Thursday, March 15, 2012

Awkward Moments Chapter 2: Umbrella Etiquette

Today we begin our second topic about awkward moments. Yesterday we talked about elevators, and today we move on to UMBRELLAS

Before I studied abroad in Spain I never took an umbrella anywhere with me. There was something about walking around in the pouring rain and getting drenched that I actually enjoyed at times, and couldn't be bothered to carry around an umbrella the rest. A hood was my defense mechanism of choice until I spent 9 months living in the Basque Country, where it rains about 70% of the time. So when you consider that I was there from September to May it breaks down to about 2 weeks of  sun when we got there, 3 weeks before I left, and random sunny, beautiful, beach days scattered in between. Now don't get me wrong, that isn't to say it's not a place to go, and that it was miserable and rainy, I am just painting a picture for you to understand the total awkwardness I am about to tell of. 

In Europe you walk almost everywhere you go. To the bus stop, the metro, the market, stores, where ever. It is uncommon to hop in your car and drive 5 minutes to the store when you can just walk there and bring your basket-on-wheels along. This means that the beautiful cobble stone sidewalks are generally fairly full with foot traffic, and when it rains in Bilbao EVERYONE carries and uses an umbrella. When you have a sidewalk that is usually wide enough for just two people and you throw rain, baby strollers, dogs, and umbrellas into the mix, things tend to get a bit, well, awkward. Now I don't know if there was some umbrella etiquette handbook that I missed getting upon passing through customs, but I do know that I had no idea of the flow that everyone else did. In order to pass by one another, no matter how wide or narrow your path, one person has to raise their umbrella up, and the other pull it down. This enables both people to walk by one another while remaining dry and not hitting each other with their umbrellas, and looks like some sort of Target commercial.  I'm assuming by this point you are getting where I'm going with this...

I cannot count the number of times I whacked people with my umbrella, went up instead of down, twirled in circles to try and navigate myself around without inflicting injury on those around me, or just flat out got stuck with someone else's umbrella. And because yo soy Americana (I am American), they were not pleased with my misunderstanding of umbrella maneuvering, to say the least. Many, many "lo siento"-s (I'm sorry) were said, as well as my usual noises, facial expressions, and meaningless half-word/half-sound utterings. I am notorious for making a situation a bit more awkward than it needs to be, so these situations were an almost-daily struggle. And this doesn't even get into the times I would walk into a room and shake off my umbrella just to splatter those around me, or open it and almost take someone out!

I still do not understand umbrella etiquette and have faced situations like these in Chico since that time, so I can only thank the Lord that I am now living in LA, where umbrellas are seldom used, and walking everywhere is highly uncommon. Although I do miss those days. . . . 

As you can see, there are many situations that are awkward. This one is a little off-beat and not experienced by all, but I know there are a good deal of you out there that have encountered situations just like these. Send me any you can think of, I am going to try and continue this saga as long as I can. And let me assure you, some of the ideas in my mind are a little...dirtier, so be sure to keep up ;)

Today's Quote: "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way." -Mark Twain

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