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A guide to umbrella etiquette

IT'S rainy season here in Vancouver and that means Stormtech jackets, gumboots and umbrellas.

IT'S rainy season here in Vancouver and that means Stormtech jackets, gumboots and umbrellas. Recently, there's been an explosion of poor umbrella etiquette in our fair city and what better time for an annual refresher of the top five keys to proper and polite umbrella practice.

1. Don't poke someone's eye out.

Walking with an umbrella is equivalent to wearing a hat with scissors pointing at everyone you pass. Be careful. There's little worse than having to duck out of the way of someone barrelling through an intersection on their phone, taking out every poor bystander.

This leads to the key move of any umbrella user: When I lift my umbrella up to avoid yours, you react appropriately by tilting/ ducking/altering your umbrella height. It's simple. Pay attention, please; for all of us.

2. Using an umbrella gives up any right to building overhangs and awnings.

It's not necessary to cover yourself with a building's awnings to protect the dryness of your umbrella. The simple fact that you have an umbrella means you are prepared to brave the weather, and others might not be so lucky. If carrying an open umbrella, all rights to a covered area or sidewalk are forfeited and the covered spaces must be provided to those people not so fortunate to have remembered their umbrellas.

3. If an umbrella is forgotten, don't steal someone else's.

Just because you forgot your umbrella at lunch does not provide permission to steal an umbrella from the drying vase at the office building of your afternoon meeting. Sure, it looks like there's a lot of umbrellas in there and no one will notice but someone will; the person who's umbrella you stole. And please avoid trying to scam the coat check staff into handing you another person's umbrella; it's not nice. "Uh, yeah. Mine's the black umbrella with the handle. . . ."

Contrary to popular belief, there is no umbrella carousel whereby one forgets an umbrella and picks up a different one at the next location. This is called forgetfulness and theft.

4. Be mindful of where a wet umbrella is drying.

Don't shake a soaking wet umbrella inside a dry lobby or waiting room. It's much better to try to remove all excess water before entering the building than shaking it in a corner and pretending no one sees you. The security guard definitely sees, and so will the security camera should someone slip and hurt themselves on the puddle you created.

This also applies to an open umbrella left out to dry. If people can't comfortably walk around your umbrella, whether in the office or at someone's home, you need to find a new drying place.

5. When stuck outside, share.

Sometimes an umbrella is forgotten in the morning and then the rain comes. If you're smart or lucky enough to have a rain saviour in your hand, feel free to share it with someone waiting to cross the street, hoping not to get soaked. This applies to friends, colleagues and others whom you already know, but don't rule out that stranger at the crosswalk because your generosity could be the smile that changes the day for you both.

Not allowed: randomly walking with strangers holding an umbrella over their head for blocks, this will get you some weird looks.

Jeremy Baxter is a North Vancouver resident and SeaBus user who has frequent close encounters with umbrellas on his morning commute. His favourite umbrella is one that doesn't poke his eye out.

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