I grew up in Northern California just 45-minutes from Santa Cruz. The beach with its old-fashioned boardwalk was a favorite weekend trip, but as an adult, I discovered downtown Santa Cruz, a cool blend of hippie lifestyle and boho chic shops and restaurants.

Several years ago we spent the afternoon at the beach and then we decided to wander the streets downtown Santa Cruz, to find a place for dinner. As we were browsing the shops and enjoying a perfect evening something caught my eye from down the block. I could see a man holding an umbrella (although it wasn’t raining) but there was something odd about the way he was moving.

This man was taking small steps, literally 6-12-inch steps at most, as he smiled and watched people pass him. I was the only one intrigued since my family had spotted a great pasta and pizza spot across the street and they wanted to head over. I told them I would meet them there, that I first had to see what this man was doing.

As I approached this umbrella man, I assumed he was “a few seashells short of a beach party.” He had on pink pants, a bright Hawaiian print shirt, and a pink baseball cap as he held his large floral umbrella. It was no longer sunny enough to need an umbrella for shade, and it was definitely not raining. I stood mesmerized as he approached me. We locked eyes and I smiled at him. He stopped and said hello.

I asked his name and then asked, “Why do you walk so slowly?” “Do I?” he replied, “Or are you just moving too fast? Maybe I just don’t want to miss anything.” WOAH! That was DEEP! Perhaps he was right. Maybe I AM moving too fast. Maybe I am missing so much.

WOAH! That was DEEP! Perhaps he was right. Maybe I AM moving too fast. Maybe I am missing so much. I was sad that I didn’t have a camera with me to snap a photo with him to remind me of this lesson for years to come.

I went in and told my family about Robert, the umbrella man, and I told them we all needed to start having “umbrella man days” when we feel rushed or stressed. For awhile, I did just that. I would determine the day to be an “Umbrella Man Day,” and I would choose the longer line at the grocery stores to just enjoy people watching. I would drive slower on the freeway and make an effort to not say, “Hurry up.”

Umbrella Man Day

I created a coloring book about 7 years ago and even had a section dedicated to the Umbrella Man, but of course, I have since slipped back into my crazed and harried ways. I find myself driving fast even when I’m not late. I pack my days so tightly that I end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Last week, my sister sent me a text letting me know she saw Robert, the Umbrella Man. She asked if she could get a picture with him so she could send it to me. It was a sign for me to slow down this holiday season. Stop rushing through each day and look at all that is going on around.

Why don’t you join me this Holiday season, in having a few Umbrella Man days.


Gina Schreck blog@GinaSchreck