Stupid Londoners, making me sad


Photos: Jan Chipchase, [Photo mashup is my own edit. Click on photo for originals.]

I love reading. It’s a cheap vacation, and helps me avoid making eye contact with crazies on the subway. And when you have a 75 minute commute each way, you get  a whole lot of quality reading time.

I love how I can get lost in a book, my brain translating words into a movie that plays just for me. Sometimes I’ll read quickly, skipping over every few words, but still sensing the book. For me, that’s sometimes better, skipping over the details to force my brain to picture everything.

But sometimes, a sentence, a passage just stops me in my tracks. I have to go back and read it over and over again.

From Erik Larson’s Thunderstrucka passage about London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) moving their headquarters, around 1890:

When the police moved into their new headquarters, one of the departments they left behind at their previous address in Great Scotland Yard was their lost and found division, with 14, 212 orphaned umbrellas.

14,212 orphaned umbrellas.

It was the saddest thing I ever read/pictured, or at least the image that formed in my head evoked such a sadness. And then I thought about it some more.

Yes, it was 1890, but this is London. Isn’t it always raining? Who finds an umbrella and turns it in to the police? What kind of law enforcement offices have room for 14,212 umbrellas? Why didn’t the police give them away to charity? What happened to the umbrellas after the move? Where was Christo?

Eventually, I turned the page, or whatever is the iPhone Kindle app version of turning pages. But still. So sad.