I think it appropriate to begin this potential series (potential as you never know whether I will make it past the first installment) with a focus on umbrellas and how to use them to your pedestrian advantage. Why appropriate? you may ask. We've now entered the rainy season in Japan, a time when, at least personally, internal commuter rage is at its annual peak.
As an aside, I would much rather use the word "monsoon" to describe the month-long rains we see here every summer as it sounds much more hardcore than "rainy season," which makes the speaker sound like a pussy to someone hailing from the Pacific NW. Talk of weather here is a bona fide national pastime, but for the cajillion times a year people tell me that the summer is hot, it is really fucking hot. Sweat running down your crack hot. For the number of times I am warned about tsuyu (rainy season, whatever) in Tokyo then, you would think it would be some big production every year, when in reality, I don't notice it all that much. For me, "monsoon" conjures the heavens opening up and violently raining down on the peons below who go rushing out into the street to wash themselves. That doesn't exactly happen here in Japan. This doesn't mean however, that we can't pretend it does. And we do, really, despite that fact that people have it much worse in other regions of Japan and Asia when it comes to typhoons, rain, and snow. What am I getting at? For all the chow chow on weather here, I wish there was at least something fiercer than "rainy season," to describe the phenomenon that, if not particularly awesome in reality, certainly is in our collective conscious.
But back to what you came here for. Commuter skillz.
1) Ever walk down the street and have to constantly dodge people who are checking their cell phones, talking to their friends or gazing into the sky? Ever had one of them run right into you? You must not be using your umbrella properly. When it's not raining, you can employ your umbrella the way a crotchety old man might his cane, and use it to fend off irresponsible pedestrians. See a salaryman engrossed in his cellphone and heading right for you? Hold your umbrella out at a 45 degree angle from your side and the threat of this jabbing him will tear his attention back to the main task at hand - walking down the street. The threat of getting hit by an umbrella works with surprising frequency and indicates to me that people are paying attention, they simply don't care unless it's them getting hit. Is there a huge stream of people coming your way and forcing you to walk in the gutter? Stick out that umbrella and threaten to run it along each and every one of them, much as you would a stick along a row of metal bars. The crowd will part like the red sea and you will make it through unscathed. ***If you're past the preventative stage, your umbrella can also be used for restitution. A quick but sturdy accidentally-on-purpose tap on the offender's leg will have them thinking twice about not being a conscientious commuter in the future.
2) Ever have trouble getting down the stairs at a station on a busy morning (in addition to the shit eyes everyone gives you as you try to squeeze down along the banister)? This is where your sopping wet umbrella comes in. When it's raining, I never fold mine up until I am in the actual station. Instead, I hold it out in front of me like a jousting lance and watch as the commuters climbing the stairs suddenly don't feel the need to get all up in my face anymore. It's funny how afraid people are of a little water. Maybe Japan's rain is more dangerous than I thought?
3) Once you're on the train, don't think your umbrella's work is done yet. You can employ it as a warning device to anyone whose crotch is getting to close to your face if you are sitting, or, if you are standing, to someone who is breathing down your neck. A certain Foreign Salaryman has employed the delightful term "crotch presser," which makes me giggle and cringe at the same time because it is so bang on the mark. So how does this so-called warning device work? Well, despite being rather primitive and entirely manual, quite well. You simply use it as you would when walking down the street: eyes straight ahead, pretend to be examining a poster depicting a cure for pattern baldness, and allow your umbrella to accidentally-on-purpose (this is a key concept, really) wack into their leg and it's amazing how quickly they get the picture. I almost want to applaud them.
I'm not condoning random acts of umbrella violence, but simply showing you how, when employed with skill and light force, your umbrella can help to improve your daily commute through the sweaty crush of salarypeople. Good luck out there.