April showers don't just bring May flowers, they bring armies of folks wielding umbrellas and unconsciously poking and dripping their way through elevators, halls and offices.
How can you avoid being an offender? Turns out there is "umbrella protocol," according to civility coach Karen Thomas.
"Carrying an umbrella during rainy season makes sense; accosting those around you with oversized, drippy bumbershoots does not," says Thomas, a Torrington resident who lectures at colleges and businesses on manners and behavior.
Spring, according to Thomas, is a good time for a crash course in 'umbrella etiquette.'
For starters, save the golf umbrella for the golf course.
"In most cases it's best to leave the giant umbrella in your golf bag. A personal sized umbrella is sufficient for most people," says Thomas. "Otherwise you may be dry, but those around you are going to get soaked by your runoff."
Open your umbrella upon exiting a building, not in the house or lobby. Be sure there's enough clearance between you and others before you open your umbrella.
Point the umbrella toward the ground, (not toward others), as you open it, then raise it carefully, watching out for those behind and to the sides of you.
Keep your umbrella upright while using it. Tilting it back or to the side will cause it to drip on others.
Once you've arrived at your destination, gently shake and close your umbrella, being careful not to splash. If you're using public transportation, don't put your soppy umbrella on the seat. Be careful in close spaces — like an elevator — not to lean your wet umbrella up against others.
"Wrap it, secure the strap and put it in its sleeve or carry a plastic bag to store it," says Thomas. "And it goes without saying that one should refrain from using an umbrella as a toy for fencing or jousting."
Over 33 million umbrellas are sold in the United States each year to the tune of close to $350 million and companies are constantly seeking improved designs. Like Greg Edson, creator of the texting-friendly "Brolly," which features a handle with four finger holes. Users slide their fingers through the grips and can use their thumbs to send messages and stay dry at the same time. The Brolly, available at www.BrollyTime.com, retails for $19.95.
If you've ever left your umbrella somewhere, you might be interested in purchasing one with a replacement guarantee. High-end umbrella company Davek New York's umbrellas come with a unique "loss protection" serial number you can redeem for a replacement at up to 50 percent off the regular retail price — but it will cost you. Models range from $49 to $149. (www.davekny.com.)
Tired of replacing flimsy umbrellas that run inside out when the wind picks up? The Gustbuster company says its patented wind-release vents and flow-through design can withstand winds of more than 55 M.P.H. without breaking or turning inside-out and backs up its claim with a lifetime repair or replacement warranty. Prices start at about $40. (www.gustbuster.com.)
If you walk in the rain at night, you might want to check out the Walksafe umbrella made by Shedrain, a Portland, Oregon company. The umbrellas are made with reflective material that picks up light from streetlamps or car headlights. Prices start at $23. (www.shedrain.com.)