July 13: Paris has rain. Even if you haven’t been to Paris you know that, but if you have been to Paris for any length of time, not just in April, you will have encountered the umbrella- make that parapluie- dilemma . The narrower the street and sidewalk the more important this becomes. I haven’t read in any guide-book how to handle the situation. I don’t know if this is part of the social training for young French children but from what I’ve observed, I’d say not.
So, here’s the dilemma. When confronted with another person with an umbrella who goes up and who goes down? Does the person on the right raise their umbrella and the left lowers his/hers? Does it depend on gender? The woman down and man up? What about age? Young up, old down? Height? Tall up, short down? You can see the problems.
A few things are clear.
1.If only one person has an umbrella, the un-umbrella person, man, woman or child, gets the part of the sidewalk that has the most protection. That usually means next to the building unless there is an awning (and there are plenty of those) and the rain is running off the awning.
2.If running, that person gets the right of way-unless you are both running for a bus (which is the only reasons Parisians run that I see ) in which it is everyone for themself.
3. If two people are heading in the same direction, the overtaking person must go up since the overtakee won’t see you coming.
4. In windy conditions, don’t worry because whoever has the wind behind will be struggling with their inside-out umbrella. You can make an independent decision.
5. When going down into a metro, can you can leave your umbrella up until you reach the bottom of the stairs because you have to watch your footing on the wet slippery stairs and can’t attend to your umbrella. You are permitted, in fact encouraged, to shake the rain off before boarding a train. How vigorously you shake depends on how many people are standing in the shelter of the metro station gazing up at the rainy stairs with hopes the rain will stop. It won’t. So they become one of the many dashing (but not running) without an umbrella since when they boarded in another arrondissement where there it wasn’t raining. See #1.
6. Don’t open your umbrella while climbing up the metro stairs, no matter how hard the rain. You will certainly find yourself in the overtaking position (see #3) and mostly likely will poke the person climbing ahead of you who is also trying to open their umbrella.
You can see the potential for irritating someone-most likely a Parisian who knows the rules- and if you are a tourist give them additional reasons to find tourists so irritating. I am sure there is material for a doctorial thesis here. And when one is finished sorting out the rules for Paris, there is always London, Zürich, Brussels-the list goes on and on and we haven’t even touched on color of umbrellas and how that might change the entire social scene.
Meanwhile, I’m out of here- with my umbrella.