Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rainy day etiquette

It's the season of commuting in the rain again! Get those rain-sturdy shoes out and practice those opening-and-closing-the-stubborn-foldable-umbrella skills, which come especially handy in boarding public vehicles driven by people who expect you to hop in and out Hollywood Action Movie style (albeit sans the background explosions).

While commuting to and from work in the rain gives everyone an excuse to just "get going already" and not care so much about how you get to point B from point A, I'd say it's possible to still be a lady in the worst kind of weather. No, I don't mean we have to be "maarte" or hold our umbrellas with our pinky finger sticking out; I mean that manners are called for in any situation as a sign of sensitivity to the needs of others.

An umbrella, for instance, is one of the most cumbersome contraptions ever invented by man. It helps us get somewhere without getting our head wet (yes, just "head") while constantly threatening to hit somebody in the eye. We all need an umbrella in the rain. We all have the right to use one, but along with that right, we have a responsibility to use it properly. For example, you don't hog the entire sidewalk with the bulk of your umbrella, and you don't walk with one without watching out for the heads (eyes, ears, noses, shoulders) of your co-pedestrians.

Here, some reminders about rainy day etiquette for commuters/pedestrians:

What do you do when there is heavy 2-way foot traffic in the sidewalk while it's raining?
Watch out for the heads and umbrellas of other people! To make things easy, make height your rule of thumb: if the person you are coming towards is shorter than you, raise your umbrella. If taller, lower yours.

What do you do when you're walking out of a building or shelter and into the rain? Let the people ahead of you open their umbrella and walk out first before you open yours and follow. It may seem like this takes longer, but if everyone had the patience to wait the few seconds it takes to do this, walking around becomes more efficient, if not more pleasant. It's also a good way to avoid leaving umbrella prints on the clothes of the person directly ahead, who, just like you, prefers to be dry, too.

What do you do when you board a runaway bus with a wet umbrella? While most conductors like to scream that you should step in first before closing that umbrella, there is no way to do that without getting pulled back out (by the open umbrella) and losing your balance just because bus drivers don't like brakes. No need to risk your life. The trick is to loosen the tautness of the umbrella first while keeping it over your head, then step in the bus, quickly closing the umbrella all the way, and hold on tight to stay balanced, keeping the wet umbrella close to the floor. This way, you don't drip all over the laps of the seated passengers, and if you accidentally wet someone's toes, at least it's the feet, which, in this weather, are probably wet already. If you have a plastic bag, put the wet umbrella in it, to help keep the bus as puddle-free as possible. If you don't, keep the umbrella between your feet when you're seated already so that it doesn't soak other people's pants.

How about a jeep? Because you enter a jeep head-first, you'll have to close the umbrella before boarding. Practice closing the foldable umbrella swiftly so you can close-and-board in one swoosh. (Watch out where you swoosh the umbrella though, someone might be standing close behind you.) Then, keep the umbrella down as you make your way to your seat. Again, a plastic bag to put it in comes in handy.

What do you do when you open the umbrella and find out it's snagged? Close it again, don't step out in the rain, but get out of the way of the foot traffic. Fix the snag first before lining up in the traffic again like a good citizen.

Pedestrians hate rainy days, but just because we don't like it doesn't mean we should go through our commuting route with a frown and ready to elbow everybody. Instead, we can offer up the difficulties for the people we love, and be thankful for the small mercies: that there's a home to get to (with soap and water!), that at least the sun is not too hot, and (if it's in your route) that the MRT platform has a roof. Can you just imagine what would happen if the yet-to-be-discovered football stars that appear at the MRT during rush hour were armed with wet umbrellas?


sunnyday said...

Nice, nice! And really helpful!

I have a tip: when I dropped by Shang mall about a week ago, they had these nifty plastic bags precisely for wet umbrellas. They fit the umbrella snugly, whether it happens to be a long one or a short foldable or automatic one. It really comes in handy. Check it out, they might still be giving those away.

petrufied said...

I got one of those from the Enterprise building. They had a man in sombrero helping people fit their wet umbrellas in the bags. so helpful, especially when you're lugging around all your work abubut! :D