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Understand the umbrella stand?

By Donna Driscoll

(Umbrella stand)

Right inside the doors of the elegant Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography is a secure umbrella stand. You can lock your umbrella in the stand while you tour the museum.

To lock up an umbrella, you slide it down between the rows of the stand and fit the base of the handle into an open slot. (See arrow.)

Next, you would expect that turning the key would cause the hook to lock the umbrella handle in place. That is what I thought. However, when I turned the key, the hook didn't move, the key wouldn't come out and the umbrella dropped into the narrow crevice between the rows.

It was not easy to retrieve the umbrella from between the narrow rows of the stand without breaking the umbrella ribs or impaling your arm on the ribs of the umbrellas adjacent to it. Space economy is important in Tokyo. They certainly didn't waste any space between the rows of the umbrella stand!

I thought perhaps the slot I had chosen was defective, so I tried a different one, but the same thing happened. After several unsuccessful attempts, my cousin finally figured it out. You must hold the umbrella in place, manually slide the hook around the handle and then turn the key.

The key has a numbered tag, corresponding to the slot. This allows you to easily locate your umbrella upon exiting. On our way out of the museum, we witnessed a bottleneck occurring at the umbrella stand. We overheard one daughter expressing to her father, "ah, wakarana katta" (Oh, I didn't know!).

Design suggestion

When we turn a key in a lock of any kind, we expect the device to lock. The umbrella lock is difficult to use initially because it is inconsistent with other locks and thus with one's expectations. To be consistent, the umbrella lock should hook the umbrella handle as the key is turned.

There could also be a bit more space between rows in the umbrella stand. This would make it easier to retrieve a fallen umbrella from the crevice between the rows.

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