Print this, laminate it, and hand it to the next commuter you see wielding a golf umbrella.
Commuting today was a hellish experience. Not because the torrential rain caused my not-quite-leather boots to change colour, my sodden trousers to stick to my legs, and my morning train to chug into view some 18 minutes later than specified. All of that I could handle (heck, it’s pretty much guaranteed when you’re commuting into the city from the sticks).
What I couldn’t wrap my head around, though, was the fact that – when I stepped out of the station at London – I was immediately funneled into a human traffic jam. Nobody could move, everyone was (in the time-tested manner of Brits everywhere) tutting and rolling their eyes extravagantly. And so, for seven achingly slow minutes, I became part of a moving mass of damp-smelling human bodies as we inched our way to freedom.
Worse still? Freedom was tauntingly close – about three coffee-shop awnings away, in fact. I could see it. I could see people walking at actual human speed, without a care in the world, and I just couldn’t get there.
Why? Because every single person around me was clutching an obnoxiously outsized golfing umbrella, of course.
Firstly, before you all start bleating at me, I get it. Of course I get it. Golf umbrellas are bloody brilliant for keeping you dry in a heavy downpour, because they’re enormous, barely so much as waver in strong winds, and they keep other soggy souls from getting too close.
That being said, the clue’s in the name, folks: golf umbrellas are designed for golf courses, or similarly vast open spaces where you’re unlikely to ever find yourself navigating narrow city streets as part of a pulsating, pre-9am crowd of commuters. At best, they’re an annoyance: these oversized canopies block paths, slow down footfall traffic, and prevent niftier pedestrians from nailing that casual overtake move we’ve all spent years perfecting.
They take up unnecessary room on buses and trains, too – and don’t even get me started on those people who feel the need to shake their golf umbrellas dry in public. It’s as if a sodden marquee has suddenly come to life and pulled that wet dog trick, and it’s ruined my day more times than I care to say.
And all of that is at best. At worst, golf umbrellas are unintentional weapons, seemingly designed to knock people over, scalp unsuspecting bystanders, and take people’s eyes out. Ever had one of those sharp metal spikes catch you in the face during a walk-by? Yeah, me too. And every single time the umbrella’s owner has simply rearranged their features into a sympathetic grimace whilst still maintaining their London walking pace (approx. six miles per hour) and tossing a lacklustre “I’m sorry” over their shoulder.
Maybe it’s this that winds me up the most, to be honest. When someone’s drawn actual blood – however accidentally – I expect that someone to drop down onto their knees and beg for forgiveness. To offer me a tissue, or a plaster, or a strong sugary tea. To reassure me that the bleeding gouge in my cheek will fade over time. To press a crisp £10 note into my hand for First Aid supplies (or soul-soothing croissants). To tearfully snap their umbrella into two pieces, vowing that they’ve learned the error of their ways and they will never, ever, ever make the same mistake again.
That kinda thing, you know?
Essentially, I’m a vindictive little monster, and I’m probably just jealous of their sturdy umbrella, when my flimsy little brollie offers all the protection of a paper serviette.
Despite this, though, I doubt I’m alone in believing that golf umbrellas have absolutely no place anywhere in zone one or on any busy London thoroughfare. Save it for St Andrews, folks – and buy yourself a compact, commuter-friendly number instead. The rest of the world will thank you for it, and you may actually get to work on time for once, too.
Image: Getty/Alex Block/Unsplash