It’s been a hell of a week for workspace-sharing business WeWork. Yesterday, amidst ongoing financial worries, the Wall Street Journal ran a profile of CEO Adam Neumann that included unflattering highlights like a 2016 meeting in which a discussion of cost-cutting lay-offs was capped off with a special musical performance by Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and rounds of tequila shots. The anecdote speaks to a larger problem with Neumann’s leadership style and is the sort of thing that leaves many readers feeling powerless—like those with money and influence will always be able to get away with terrible behavior at the expense of those below them.
Don’t give in to this feeling. Look instead to the example set by the simple umbrella that lodged itself against a WeWork office’s door, locking the space and interfering with business through firm, steadfast resistance.
Tweeted by Neeraj K. Agrawal, the photo shows the umbrella at its work. An “entire company is locked out of their WeWork office because an umbrella fell, jamming the door,” Agrawal writes. “No one can figure it out. It’s been like this for 2 days.”
Two days! This umbrella, understanding the need for local action, shut down one of WeWork’s sources of income by sticking itself into the exact position that was required, baffling attempts to enter the workspace. In response, reactionaries from across the internet suggested ways to remove the umbrella from its station, coming up with ideas ranging from magnetic force and drilled holes to moving it with a wire and smashing it with a brick. Others, have mentioned playing “dubstep with the strongest subwoofer you can find” or just taking a sledgehammer to the glass.
The most important observation, however, came from Taylor Hatmaker who saw the umbrella’s positioning for what it was: An act of calculated defiance against a company’s callous treatment of its employees.
Motherboard’s Matthew Gault published the recollections of the umbrella’s owner and Agrawal tweeted updates of the situation, which eventually concluded with the object being moved and office access restored.
Yet, even now that it’s gone, the umbrella’s influence lives on. Workers will sing songs of its determination and other rain-protection devices across the world will surely take notice, beginning actions of their own. Umbrellas, after all, have featured prominently enough in global protests to become iconic symbols. It’s only natural that they’ve finally begun to cut people out of the picture and started working on their own terms for a brighter, more equitable future.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.