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My Blog

December 2011

Umbrella Arms Race

I met a nice Dutch family this weekend who have been in Sydney for about six months.  We met standing under an awning at a beer garden hiding from the rain, which as context might explain their comments.  When asked about their first six months in this beautiful city they first gushed as we all do, because it really is a remarkable place.  They talked about the beaches and the wonderful people.  They were so thrilled that their kids (who spoke no English before arriving) were rapidly picking up the language and had been welcomed into the school and community.  When they finished lavishing their praise they shifted gears a bit and complained that Sydney wasn’t exactly as advertised.  They pointed out the buckets of rain and unseasonably cold weather and said, “it rains here… a lot!”
 
“I know,” I said.  “…I can prove it statistically.”
 
I’m not sure why, but the rain here seems to come from weather systems that last for weeks at a time.  Parts of November were really nice this year… but the past three or four weeks (and probably half of our time in Australia) have been absolutely water-logged.  This latest weather system has brought out the ugly in the Sydneysiders too… and it’s made me aware of the fact that we are smack in the middle of an arms race. 
 
The arms dealers in this race are the banks, auditors and the consulting firms. 
 
Most people who spend any time in Sydney have a couple different umbrellas.  A woman in my office has a collection of five or six next to her desk just in case.  Me, I’ve collected a set of umbrellas that is a bit like my golf bag.  I have the little one that’s good for a light shower or a very short walk – let’s call that the nine-iron.  I also have a huge one, capable of carrying long distances and keeping a small family dry – let’s call that one the driver.  It was raining so hard the other day that I knew the nine-iron just wouldn’t do, so I pull out the driver.  This thing is absolutely huge.  It has the logo of the boy’s school on it, and it could probably provide shelter for an entire class.  As I was trying to navigate the sidewalk with my uber-umbrella I was struck by how many super-sized umbrellas I passed.  Apparently in the rain protection game, bigger is better.  I was also amazed by the various logos on these umbrellas – and nearly every umbrella I passed carried one logo or another.  I did a quick informal (that is to say not statistically significant) survey of my findings and can safely say that the big five audit and consulting firms print a lot of umbrellas, but, the banks are the biggest offenders in the super-sizing of Sydney’s umbrellas.  Commonwealth bank, the NAB, even the small local banks, they all give away the biggest umbrellas of them all. 
 
Perhaps the umbrella is the modern day equivalent of the toaster… or it just rains a lot in Sydney.    
 
For the sake of Southern hemisphere Christmas revelers everywhere, I just hope the rain ends soon, I can only imagine there is nothing worse than a soggy Christmas at the beach… then again, it’s at the beach.
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