I spent the last week in Charlotte, N.C. I came to a shocking realization while I was there. Umbrellas are the new status symbol.
If you have ever been to an event with high security, you know that, most often, umbrellas are not allowed. The proof is the mountainous stack of umbrellas sitting just outside the line of magnetometers in front of the building.
So it stands out when you see someone with an umbrella inside the event. To get the umbrella inside, that person had a level of access that was different from the average event-goer. He or she may have been brought in through a VIP entrance. The security officer may have allowed him or her to keep the umbrella because he recognized them. Or that person may not even have been required to walk through the magnetometers at all.
No matter how it happens, anyone who brings an umbrella into a secured venue holds a different status from that of the regular guy.
I will wait a minute while you think about that.
We get a stunningly visual representation of disparities in both class and access when people head to a high-security event and it starts raining. Usually, the people who have the least access and money come in drenched from head to toe. Their first stop is the nearest bathroom to find an air dryer or some towels to make their clothes a bit less wet before they head to their seats.
Those with a little more money come in a little less wet. Usually they spend a couple bucks to buy an umbrella on the street, then use it to stay dry as they walk up to the magnetometers. When they get to the magnetometer, they add their newly purchased umbrellas to the growing stack just outside the security line. They only walk the distance from the magnetometer to the front door in the rain, so they are able to shake the water off pretty quickly then head to their seats.
The folks with the most money and access walk into the building bone dry. They pull their umbrellas out of the trunk then, typically, drive to a completely separate entrance where the security officer greets them by name and even helps them open the umbrella to avoid the rain. Once inside, these guys leave their umbrellas at the coat check then head to the VIP seats.
Next time you see someone with an umbrella at a football game or a concert, ask how he or she was able to bring it in. No matter the answer, I guarantee there is a status-related story behind it. The deeper question is whether our community is doing everything we can to give everyone a chance to earn this newest status symbol.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.