Umbrella Etiquette

As record-setting rains fell past my window these past months, I was hoping the old saying is true, “April showers, bring May flowers.” Watching a sea of umbrellas pass by has inspired this April tip for the many rainy days still yet to come.

1.  Use the right umbrella: Being barely 5 feet 2 inches, can you imagine me walking down the street trying to hold and balance a large golf umbrella? Neither can I! Carry an umbrella that is appropriate for your use and proportionate to your body size. There is no rule saying you can’t own more than one umbrella: a small one for your use alone and a larger version when you are walking together with another person.

2.  Avoid umbrella rage: They say it’s a jungle out there on the streets…  and rainy days are even worse. Some call it “umbrella rage” as children and adults alike do battle on crowded streets, using their umbrellas as the weapon of choice. Whenever you see another person approaching, tip your umbrella away from the other person to avoid colliding your umbrellas. Be sensitive to how the metal or plastic points sticking out at every fold may poke someone in the body or, worse, in the eye. Rain or shine, utilize just half the width of the sidewalk when walking in a group, so others can easily pass by. Depending on how wide the sidewalk is no more than two or three people should ever walk abreast.

3.  Learn the dance of umbrellas: For a taller person, when you encounter another person using an umbrella, raise your umbrella up so a shorter person may pass by without colliding with your umbrella. Likewise, if you are a shorter person, lower your umbrella closer to your head. The end result is a well choreographed “dance of umbrellas” down the street, each umbrella being raised or lowered in graceful motion, avoiding all conflicts, collisions, and pokes in the eye.

4.  Keep it closed and dry inside: It is customary to close your umbrella before entering a building. Remove any excess water by gently taping the tip of the umbrella in front of the building a couple of times. The first question upon entering should be where you may place the wet umbrella to avoid further dripping. Make use of the carrying case that came with your umbrella, or the disposable plastic bags that many office buildings and stores provide, to cover your wet umbrella while indoors.

5.  Park umbrellas with care: Be mindful of where you place your umbrella. If no umbrella stand is provided, set your umbrella upright with the tip on the floor beside you. In trains, planes, and automobiles, lay it on the floor near your feet, not on an empty seat where other people may sit on it or the puddle it leaves behind. Keep your umbrella away from walkways where someone might trip over it.

6.  Carry cautiously: It continues to amaze me how oblivious people are about the physical space they occupy. When not in use, always hold your umbrella vertically, with the pointed end down. Do not tuck it under your arm horizontally with the ends sticking out ready to stab someone.

7.  Look both ways before you open: Be mindful of who may be standing nearby when opening your umbrella. Open it with care, noticing whether your umbrella will poke someone.

8.  Just enjoy windy days: When the wind is so strong that your umbrella is in jeopardy of being turned inside out, simply forget it. Tilting your umbrella into the wind only obstructs your forward vision and, more times than not, doesn’t help much, anyway. Rather, brave the elements in a good rain coat with a hood. Try to remember that a little water never hurt anyone (except, of course, the Wicked Witch of the West).

BONUS: Prevent Umbrella Loss: Folks at any lost-and-found department will tell you they have hundreds of unclaimed umbrellas in storage. If you forget your umbrella somewhere, you may have a chance of someone returning it if you tape your telephone number and/or email address to the very top of the umbrella’s main strut above the handle, where it will least likely get wet and come loose.

Question: What other items do you have to add to this list?  Do let us hear from you by locating this article at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/blog.  You may also reach us at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com.  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/subscribe.

Although we always need rain, here’s to dryer days when we can enjoy the May flowers.

Happy Practicing!

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