Monday, June 1, 2009

Please do it outside

The metro gods have stopped punishing us and are back to mildly interesting themes. I love the manner poster for this month (happy wet June by the way), especially their warning to "please be careful when handling a wet umbrella." Kind of on par with "please be careful when handling a shotgun" or "please be careful when handling nuclear waste." In fact, changing "handling" to "wielding" might be more appropriate in Tokyo, where I am constantly battling with my fellow umbrella-wielding commuters who have their samurai techniques down pat. I'm sorry I just made a Japan-centric umbrella-sword/samurai comparison, it won't happen again.

This poster was especially well-timed given the last few days, which seem to herald the arrival of this year's rainy season. I have yet to invest in a huge golf umbrella to fend of the vicious attacks from the black salaryman umbrellas but I don't know if there will be room for the two of us in this town. What is proper umbrella etiquette really? Do you move your umbrella to left and right angles to avoid others? Pump your umbrella up and down to make room for the breadth of another? Or do you stubbornly clutch your umbrella and ignore the constant jilts it receives after bumping into another umbrella on your walk to the station? I have gotten a little aggresive in the last year, big surprise there I know, although I do try my best not to poke out any eyes.

For some reason I still remember a listening question I heard a few years ago at my Japanese language school when practicing for a proficiency test. We had to listen to a conversation between a man and a woman and then answer a question about why the woman was so mad. Apparently she was incensed because during a recent commute someone had placed their wet umbrella on the mesh shelf above the train seats and it dripped on her for the whole train ride. Why had this stuck in my mind? I don't know, but every time I ride a train on a rainy day I can't help watching everyone wield their umbrellas to see how conscious they are of who is getting dripped on or dampened from a wet umbrella pressed against their leg. As for the piston technique, I think it goes without saying that I am a fan.

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