A Pedestrian’s Guide to Walking in New York City With An Umbrella

Sapna Maheshwari
Jul 16, 2014 · 3 min read

Walking through the rain in Manhattan is enough to set anybody on edge. But even worse? Walking through the rain on a narrow street then — boom!— getting smacked in the face by an umbrella because a fellow pedestrian is too busy giggling with her friend like a MADMAN to notice the Indian girl walking a foot away from her. (Separately: how does one even begin feeling such mirth in weather like this?)

As it turns out, not everyone is aware that carrying around a long stick topped by a metal-lined canopy means you should proceed with extra caution while zipping around a metropolis. Perhaps it’s time to end this era of lawlessness among umbrella-wielders before, you know, someone out there who already has bad eyesight is blinded in a cruel and unnecessary twist of fate.

A few suggestions:

  1. Allow yourself to see. True, it feels nice and safe to have the roof of your umbrella touch the top of your head as if you are human mushroom. I’m claustrophilic* too. But this is an insane way to walk, like playing Mario Kart with your eyes closed.
  2. Don’t carry it unicorn-style. Hold it a few inches above the top of your head, then go forth into that murky filth that is rainy New York.
  3. Leave your golf umbrella at home. (Caveat: unless you are at least 6'4", in which case, fine.) Carrying these monstrosities around will inconvenience every other human you pass and likely attract a healthy peppering of furious looks/bad karma. They don’t keep you much dryer, make it far harder to see and, frankly, it’s a bad way to peacock.
  4. Recognize that when it comes time to closely pass another umbrella-carrying pedestrian, one of you will have to raise yours and bear a little extra splash. Or you will collide! Like that awful Howie Day song! Do it grudgingly, with a scowl if you must, but do it. (Note: if you break Guideline No. 3, you must always raise yours.)
  5. Don’t expect others to accommodate your herd formation in the rain. Walking arm-in-arm in a four-person friendship chain is an annoying move that most people will walk around on nice days. But that shit must stop in the rain. Nobody is stepping off a curb and into three inches of mud-scum-urine New York rainwater for your herd and your herd’s umbrellas. Disband or move to the side.
  6. Close the umbrella while walking under scaffolding and similar. If your hands are full, tilt it away from others in an unobtrusive manner because under the scaffolding is NO PLACE FOR UMBRELLA AGGRESSION.
  7. If you’re talking to your friend while you meander under umbrellas, sacrifice body language and eye contact. Because you are holding a weapon of sorts, and you can’t just flail around like a toddler in a ball pit, guys. I mean, you can. But please, don’t.

*claustrophilic: one who loves small, cozy spaces

    Sapna Maheshwari

    Written by

    pronounced whatsup-na. @nytimes reporter covering advertising. formerly buzzfeed, bloomberg via UNC, CT. love wordplay. tips to sapna.maheshwari @ nytimes.com

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