Tag Archives: etiquette

‘Love me, love my umbrella.’ James Joyce.

I’ve been thinking about umbrellas a lot this week.  (Sad, but true.)  That may have had something to do with the fact that we have been absolutely deluged with rain and, consequently, I seem to have spent most of this week being poked in the head, dripped on, tripping over or dodging bloody umbrellas.  (If that is not the reason I have been thinking so much about umbrellas I obviously have entirely too much time on my hands . . . )

As you may have guessed, unlike James Joyce, I am not really a fan. For myself, I have always found umbrellas to be more trouble than they are worth.  They never seem to go up (or down) exactly when you need them to, they turn themselves inside out at the slightest breath of wind, one of the spokes will inevitably pop out of its sheath thereby threatening to poke the eye out of any unwary passerby andnot leastthe rain always seems to come in underneath them anyway and you still end up getting soaked.

That is not to say that I don’t own an umbrella, of course.  In fact, I own several.  There are two in my car, two more in the house (that I am sure about) and (I think) there is even another one hiding out in the laundry somewhere.  But, the thing is, I don’t remember ever buying any of these umbrellas (or any umbrella, ever, for that matter) nor I can tell you the last time I ever actually used one of them.  (How did five unwanted and unused umbrellas manage to survive my last major house cleanout?  No idea.)

It not the umbrellas themselves that bother me so much.  It’s that many umbrella-users don’t seem to take into account how their umbrella wielding behaviour impacts those around them.  Surely there is some kind of polite umbrella-etiquette written somewhere that should be adhered to? Like, perhaps you should wait until you step outside before opening up your umbrella.  (Apart from being just plain rude, has no-one ever told you that opening up an umbrella indoors brings bad luck?)  Or that it might be nice to shake the rain off your soaking wet umbrella before coming into the coffee shop.  And don’t get me even started on the matter of personal space . . .

Still, perhaps I am making too much of a fuss.  Perhaps I have dodged my last delinquent umbrella—for this week at least.  As I finish writing the rain clouds are starting to move away and the sun is trying to struggle through . . .

. . .  which puts me in mind of another sort of umbrella that I really don’t mind so much.  (In spite of my earlier words I am not a complete brolly-phobe.)  I am, in fact, quite partial to a lovely big parasol, which moves about only just enough to keep the sun off me, thus enabling me to sit comfortably in the shade while sipping a suitably chilled beverage (which, if I am lucky, might even contain its own teeny, tiny, umbrella . . . )

Ahhh . . . roll on summer . . .


Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Eavesdropping is a deplorable habit, but I have developed worse ones since.’ Patrick Rothfuss.

Evquiet-coffeeery once in a while I like to take myself off to a local coffee shop and find a nice quiet corner, order a pot of tea, and sit and read a magazine . . . or the local paper . . .  or possibly even just gaze into space and think (deeply, of course) about life, the universe . . . and whatever I need to pick up from the supermarket on the way home . . .

Lately, however, I have been finding it harder and harder to find that ‘quiet little corner’ . . .

women-talkingIt’s not because the cafes are any busier than they used to be.  People have always gone to coffee shops to socialise, to catch up with friends and family and to chat, and my ‘quiet little corner’ has often only been that in my head. My work desk is located in the reception area of a community college and if I had not developed the ability to ignore much of the movement and noise that rages around me on a daily basis, I would never get any work done, so ‘tuning out’ the chatter in a coffee shop has never been an issue.  Well, at least it never used to be a issue . . .

man talking loud on cell phone clipartRecently, however, I have become more aware that, while still relatively easy to ‘unhear’ a room full of chattering people, I seem totally incapable of blocking out anyone talking on their mobile phone. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I just can’t do it. The more I desperately try not to listen—the more I seem to hear.  I know I am probably more intolerant than most (Luddite?  Moi?) but surely I can’t be the only one sitting in a public place feeling like that person over there talking (so loudly) into their phone is really really annoying . . .

(Are these people even aware, do you think, that they are not only talking to the person on the other end of their call, but to everyone else within earshot as well?  Because sometimes I really wonder.  I have certainly (and unwillingly) overheard more than a few things in the past that I definitely feel I could have gone happily to my grave not knowing.  The location of a certain young man’s latest piercing immediately springs to mind . . .  )   

So what’s the deal?  Why do people talking on their phones distract me so much?

brain-maze-350x336It seems that there is a perfectly reasonable (and scientific) answer.  Apparently, the speech processing part of the human brain is wired in such a way that it needs to make sense of all the ‘patterns’ it is seeing and hearing around us.  Normal two-sided conversations have rhythms and patterns that our brains understand and we can therefore tune them in and out as we need them.

brainHowever, with a phone call, we only hear half a conversation, and our brains (clever little things that they are) realise something is missing and immediately start trying to complete the patterns to fill in the other side of the conversation. This causes us to be distracted from whatever else we are doing (no wonder I never get to finish my magazines) and, before you know it, there you are . . .  eavesdropping . . . whether you want to or not.

Well, that’s all fine, well and good, and it’s nice to know that I am not just a closet nosey-parker but knowing why I eavesdrop doesn’t resolve the issue.  How do I make it stop?  Perhaps there is some sort of meditative technique I can master that will help me to tune out these distracting and annoying half-conversations . . .  or perhaps I should start wearing ear plugs (I might start a new fashion trend . . . )  . . . or, even better  . . . perhaps I’ll start getting take-away coffees instead and go and find a nice (mobile free) tree to sit under . . .

eavesdrop1Anyway . . . until I get my eavesdropping habit under control I am issuing fair warning!

If you are out and about  in public and you are using your mobile phone, take care in your ‘private’ conversations, because, in the words of that eminent psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane, “whether you’re happy, or sad, or mad, or bad . . . . I’m listening . . . “


Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Uncategorized


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