Umbrella Etiquette


At the request of one of my readers, this is getting reposted from its original debut on June 25, 2006:

I strongly urge all of my fellow city-dwellers to practice good umbrella etiquette! This may seem inconsequential, but if you live in a crowded city, especially one with excessive pedestrian traffic like New York City, umbrella etiquette is actually a matter of grave concern and public safety. Serious injury and embarrassment can occur because of careless umbrella use. However, if you follow the proper umbrella technique, you can avoid tragic umbrella-related incidents.

1) The move-it-over rule: Fundamental to umbrella etiquette is being aware that you take up more space with an open umbrella than you do without one. If someone is coming toward you on the sidewalk and both of you have umbrellas, move it over. Simply move your umbrella to one side and in this way, you can avoid a collision and possible tangling up of umbrellas.

2) The shorter/taller rule: If there is not enough room to move it over, one person must lift his umbrella and the other person must keep his lowered. This rule is especially handy to keep in mind during rush hour and otherwise crowded situations in which there might be people surrounding you on all sides.

3) The big umbrella rule: There are two kinds of umbrellas: those meant to block rain and those meant to block sun. Beach umbrellas have no place on crowded and slippery sidewalks. Do you really need a six-foot diameter around your head to keep the rain off? Leave the big one at home and purchase a little one for three dollars from a street vendor. Your fellow pedestrians will thank you.

4) The opening/closing rule: Do not open your umbrella in a crowded area. Going back to rule number one, you take up more room with an umbrella than without one. Opening your umbrella while squeezed in next to others could result in collision and possible injury to the face. Closing your umbrella in a crowded area will result in a spray of water onto others. This could prove equally dangerous if you accidentally spray someone with anger management issues. You could find yourself with an earful of curse words or worse.

5) The good judgment rule: Most important to umbrella etiquette, and all sorts of etiquette, is using your good judgment and remaining aware of your surroundings. We all lose track of where we are from time to time, but if you make a conscious effort to make life easier for those around you, your own life will magically become easier as well.

Next time it rains in the city and you must walk with your umbrella open, I sincerely hope that you will remember the basics of umbrella etiquette. Happy travels, everyone!

For more on etiquette, check out Emily Post and her descendants.

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Author: Hannah Johnson

When I first came to New York City, I almost ran over Liza Minelli with my suitcase. Then I got a job in book publishing.

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