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Panama Weather and Num

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Written by Matt   
Friday, 11 August 2006 20:44
Lately I've been carrying an umbrella with me wherever I go. Not the normal kind though. No, store I've got one of the best models on the market with automatic extension and retraction. It's red and pretty large and when people pass they feel jealous. It says to them, shop “I pity you and your little puny umbrella.” It's the kind of thing that is so cool, I sometimes want to show it off when it's not raining. On sunny days, for example, I'll use it as portable shade, and if it's not sunny, say if it's overcast, I'll simply carry it around using it to do small tricks and accomplish small tasks: pushing doorbells, tapping people on the shoulder, scratching my leg...etc. The real reason for the umbrella here though, is because we are entering the proverbial chutzpah of rainy season. While, in my opinion, it doesn't rain nearly enough to ruin a vacation, the season can put a literal and figurative damper on your trip. Overall, Panama has a very mild and Spring-like climate: the different regions in the country experiencing different levels of rainfall depending on their elevation. Coastal areas, in short, see higher humidity levels than the central mountainous regions. On average though, temperatures range from low 80's to mid 90's (Fahrenheit), a phenomenon known to science geeks and me as Tageszeitenklima. Panama, similar to a crummy sitcom, only experiences two seasons. Its dry season, or summer, runs from December through April. Its rainy season, or winter, taking over from May until November. Neither season is too extreme.

We can go for days without rain, but when the clouds decide it's time, the torrential downpour can make you very very wet. That is, unless you're prepared for it. Because I am so experienced in the industry of canopies and umbrellas, people have been asking me of late, what should I look for in an umbrella? At this point I usually answer, “You can't fit anything in an umbrella silly.” This I say for laughs.

While a good umbrella can transform a rainy day into your own little oasis for reading or writing or playing Chutes and Ladders, a bad umbrella can be equally devastating. I met with an umbrella vendor downtown the other day; a small Asian man who introduced himself as Num (as in numchuck). He was quiet and his movements were extremely slow, rivaling the instinct and reflex of a hermit crab. He taught me the following information on materials which I will share with you.

Materials: Shade cloth is a good option for certain stylish people, as it blocks 90 to 95 percent of UV rays and is only semi-water resistant. PVC, on the other hand blocks out 100 percent of UV rays and lets in no water, which could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on what you want from your umbrella. Num says canvas is a very durable fabric and it effectively blocks out the sun, but you'd need to treat it to make it waterproof: something that umbrella neophytes may not be ready for. It is possible to buy an umbrella with a thatched canopy but Num suggests against it, claiming that they are bad luck.

While Penguin in the Batman movies used to conceal a variety of weapons in his umbrella, Num says that these sorts of things can get you into trouble. He reeled off a story about some exiled writer who was assassinated in England by a poison dart filled with ricin and fired from an umbrella sometime back in the nineteen-seventies.

“How do you know so much about umbrellas?” I asked Num.
He shook his head and looked at me with this pitiful look as if to say, where have you been holed up all your life? With a little prodding and some double-stuffed Oreo cookies, I found out that 1,700 years ago, one of Num's great Chinese ancestors invented the damn thing. He was part of something called the Cao Wei Dynasty in ancient China and he helped bring his design to the West via the Silk Route.
”Pretty interesting stuff Num,” I said. At this point, he was starting to like me, starting to reveal more umbrella information and humor.

Num is sort of like me, in the sense that he likes to bring an umbrella everywhere, however this precaution, this preventative measure onetime backfired on him. You see, he decided to take all his umbrellas and have them repaired at whatever kind of shop repairs umbrellas. He told me that on the way home from this shop, he got on the bus and happened to sit down next to an elderly woman with an umbrella of her own. Out of instinct, out of pure habit, Num grasped the umbrella—an action which caused the woman to yell “stop, thief!”

He quickly surrendered the umbrella and was so embarrassed that he got off the bus and walked the whole way home. Poor Num, right?

Well, the next week he went to shop to pick up his bundle of repaired umbrellas, and on the way home, happened to sit down next to the exact same old lady he had so embarrassingly met before. “She looked at me,” Num said, “And she gave me this nasty stare and said ‘had a good day, huh?'” He laughed hysterically at this joke for some time, before I said farewell and left. Num was a crackerjack but he taught me a lot.
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 22:03