It has been raining a lot in Sydney this month. Actually we’ve only had a couple of dry days out of the last few weeks. Rain seems to affect Sydney-siders more than people in many other cities around the world. Driving is particularly affected, with a reported 500 crashes in the second half of the very rainy May. I know what you are thinking. “The rain brings all the oil to the surface of the road and makes it extra slippery.” That may be true if it sprinkles for ten minutes but our roads have been more like rivers lately and any oil has began to make its way to the Gulf of Mexico by now, where it feels more at home. Too soon, right? Sorry.
A theory I read this week is that people get “rain rage” when driving in the wet which is possibly caused by seasonal affective disorder. Which from what I can gather is basically people not getting enough sunshine, rainbows and happiness from the environment and they express their lack of “good weather feelings” from their place in the driver’s seat. Yes, that’s what it must be. It’s not that Sydney drivers are as good at driving in the rain as they are at merging (the cause of much of our traffic here).
I’m not a Sydney driver anymore because I now walk to work. This has led to the discovery that we are not very good at walking in the rain either and it’s all due to the lack of a social convention that I call umbrella etiquette. I decided to count the number of times that someone smashed an umbrella against mine without saying sorry. Unfortunately, I lost count when I was distracted by my foot plunging into a puddle-slash-lake. When you bump someone in a supermarket they generally say “oh, sorry”. (If they don’t, I act as if they did, and loudly reply accordingly with “that’s ok, no problem at all.”) The rain washes all manners away, as each individual feels as if they are in their own personal umbrella world. A realm in which they are king and the muddy peasants who surround them must bow to their protective sceptre. Some do have very nice sceptres, especially in comparison to my latest umbrella.
I borrowed a little black one from work and it was the cheapest, nastiest umbrella I have ever used and it was my fault. The reason we had this umbrella at work was because on a recent shoot I asked my assistant to buy a few of them so the actors wouldn’t get wet if it started raining on location. The problem was that I had already stretched my budget for the shoot so my instructions were to “just get the cheap ones”. I ended up paying for it with embarrassment and general annoyance at the lack of ability of this stupid little thing to keep me dry.
The first time I deployed it my thumb got pinched between the locking pin and the little plastic bit that holds the umbrella up. I should have taken this as some sort of a bad omen but instead I continued to use the ill-fated umbrella. After three days I was walking home at night in the cold and rain with four out of six metal prongs protruding like a medieval weapon as the material flapped loudly in the wind. I ditched it into a bin and faced the weather alone. As I stood in a crowd waiting to cross the street, exposed to the rain, I realised that not one person ever offers to share their umbrella. Is it wrong to ask if you may join someone under there? Is it weird to offer a hemisphere of your personal umbrella world to a fellow pedestrian? Yes – it is weird. The offer sounded ok coming from Rihanna but I have since learned that she has deceived us all through song – which is the worst kind of lying. So what do we do now; with all these mixed messages and confusion? Don’t worry, here is my list of how to behave when it is raining and you are a pedestrian:
1. If you have a large “golf umbrella” you must raise it over the top of a smaller umbrella where space does not allow the passing of two fully deployed umbrellas.
2. If you need an umbrella when playing golf its time to go inside … morons.
3. If your umbrella has metal prongs protruding, face these in the direction you are walking so you may observe them as to avoid stabbing fellow pedestrians in the eye.
4. If protruding metal prongs face in multiple directions you should avoid crowds at all times and stop using such a nasty looking umbrella – you are simply embarrassing yourself.
5. Only Asian girls can use the clear plastic umbrellas that cover half of one’s body.
6. Do not offer to share an umbrella with a stranger unless you are in a hurricane in which case an umbrella won’t help but it will make you both feel better about being outside during a hurricane.
Here’s an interesting article from the Sydney Morning Herald about the effects of this latest stretch of rain. It’s where I got some of my insights.