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The Purple and White Pawprint

Spin-Off of Hat Fails to Be Useful in Any Conceivable Way

Josh Sellers, Co-Editor

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25 AD

A terracotta figure of a horse-drawn wagon. Here the uncanny resemblance between a hat and the umbrella can be seen. Tomasz Sienicki / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Many weeks ago, I was in a carriage pulled by four horses on my way to Luoyang, China. About halfway there, the skies began to fill with dark clouds, which soon produced a most inconvenient rain. The driver, a man named Chao Zaun, asked me if I would like him to deploy the 傘 (sǎn). I told him I had not heard of such a thing, so he showed me the contraption.

The device, which I have named umbrella –from Latin umbra “shadow” + -ella (a diminutive suffix)–, is a circular cutout of fabric whose entity is supported by a framework of poles that are supported by a long pole in the center. Its purpose, I was told, is to provide protection from the rain.

Being a diligent product critic, I investigated further. Zaun told me that the gadget was designed by a man named Wang Mang with whom I promptly arranged a meeting. Upon arriving at his home, he politely invited me to remove my shoes and have a seat on his couch. We exchanged greetings, and I proceeded to ask him why he thought he had the right to play God in this way.

“I am doing no such thing,” Mang assured me. “My sǎn is no different than a hat. Both the sǎn and a hat serve to protect the user from the elements,” refuting my claim that he was playing God.

After Mr. Mang’s violent attack on headwear, which I decided to let pass, I realized he had just pointed out the creation’s most prominent flaw: the umbrella is simply a larger, bulkier spin-off of a hat. Mang, upon having this pointed out to him, called this an improvement.

“The fact that the top of the sǎn is larger means that it provides far more coverage than a hat would,” Mang explained. “It provides shade and protection from rain for your entire body, as opposed to the hat, which only provides coverage for your face.”

There was only one way to test Mr. Mang’s sǎn: field testing. I tested Mang’s allegation that the device would provide protection from the the rain. Going out in the next storm, I found it did provide a substantial coverage from my getting wet, but my dry condition caused me to test the limits of this device against further elements.

I conducted further strenuous testing by bringing it to the peak of nearby Mt. Everest. From the beginning of the test, the umbrella was unsuccessful in providing any kind of protection. The bitter cold snow persistently pierced my skin, and the cold wind felt as though it would freeze my skin off, and in fact, it ended up doing just that quite frequently.

Despite Wang Mang’s bold claims for his “survival device,” it provides mediocre defense against dangerous weather. Hiking high in the mountains, one will find that frostbite is a serious risk regardless of whether or not an umbrella is present. I absolutely do not recommend anyone invest money in this falsely-advertised contraption.

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Spin-Off of Hat Fails to Be Useful in Any Conceivable Way