Umbrella Etiquette

Inspired by the rain outside and the severe ankle jab I received on the subway from a golf umbrella this morning, I present to you my tips for proper umbrella use.

  1. Hold the umbrella upright and tightly. The handle should be fairly perpendicular to the ground and centered on your body. This achieves maximum dryness for you and minimum water runoff onto other people. Of course, you may need to adjust for wind, but try to maintain a smart posture.
  2. Do not text and hold an umbrella. Do not drink coffee and hold an umbrella. Do not hail a cab with your umbrella. Just use your umbrella to stay dry.
  3. imageClose the umbrella before walking inside or down into the subway. If you don’t, you block the door and make it more difficult for others to pass. To close your umbrella properly, pull off to the side of the sidewalk (out of the way) and close as expediently as possible. Do not shake it out. Tie up your umbrella with whatever closure is attached to it or a rubber band if necessary. If you have a bag in which to place your umbrella, do so, and people will think you’re classy.
  4. Avoid sudden movements. When you stop short or wheel around suddenly, several things happen: water flies, people get spoked, and you anger people (especially those without umbrellas). You already have this luxury of staying dry, so make a point to not indulge in this luxury at the expense of someone else.
  5. Be conscious of the space your umbrella takes up. Open, leave enough space between you and others, even if it means slowing your pace to let others coexist comfortably. Closed, your new walking stick or swing-around-item can still very much get in the way, so hold it steady and pointed, again, downward so that it is perpendicular to the floor. If it is dripping and must drip on someone, deal with it dripping on you rather than letting the stranger next to you suffer. It was your choice to use an umbrella; this is one of the consequences.
  6. Rain or no rain, do not walk on the sidewalk next to your entire group. In the rain, be especially conscious not to walk next to more than one person maximum, because it is even harder for people to pass. Plus, there are often puddles that everyone tries to avoid, and if your group is spanning the entire sidewalk, nobody can appropriately handle that obstacle.
  7. If it is incredibly windy and rainy, forgo the umbrella. Get a little wet. Or, stay inside. Too many people fight with their umbrellas, and as a result, foot traffic blockages and flying umbrella parts are ubiquitous. This is an unpopular opinion, but the correct one, I think.
  8. A broken umbrella has no place in a city. It is sharp and dangerous. Dispose of it immediately and buy a new one which thankfully, you can do easily in a city.
  9. If you do realize that you’ve committed an umbrella sin, and it’s possible to apologize to the person(s) impacted, do so.
  10. Etiquette begins from the moment of purchase. Do not buy an umbrella that is bigger than you. It’s fine to pick between tall ones or the tiny collapsible ones (preferable), but it should be the right size for one and only one body. No golf umbrellas, or anything even close. Sharing an umbrella makes both people wet anyway, so if chivalry is important to you, carry two umbrellas or just give yours up. Also, try to get an umbrella that looks somewhat stable. It doesn’t have to be top of line, because you’ll leave it somewhere on accident still, but it shouldn’t break in the first 15 minutes of use either.
  11. Drop the attitude. It’s never positive to walk by people who are grumpy anyway, but if you have an umbrella and you’re angry, your umbrella shows it. It droops, it assaults, it gets all bent of shape. You forget the rules and don’t even apologize when you’ve made a mistake and bothered a fellow pedestrian. Not good. Figure out a way to enjoy the rain, at least temporarily, and move on.

Emily Post, as always, I hope I’ve done you proud. Village Voice, I like your thoughts on the subject, too. Readers, please know that I seldom use an umbrella, despite being a glasses wearer.

Think I missed something? Leave your tips as a comment.

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