How to Use an Umbrella in New York City: The Definitive Guide


Yesterday we broke records — RECORDS! — in terms of how much it rained. (Truthfully, we humans had little to do with this and instead sat inside and bravely complained or maybe got trapped in flooding elevators.) If you did go outside, it was probably to run an errand or two, and you surely carried an umbrella. But how did you carry it? Because, it has come to our attention, just as there are many types of bad pedestrians, there are also some really awful umbrella carriers out there who are breaking the laws of etiquette and man. These people could poke an eye out, or somebody else’s eye out, and that would be bad. After the jump, the definitive Runnin’ Scared Umbrella Users Guide. Please, share with your friends, for the good of all.

• Don’t: Unless you are a family of four, and plan to travel under an umbrella as such, along with all of your worldly goods, do not buy a family-of-four-sized golf umbrella and use it on the streets of Manhattan, or even in the outer boroughs. Do not get such an umbrella at your office picnic for free and think, because it’s free, you can use it to proclaim to your fellow pedestrians that you own the space underneath it, because you do not, unless you are very, very tall and other pedestrians can move underneath your umbrella freely with their own large-size umbrellas. And even in that case, be careful: These umbrellas engender hatred among city-dwelling humans, who will rise up and smite you.

• Do: Buy a crappy little compact umbrella on the street, or from Duane Reade, because any city umbrella is going to break within two to three uses anyway, and if it costs more than $10 you’re going to insist on continuing to carry it, or on trying to fix it, and you’ll probably spike someone on the head with it, and they’ll attempt to sue. Livelihoods have been lost on less.

• Don’t: Throw your broken umbrella on the street when you’re done with it. Put it in a trashcan, dude. Did you grow up in an umbrella barn or something?

• Do: If you notice that your umbrella is broken, with a dangerous-looking spike poking from one or more of its sides, and you can’t replace it immediately and it’s raining, carry it carefully, spike forward, where you can keep an eye on it. Don’t use it to threaten others, unless they try to sidle up to you and inconspicuously share your umbrella space without asking. Spike those fuckers.

• Do: When your umbrella is blown by the wind and inside-outs itself, feel free to look at whomever is passing and give them that mutual “Life is so embarrassing, I can’t even control my own umbrella!” shrug. It happens to everyone, you know? Then pretend to be Mary Poppins.

• Do: When walking on a crowded street, pay attention to people. If you are short, and passing tall people, lower your umbrella slightly so that it passes under theirs. If you are tall, raise it to clear other people’s umbrellas as you pass by. Tilt your umbrella left or right to avoid smacking others in the face with it. Never stand in the middle of the street swirling your umbrella around unless you’d like to get smacked. This is common courtesy.

• Don’t: Wear one of those frog-umbrella hats, unless you are under 5 years old.

• Do: Once inside, on the subway or in the elevator or in your office, close your umbrella and carry it tip pointed down, close to your body. Let it drip on the floor if necessary. Don’t put it on the seat or person next to you, if there is a seat or person next to you. While carrying your umbrella through the streets when it’s not in use, keep it pointed down so as not to stab someone. Or hand it to the nearest stranger with a hearty “Thanks!”

• Don’t: Shake your umbrella like a dog shakes its coat after a dip in the ocean. Unless you’re standing next to someone you really hate. Then, adopt the look your dog has while doing so. You can’t be mad at a dog.

• Do: Check before opening your umbrella. Bad things can happen. Jewelry you have stored there for years might fall out and be lost forever!

• Do: If your umbrella is lost or stolen, locate the nearest possible culprit and chase them down the street or demand a replacement umbrella from the establishment from which your umbrella has gone missing, even if it wasn’t their fault, exactly, and it’s not like they’re an umbrella store. Don’t take no for an answer. So what if it’s a broken $5 street umbrella? What’s yours is yours! On that note, don’t steal someone else’s umbrella, unless it’s much better than yours.

• Don’t: Be one of those assholes who insists on carrying an open umbrella when it’s not raining. And please don’t sing in the rain.