It always does when it rains. Every morning, like today, when I wake to raindrops sliding down my foggy window overlooking the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan I know I’m in for a fight that day. No, not a fight. A battle. Wait, no. A war. I’m in for a war. This is war.
I’ve lived here six years and I haven’t once owned an umbrella. Don’t even really know why. Call me cheap, lazy, unprepared, ignorant...whatever. But I will never own an umbrella, perhaps now more than anything, out of sheer spite. Maybe it’s my Colorado roots, where I’m conditioned to the fact that rain storms never last longer than it takes to eat a banana. You don’t need an umbrella in Colorado. Trust me. But in New York, yes, rain can last a long time, sometimes all day. Sometimes all week. I admit you probably need an umbrella if you’re going to live in New York. This is not a war on umbrellas. This is a war on you, Mr. and Mrs. Umbrella Terrorist.
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A fancy new black and white nylon dome held above your new haircut, believe it or not, does not entitle you to an extra five feet of sidewalk real estate. You do not get to act as though you are the size of a refrigerator while walking down Broadway in Soho. It does not allow you the right, while leaving a subway station, to stop in the middle of the stairs and open your umbrella during rush hour when hundreds—no, thousands, MILLIONS!—of people are emerging from the station behind you. Keep moving, and don’t touch that umbrella. It also does not allow you the right to walk with your head down (texting, usually) and turn your umbrella into a weapon with its metal ends ready to gouge the eyes, mouth, or ear of any oncoming pedestrian. Pay attention! Someone’s going to get hurt.
I cannot stress this last point enough. There were six different instances this morning I counted where, had my head not been on a swivel, I could be sitting here typing this with an eye patch due to an errant metal umbrella spike haphazardly shoved in my direction. As Seinfeld’s George Costanza once reminded us: “You know, we’re living in a society!” This umbrella racket is not conducive to a healthy society. Listen, I know those six people (two women and four men, all adults) probably didn’t want to scrape out my left or right cornea this morning, but based on their behavior, I can’t say they didn’t wantto either, you know? It’s willful ignorance at its finest, and it’s probably happening in your neighborhood.
But there’s good news! There is a solution. We can peacefully end this war. That is, if we can all follow two simple guidelines.
1. Don’t ever open your umbrella indoors. ...when others are around or behind you or soon will be (not just for the bad luck thing, though that too of course ). It’s recipe for disaster since people inside are even less likely to be on the lookout for sharp metal objects dancing by their face. Yeah, I know undoing umbrellas can be tricky. You don’t want to get rained on while going through this process (this negates having the umbrella in the first place!). I get it. So, instead, untie the umbrella, have it loose and ready to go, just don’t expand it until you’re at least an arm’s length away from another human. I trust that you’ll save yourself a hassle.
2. Keep your head up when you walk down the street. Be mindful of your fellow foot-traffickers and don't hog the already-tiny sidewalk. And if someone else has her head down, recognize it, and don’t stab her. Lift your umbrella over her head or slightly tilt it back as not to use it as a weapon. (She will eventually learn, but not by abuse from strangers carrying umbrellas.) When you turn a corner, be careful. Slow down. Again, lift your umbrella to a reasonable height and then proceed. And no matter what, don’t ever walk down the street using the umbrella as a shield to the point of where you can’t see. You’ll blast someone else in the face or you’ll step into oncoming traffic.
It’s supposed to rain the rest of the day and tonight. Let’s see if we can’t co-exist peacefully and end this war by respecting one another. You with the umbrella, me the conscientious objector.
Ryan Hatch is the deputy editor of Supercompressor. He will be policing all of your umbrella behavior from here on out.