Umbrellas: The Good, The Bad and The Way-Too-Big

by Borderstan.com September 13, 2011 at 10:00 am 2,142 4 Comments

"Umbrellas" "Borderstan" "17th Street NW"

Umbrellas on 17th Street NW. How is your umbrella etiquette? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Urban Etiquette runs biweekly with Borderstan contributor Mike Kohn writing about some common-sense rules of etiquette with an urban twist. We welcome your ideas for future columns.

From Mike Kohn. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Hopefully all of you Borderstan residents are staying nice and dry. With all of the rain that’s been coming down lately, I know the sump pump in my basement apartment has been working overtime (and thank goodness for that — I might have drowned otherwise).

Speaking of staying dry, I’ve noticed that many of you have been carrying umbrellas to ensure that you don’t get drenched as you’re walking on the streets. Great idea, right? What’s not a great idea is carrying the umbrella that is the size of a small SUV and barreling through people like they’re pins on the lane at a bowling alley. Having suffered through more than one of those over the past few weeks, I’m getting tired of them. And judging from comments on previous posts, it seems like I’m not the only one.

  • Your umbrella should not be trying to take over the world. It really only needs to cover you. When you can comfortably fit a family of four underneath it, you know you’ve gone too big.
  • Let’s say you need that golf umbrella because your $5,000 outfit will be ruined when it gets wet. When you’re carrying the largest umbrella of life, you be the one to get out of the way. The fact that you have the giant umbrella doesn’t mean you can be the most obnoxious person out there. Instead, move to the sides to get around people without pushing them around and be considerate of people who are not as well endowed, umbrella-wise.
  • Something polite to do would be to make the first move and be the one to raise your umbrella above the crowd when swimming in a sea of them. It lets people know that you’re trying to be polite and it will prevent massive collisions. Try it sometime, won’t you?
  • Getting on the metro? Don’t shake your umbrella out or push it into people. Yes, everyone is already wet, but don’t make things worse than they already are. Avoid poking the bear — not a good idea. Keep it close to you, especially during those busy times. It sucks, but it’s better than annoying a drenched post-work crowd.
  • Along the same lines, whenever you open your umbrella, don’t point it at people. Aside from the obvious poking, you might be spraying everyone else with water without realizing it. As it gets colder, this will be even less impressive.

It’s been raining non-stop, so think about these things next time you see the gray skies outside. Your fellow residents will thank you, I promise.

Have you noticed some other obnoxious things that people do with their umbrellas? Are you as sick and tired of the massive ones that people seem to be flocking to? Give us some feedback in the comments about umbrella irritation or about other things that make you mad in the city.

  • aaron

    When carrying your rolled up golf umbrella with you on the Metro, be sure to keep it upright instead of tucked under your arm, so you don’t wing the metal tip in people’s faces every time your body turns.

  • BobInDC

    For the ultimate sidewalk pig, I nominate the yuppie parent riding a bike with one of those baby-trailers attached behind and and an umbrella mounted over the whole contraption. Riding up the sidewalk. I have actually seen this.

  • Just some chick

    @BobinDC: On a cell phone? With a leashed dog in tow? Check.

  • Alas


    If you’re able bodied, don’t stand on the right with your umbrella open. Either walk up the damn escalator or shut your umbrella and get wet. I hate dodging my face from getting scraped by your crap every time I leave Metro in the rain.

    Or WMATA could just suck it up and put an overhang at Dupont north. But that would be absurd.


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