Stop Being Mean

Mirinda Osmen

On a cloudless morning, I ventured into Bartels with a rainbow umbrella open and covering my head. Sat at a booth in Jazzman’s with a friend for a while. Went downstairs and got breakfast. Ate breakfast with a friend, umbrella open on the table. Used my receipt and got tea, umbrella overhead.

Using an umbrella is acceptable when it is raining. They are designed to let the droplets bead and slide off. Some buildings have plastic bags at the door, so users of wet umbrellas can bring them inside. It was not raining. UNH doesn’t have umbrella bags at entrances (or anywhere). People use umbrellas to block the hot sun when walking or when at the beach. Using an umbrella indoors is really unnecessary; there is no sun and there is no rain. I’ve heard that it is bad luck to open an umbrella indoors. Good thing I just never closed it.

I could feel people looking at me on my walk across campus. Mostly those, “I’m very obviously staring at you” stares. The group of facilities workers sitting in the Programming Space did some double takes as I maneuvered through doors with an open umbrella (it’s harder than I expected). Sitting in Jazzman’s was not bad. Some strange looks, nothing else. On my way down the “judgment stairs” things got interesting. Everyone was confused as to what I was doing. When I went to get potatoes, the Sodexo worker avoided eye contact and gave me food extra quickly. At checkout, I said “Good Morning!” and was given a cautious but polite “Good Morning” in return. Perhaps as socially reinforced politeness. The workers were definitely looking at each other, questioning if I was just in their minds. My friend and I sat at a booth, and so I put the umbrella on the table next to me. Some people to loudly stated, “You know you ain’t allowed to have an umbrella open indoors?” I’m not sure if that individual was talking to another or us. When I went to put my dishes away, someone practically shouted “What the f**?” at my retreating umbrella. Over the 45 minutes of sitting in Bartels, those were the two most dramatic. Most just glanced and whispered. People were startled by my lack of conformity.

Knowing that people were negatively talking about my actions made me want to stop acting that way. I knew it was odd and I knew people would notice. However, not all deviance is bad and not all deviance is good. People do things for different reasons, and those not performing the action may not understand the reason. I got breakfast with an open umbrella to explore deviance and student reactions, among other things.

I think some actions are just wrong. I think some actions need to be taken in context. I think some actions, even when taken in context, are just wrong.
We need to talk about actions that we think are wrong. We need to tell people that their actions are wrong. We need to show them a better way. We need to hold people responsible for their actions. Keeping context and kindness in mind, we need to let people know that we disagree with their behavior.