one of his own agents. Umbrella guy has thought of everything. He has prepared for every contingency—including the possibility of rain during a period of historic drought.

All you can do now is watch, helpless, as this political murder plays out before your eyes. Soon, history will rotate around the axis of umbrella guy’s stainless-steel rod. Will his ends justify his means? Will he move mankind forward towards utopia? Or has he, in fact, deemed us beyond redemption? Has umbrella guy become filled with loathing for our species as it destroyed the Earth and enacted atrocities upon itself, and is he now the righteous instrument of homo sapiens’ inexorable self-euthanization?

That’s the vibe you’ll have, anyway, if you start carrying around an umbrella. Class dismissed—and you’re welcome.