The Year in Umbrage

What ground your gears this year?

Image via iStock.
Umbrage Court

About Umbrage Court

Umbrage Court adjudicates the extremely minor problems of urban living and strives to bring clarity to the Urban Compact. If you have business before the court, please email [email protected].

To live well in the Washington, DC, area, you must be perpetually aggrieved, whether it’s about a lack of voting representation in Congress, the sudden addition of bike lanes on your street, or your neighbor’s inability to get her trash cans out on the correct day. Such irritations fuel our days and light up our nights with anecdotes. To smooth this thorny path to smugness, Washingtonian created “Umbrage Court,” which adjudicates extremely minor questions of urban etiquette whenever we remember to create a new post. In 2019, that was not that often, but the topics we covered represented the psyche of Washington well in this time of great uncertainty.

QUESTION: Is It Okay to Save a Parking Space That You’ve Dug Out of the Snow?

ANSWER: This is a case where the law (which says no) must coexist with the unwritten rules of urban living (which say yes). Thus, the Court ordered: “you and your neighbors must dig out every car on your side of the block. Even the ones belonging to those jerks down the block. Bring out some drinks (perhaps snow bourbon cocktails?), maybe let your dogs run around, make it a party. Then everyone can get out if they want, and there’ll likely be plenty of spots.”

QUESTION: Is It Ever Okay to Poison Feral Cats?

ANSWER: Good heavens, no. No. For the sake of all that is good in this world, no. Don’t do this.

DC Metro Escalator

QUESTION: Is It Okay to Rush Past Oblivious Tourists on DC Escalators?

ANSWER: Many Washingtonians believe there’s a constitutional right to walk on the left side of escalators. No such right exists. Thus, the Court ordered: “Shouting at the gangly kids in cheap suits and lanyards when they clog an escalator will achieve one thing: They’ll think you’re the asshole in the situation. And, sorry, they will be correct. So turn up your headphones, take a deep breath, and practice mindfulness when an escalator hog appears before you. You’ll rob them of an opportunity to complain about how rude Washingtonians are, and chances are you’ll still make your train.”

Maga Hats DC

QUESTION: Is It Okay to Yell at Tourists in MAGA Hats?

ANSWER: The Court has wrestled with this question itself, but as we ordered that, instead, people here “revel in robbing [visiting Trump supporters] of a valuable opportunity to talk about how people DC are just as bad as they were led to believe. Let’s be super-nice to all adults wearing Trump stuff—it’ll drive them crazy. And surely you don’t need this court to tell you to leave kids alone.”

QUESTION: What Should Runners and Cyclists Do About People Who Use Trails as Photo Backdrops?

ANSWER: The judge orders you to “you to take some money out of your 401(k) and purchase an insanely loud horn. He further orders the National Park Service to install defibrillator machines at reasonable intervals so passersby can coax mortally terrified selfie-takers back to life. Otherwise you have no choice but to wait out those camera-toting speed bumps till winter.”


Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.