These days I am often reminded of my first impressions of life in New York City. I think about the before and after as I got to know the city.
When I moved to New York, there were so many things I didn’t know. Learning about a day in the life has left me with some great memories The New York City ebb and flow of a rainy day is one of the takeaways.
A rainy day in this city takes on a life of its own. Here is what I have come to understand:
New York City is the place where umbrellas go to die. With most heavy rains come winds that feel strong enough that feel like you are walking on an angle. Almost all umbrellas are doomed to face an inside-out twisted fate. New York sidewalk umbrella etiquette is a serious sport. Umbrella style matters. When we first arrived I noticed that many people carried the Apt 5 brand that I thought must be chic, but as it turned out it was an umbrella from the local drugstore.
In my early days I was never prepared for a rainy day. I was caught more than once in a total downpour. On one particular day, after a walk home, I arrived soaked: shoes, clothes, glasses and all. It was messy. The woman waiting for the elevator was clearly unimpressed with my state. She, on the other hand, was wearing a raincoat, rubber boots and a hat, and carrying a nice umbrella (you can tell). It was a moment of understanding. To survive in this city, I would need to step up, embrace the conditions and work on my rain readiness.
I started to watch the New Yorker umbrella culture more closely. Instead of owning one umbrella I could never find, I bought a few coloured ones (not the Burberry one I really wanted, but hey, we all need our dreams). That led to the need for an umbrella-holding vestibule just my style. I found it. It stands near the elevator, so I can grab an umbrella on days it might rain. I’m not yet a rubber boot owner, but maybe one day.
The get-to-the-train-in-the-morning umbrella crush is quite a site and nothing short of an Olympic event. There are golf umbrellas and some that seem the size of backyard patio umbrellas. The pretty coloured ones stand out among the regular black ones.
Five years later the sidewalk rules about whether you zig or zag, lift up or just keep walking are still not clear to me. I remember wishing I knew where to find NYC umbrella etiquette advice. And as a friend pointed out, we all do well not to have our eyes poked by the umbrella spines. You eventually come to accept that the umbrella-to-umbrella bump causes growls and grimaces. As I adapted, I began to throw my own scowl now and again.
On every outing you come across the don’t-get-your-hair-wet people who remind me of my grandmother and her need to wear her plastic rain hat. These people are carefully looked after by doormen who hold umbrellas from the canopy to the car, making sure not a drop lands unsuspected. Don’t be too close when the bus door opens as it leads to many Mary-Poppins-like figures emerging umbrella first.
I have a learned a thing or two in my time here. Now, when people, who are planning a trip to New York, ask me what they need to bring, I can say a little smugly: “Don’t forget to pack your umbrella!”