I live in the Portland, Oregon area. It rains a lot here. Shocking, I know. From September to May, many Oregonians don’t leave the house without a rain jacket. Even on a sunny day, which are few and far between, it’s not unusual for clouds to roll in out of the blue. We must be prepared for rain at any moment. In true Oregonian fashion, we don’t stay inside just because it’s raining – we get out there and go on with our lives regardless of the weather.
Notice I said rain jacket, not umbrella. Oregonians are notoriously anti-umbrella. If you’re walking around with an umbrella here, you’ll be pegged as a tourist… or worse, a Californian. We rely solely on good rain jackets with hoods to keep us dry.
Something I’ve been noticing lately with these rain jacket-donning Oregonians (myself included) is that situational awareness plummets when it’s raining. We pull our hoods up and drop our heads down.
The hood itself isn’t ideal as far as situational awareness goes. It can muffle the sounds around us and cuts off a large portion of our peripheral vision. In order to get a visual on our surroundings we more or less have to turn our whole upper body, or pull one side of the hood back with our hand to see around it.
On top of that, we often keep our heads down in an effort to keep our face dry. We all know that keeping our head up is one of the best and easiest ways to stay aware of our surroundings, but for some reason this idea goes out the window when we’re trying to not get wet.
From my observations, I’ve found that it’s not uncommon for hooded Oregonians to simply ignore their surroundings on rainy days. Turning the body or pulling the hood back in order to get a full picture of the environment seems to be too much effort in the rain, and many simply choose not to do either of those things. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen step into a crosswalk without looking for oncoming vehicles, run into another human being, unintentionally pass their destination, or had some kind of near miss – not because they were on their phone, but because it was raining; they had a hood on and their head down.
This might come not come as a surprise to you, but I feel the need to say it anyway: The rain isn’t going to keep us safe. The same situational awareness principles apply, rain or shine, day or night. We are responsible for our own safety, and we must remain aware of our surroundings, no matter what.
Another interesting tidbit from my observations: umbrella users don’t seem to have the aforementioned situational awareness deficiencies. Why? The umbrella shields them from getting wet, but doesn’t limit hearing or peripheral vision (depending on its positioning), and doesn’t force them into putting their head down to keep their face dry.
That umbrella isn’t looking so bad now, eh? I think umbrella users are onto something, and I may have just been converted. If you fall into the rain jacket category and if any of those behaviors mentioned above sound familiar, try going hoodless for a week during rainy season. Add an umbrella to your EDC and observe how your behavior changes when you use an umbrella instead of a rain jacket.
Side note: I carry my umbrella in the opposite the hand I would need to draw my self defense tool.
If you embark on this experiment, please share your experience with me in the comments. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one!