Let A Frown Be Your Umbrella

At the end of last week the Financial Times ran an amusing "Dear Economist..." column. The premise of the feature is that it's a tongue-in-cheek advice piece from an economic perspective. Anyway, a gentlemen wrote that, as an immigrant in London, he always carries an umbrella with him, though the natives do not. When he offers to share space under the cover, "Foreigners always accept. Indeed, one New Yorker actually links her arm with mine as we walk. But those whose families have lived here for generations prefer getting soaked." Why, he wondered, is that the case?

Columnist Tim Harford replied:

[W]e disapprove of umbrellas, viewing them as befitting only Bulgarian assassins. What, after all, is an umbrella but a way of redirecting rain on to other people? The rim of spikes, too, went out with Queen Boudicca. London is a busy place; it would simply be unsupportable if the British behaved as you do. Until recently, a strong cultural norm dealt with this problem.
We thought about this during yesterday's deluge. We do not carry an umbrella, finding it inconsiderate for all the same reasons Harford elucidates: There is not enough goddamn space on the streets for everyone to use one. Hey, New Yorkers, sack the hell up, okay? You are not going to melt. Sure, you'll get a little wet, and maybe your expensive blowout might be temporarily ruined, but give us all a break, okay? It is rain. Enough with the fucking umbrellas already. Leave them to the elderly and those with small children. While we have you here we'd also like to bitch about those idiots who stop directly in front of the subway entrance to finish their vitally important cell phone conversations, but, you know, baby steps. In summary: Next time there's a little drop of precipitation, cover your head with a goddamn Metro like the rest of us, okay? Or just get a little wet. You're just a bloody primate, you know. Thanks.

Dear Economist... [FT]