Taiwan is a very rainy place. Downpours can be heavy and last not only for a whole day, but for several days without interruption.
Many shops and public places have at their entrance umbrella holders. It is a common habit in Taiwan to put one’s umbrella into the holder before entering a store or other indoor areas. The purpose of these umbrella holders is – I presume – to prevent the floor from getting dirty and slippery. This might be a rational idea, but this habit has a very annoying side effect: Umbrella thefts.
Apparently, there are nice people who, having forgotten their own umbrella, believe that they have the right to take others’. It has already happened to me three times that my umbrella was stolen … Okay, umbrellas are not expensive, so this is definitely not going to ruin me financially. Nevertheless, I find it extremely irritating. First of all, it is a matter of principle: This is my umbrella and I don’t want anyone to take it from me without my permission. Second, if your umbrella is stolen you will, of course, get drenched, unless you decide to steal someone else’s umbrella and so create a domino effect of umbrella thefts.
During my stay in Hong Kong, where this habit is not widespread, I had completely forgotten about this Taiwanese phenomenon. But I was gently reminded today by a nice guy.
It’s a hot rainy day in Taipei, with a heavy downpour (I don’t think Europeans can imagine how heavy rain can be here). I went to the NTU library, where there was a big umbrella holder at the entrance. I put my umbrella there and was about to go inside, when I noticed a guy ‘examining’ various umbrellas. He took one out, looked at it, then put it inside again, and repeated the same process several times. I thought he didn’t remember which umbrella was his, but the colours and shapes of the ones he took out were so different that I became suspicious. I hid behind the door and kept looking at him.
Then, he finally chose an umbrella and was about to go away. At that moment I came out and stared at him. I am absolutely sure he saw me, but he, nonchalantly, simply put back the umbrella and took another one. When he opened it, I saw that it was broken. I assume that he wanted to quietly replace his broken umbrella with an intact one.
It’s not the end of the world if my umbrella gets stolen, but I wonder why I have to leave my umbrella outside of shops or libraries that do not guarantee it will still be there when I go out. One day I even left a shop, because the owner insisted I put the umbrella outside. My old umbrella had been stolen that very day, and I did not want the same thing to happen again.