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Umbrella Etiquette Matters

July 7, 2009

For years, I`ve questioned backpackers′ rights to bulldoze through the urban landscape. Call them rucksacks, knapsacks or book-bags, these bulging carryalls interfere with the general ebb and flow of pedestrian traffic and often have the power to knock an innocent transit rider to the ground.

But on a recent rainy day, in the heart of Toronto′s financial district on Bay Street, I realized that my aggravation was slightly misplaced. The real danger, I thought from the safety of my taxi′s backseat, is getting caught in a horde of umbrella wielding walkers. Affectionately called the bumbershoot or brolly, this simple piece of raingear turns regular commuters into sidewalk swordsmen.

For a brief moment I was transported. The pouring rain reminded me of Renoir′s famous painting, Umbrellas, with one exception. In his painting, an arm reaches up to avoid contacting other passersby. This small, but meaningful gesture of courtesy was nonexistent on Bay Street. Renoir′s masterpiece has always been a special favourite of mine and the wonderful, elegant gesture of lifting an umbrella to accommodate people sharing the sidewalk immediately came to mind. Take a quick trip to Britain′s National Gallery and see for yourself.

Back on Bay Street and all these stockbrokers and entrepreneurs and chic, city women reminded me of wild soccer fans: unruly, pushy, out of control. Courtesy, I thought to myself, is something they pick up when answering a phone.

By far the biggest offenders – and I mean big – were golfers. How did I know these respectable looking men in suits were golfers? Because they were holding massive umbrellas designed to cover a foursome, a golf-cart, maybe even an entire green.

By the time the taxi pulled up at my destination, it had really started to pour. No worries. I was well protected in my pack-able Portmoro raincoat and matching hat. But my story doesn′t end here.

The heroine in this tale was the receptionist awaiting my arrival. Even-tempered, cordial and welcoming – her desk was an island at sea surrounded by dripping, sodden umbrellas. Here was a far worse mess than that created by winter galoshes-brigades. Which brings me to a simple strategy called shake, rattle and roll:

•Shake your umbrella before you enter a building or bus
•Rattle it gently to remove moisture from the frame
•Roll it and wrap it and fasten it closed.
According to the Toronto store, Raindrops, the best umbrella on the market is the Windbrella. Do you have a favourite?


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