Many articles have been written about the importance of proper umbrella etiquette on busy city streets.
A quick read of any of these pieces shows that good umbrella etiquette is
almost entirely based on common sense and thoughtfulness—which (unsurprisingly)
means that on every wet day, legions of invariably dry nitwits continue to
flaunt these rules.
What motivates these people? Ignorance is surely a factor. Sit in a café and
watch any busy street on a wet morning, and you will see flocks of charming
gentlemen with umbrellas the size of radiotelescopes mercilessly
putting out eyes faster than a Quentin Tarantino heroine. Not surprisingly, the
angry glare of injured strangers seems to slide off these people like water off
a dick's back.
But I feel there are deeper factors at work than just mere ignorance
when umbrella etiquette is breached. Indeed, I believe the way in which a
umbrella-toting person acts on a rainy day can deliver deep insight into that
person's politics, beliefs, and soul.
Let's examine one particular rule of etiquette.
The umbrella-holders thus make a small sacrifice (by exposing themselves to splashes from street puddles and sideways rain, among other things) so that the none-brellas may
remain as dry as possible. This is done
without inquiry into the circumstances of the none-brellas—they are provided
with shelter whether they have forgot their umbrella, can't afford an umbrella,
don't have proper access to umbrellas, or are culturally disadvantaged in
regard to umbrellas.
Could it be that these kind individuals who choose to make this sacrifice
are also more likely to believe in other forms of social welfare? Take the example of universal healthcare, where,
analogously, a small sacrifice is made so that those in a less fortunate
position can be taken care of by society.
Might the tendency to give up sheltered walking space when carrying an
umbrella correlate with a belief that society should take care of those who,
for whatever reason, find themselves under the weather? In an American context, might those who follow the above rule of umbrella etiquette be more likely to vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming election?
Let's think about the opposing mentality in our rainy day scenario—he who carries
an umbrella but does not move an inch to
allow those without umbrellas the benefits of shelter. "Why should I move?", asks our
hypothetical antagonist as the sides of his umbrella gratingly scrape against
the nearest building, sending none-brellas haplessly scrambling into the
pouring rain—"I paid for this
umbrella, I carry this umbrella, and
so I shall reap the benefits of this umbrella as I please!" He cannot see what all this etiquette fuss is
about. If others don't want to get wet, they too should buy and carry umbrellas, as
it is not the duty of the prepared to look after the unprepared.
To this man, allowing shelter to none-brellas is just a step away from universal health care, which is just a step away from communism,
which is just a step away from godlessness, which is just a step away from gay
marriage, which is just a step away from waking up in a Las Vegas hotel room in
a (legally) drug-induced stupor having (legally) married three Labradoodles. His vote goes to the Republicans.
Pictured above is a map from CNN predicting the US presidential election. Looking at the above map, I imagine that a visitor to Seattle could cross the city sans-umbrella on even the wettest of days without encountering a single drop of rain; they will find ample shelter made for them wherever they stroll by liberally-minded locals.
Conversely, residents of the Republican stronghold of Spicewood, Texas, should think themselves lucky that it hasn't rained very much lately. I imagine navigating Spicewood's main street during a storm would produce tense Mexican standoffs worthy of Clint Eastwood's finest spaghetti westerns. Indeed, rumour has it that one local gentleman, being fiercely determined not to divert from a straight line when carrying his umbrella, installed a gatling gun system into the spokes of his umbrella whereby the 'brolly fires lethal rounds as the holder rotates it.
The election forecasters are going about their jobs all wrong. Rather than polling prospective voters, pundits should simply observe the umbrella-carrying habits of those living in "swing" states to accurately forecast the upcoming election—a bell-weather of the future, if you will.