Monday, March 22, 2010

Umbrella Etiquette

I waited for a rainy day to write about this subject. Wandering the streets through the everyday miasma becomes even more complicated when it rains. You're trying to dodge people and puddles at the same time, only to find that what serves as the most threatening obstacle is actually the umbrella in front of you. Perhaps the people wielding these long, pointy objects don't know exactly what they are doing, but be the better person and follow these simple rules of umbrella etiquette.

Opening an umbrella
While the the first rule of thumb seems obvious, you will probably find that it is not to some: make sure you are far enough away from others so you will not hit someone with it. Sadly, fear of actually getting wet or sheer self-absorption prevents this from happening. Also, note your location. If you are trying to do this while standing in the doorway of a building, you may be blocking the entrance for someone exiting or worse, someone soaked who is trying to get out of the rain. The same thing goes for subway entrances and exits. These are high-traffic areas, and chances are good that you will block the path and hit someone. The solution is simple: look to see if the area is clear, and open your umbrella.

Walking with an open umbrella
Thankfully, most people how to do this properly; just remember to keep the tip of the umbrella pointed toward the sky, as illustrated in this entry's image. Some ladies (and effeminate gentlemen) like to rest the pole of the umbrella on their shoulder, creating what they must assume is a "charming" posture, not unlike images of Victorian ladies with parasols. I have news for you—it looks silly and dangerous. If the person is petite, then the end of the umbrella is at eye level to someone taller. Should one stop suddenly, both parties will be very sorry. If you like the look of the umbrella on the shoulder, please save it for boat rides in the park.

Walking with an unopened umbrella
This is the most dangerous situation, so please pay close attention. When walking with a closed umbrella always keep the pointed end toward the floor. I cannot tell you how many dapper businessmen and chic businesswomen do not follow this. Yes, it feels elegant holding it under your arm like a riding crop at a foxhunt, but it's downright foolish. Unknowingly, one could hit a small child in the face with the point—how elegant are going to look covered in blood with a screaming child and an angry parent? I'm thinking lawsuit. Follow the same rules you learned for holding scissors and knives—always keep the pointed end pointing toward the floor.

So, what should one do if confronted with someone who is holding an umbrella incorrectly? The best suggestion is to stay a safe distance away from him or her. However, if you're caught in a mass exodus, this may not be so simple. What I'm about to suggest may not be the most polite thing to do, but I always believe safety trumps etiquette. I (very gently) push the point of the offender's umbrella toward the floor. In a crowd, it's hard for people to hear, and no one wants a lecture on safety, so your best bet is to brush it out of the way. Every time I have done this, the person understands immediately what he or she is doing and corrects the situation. However, if you should be confronted, tell him or her it was a hazard and you could have been hurt.

With the knowledge, please, go forth and make the world a safer place on a rainy day, and hope that sunshine is just around the corner.

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