Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rudeness and Gift Giving

My ears are red, so infuriated I am, having just read about yet another rude bitch in this world.

The following letter appeared in today's Ask Amy column:

Dear Amy: I am a single mother with two children. We live on a tight budget.

My neighbor invited my son to her son's birthday party and my daughter to the party for her twins the following week.

My children chose the birthday gifts. I thought these gifts were fine—there was a boy's gift and two separate gifts for the twins.

My neighbor called me the following week and said basically that her children didn't like the gifts and they didn't have enough room for them.

She wants to return them.

She said a gift card was the usual gift.

I feel embarrassed and hurt. I would never tell my kids their gifts were unacceptable. I have always taught my kids to be grateful.

What do you think?

I guess I just lost a friendly neighbor.

No, Letter Writer, you didn't lose a friendly neighbor, you got a quick, cheap lesson in whom to avoid from now on.

A gift is a gift. Here's what your ignorant neighbor needs to know:

When you receive a gift, you smile, say, "thank you," send a hand written thank you note and then do what you want with the gift. But never, ever, ever, EVER call the giver and criticize his/her gifts. If you don't like it, and a gift receipt was not included (nice gesture, btw, but not required), then donate it, sell it on EBay, or use it to prop up your uneven patio table.

Letter Writer, your neighbor is a rude bitch, and needs some schooling. Can you anonymously email her this blog?

Dump her, and find friends who appreciate you. I, for one, am glad that you are teaching your children to be grateful!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm sorry, why did you come to this club again?

Have you seen that stupid cell phone commercial where some guy is sleeping, or at a diner, and even though he's otherwise occupied, his hand mechanically finds a nearby electronic device and starts typing at warp speed?

Unfortunately, sadly, this commercial isn't that far off the mark. People, just because we can be connected 24/7, doesn't mean we should be.

It's healthy to have some down time or quiet time. It's good--and polite -- to shut off the electronics, especially at certain times. It's good to be present.

Saturday night, I went to The Green Mill for an awesome jazz show by the Moutin Quartet. (highly recommended-they rock.)

The Green Mill gets mad props from the Etiquette Bitch. Upon paying your cover, Bouncer Big Al tells you, "Turn your phone off and keep your voice down." YES! (fist pump into air! Why don't all concert venues do this?)

If you do yak too loudly during a set, a manager will come over and ask you to be quiet.

Now, onto the guys who didn't understand the "turn off your phone" part: Just before the second set, three large men in Cubs jerseys, fresh from the Cubs-Sox game, sat behind me, ordering copious drinks. As the band played, two of the Cubs Fans would not stop texting. They had those phones -- iphones or whatever -- that are all bright screen, so the effect was that of having 20 fireflies behind me. Annoying? Distracting? Yes and yes.

When you go to a show, why did you go? To see the act, or to behave like a moron and text your friends? Hell, Cubs Fan could've saved himself $12 (plus drinks) by just staying outside, typing away in the evening air. If you want entertainment while texting, then plug in your earbuds, genius, and use the little TV or itunes feature, and stay out of a club.

Plus, putting technology away -- whether you're at a bar, restaurant, theater, concert, or even a diner with friends -- is the polite thing to do. Be present with the person(s) you are with. Enjoy your friends' company. Enjoy the music. Enjoy sitting at the bar, seeing a movie, or a play. Hell, enjoy sleeping.

But don't enjoy your cell phone every waking minute. Turn it off for an hour or two. I promise you, the world will continue to turn, and, chances are, you won't miss anything important.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The More (Not Always) the Merrier

When an invitation is extended to you -- no matter how casual or formal the event -- the invitation is only for those to whom it was addressed.

It is impolite to ask, "Can I bring [name of additional guest here]?"

If you are indeed wondering if you can bring your charming friend, mother, dog, etc., word it something like this:

"We'd love to come, but my mother will be visiting that Saturday. "

"Your party sounds great, but we've got Jack and Jill visiting from Europe."

Then be quiet and see what the host says.

This guideline applies across the board for all types of parties -- including weddings. If your children were not invited, do not bring them. If your significant other was not on the invite, it means she/he was not invited. Note that these exclusions, 90% of the time, are not personal.

You can not and should not know a host's reason for limiting invitees. It may be monetary, there may be a certain group dynamic going on, she may need exactly 10 for her Human Rope activity, or perhaps a surprise intervention is planned.

Asking to bring extra guests puts the host in an awkward position: she has to find a way to tell you "no" without pissing you off and creating extra tension when you (hopefully) do show up at her shindig. She's afraid of alienating you, but also wants to keep her party dynamics the way she planned.

And never, ever, ever ask if you can bring your pets. This creates the same awkward situation, and adds one more responsibility to the host's plate. Yes, I know your pooch is a little darling who won't disturb a soul. That's not the reality, and it's not your house.

It is okay to bring along others is if the party notice arrived via eVite, and the "invite other people" feature is turned on, or if the host (or invitation) specifically said, "guests/dates/children, etc. welcome."

Host's house=host's rules. Respect them. If it's too much for you attend without your mom/out-of-town friend/significant other/cat/landlord, etc., then don't attend.

Monday, June 2, 2008

When to be a Soft Talker

1. At a concert.

2. During and after a movie, especially after a blockbuster that half the population is waiting to see.

When you go to hear music...

Let's tackle number 1. I know you think, "It's a concert, it's loud, who cares if I talk?"

The person within earshot who paid 35-50-100+ bucks a ticket, that's who. For humungo outdoor festivals (Bonaroo, Lolla, Pitchfork, Summerfest, Taste of Chicago, etc.), we're going to relax this rule a bit. But when you are at a concert in a smaller venue (think The Aragon in Chicago, The Fillmore in San Francicso, or Ravinia), or if everyone is seated, shut the eff up.

Etiquette Bitch just got an earful yesterday from a young bride who was whisked off on a romantic date to an acoustic concert. This being a special occasion, her husband popped for front-row seats,. The concert took place in a theater, where everyone had a seat. Seat. Theater. Think about it.

Said performer was the bride's favorite, and she was enjoying the show until the brainless bimbo behind her kept yapping away about: shoes, pedicures, hair follicles, the mold in her kitchen. Young Bride asked Brainless Bimbo to keep it down; Bimbo was not happy to oblige. Bimbo bitched.

A similar thing happened to me at the Joe Henry show at the Old Town School. A table of LP Trixies were seated to my right, and couldn't be bothered to shut up all night--- they yapped away through his whole set, thinking he would break into some Madonna tunes. (How do I know? They left the second Joe finished "Don't Stop," the one Madonna song he penned.)

So what does a well-mannered person do in this situation, when the boors all around you are being rude? Go get an usher, or manager. Hardly seems fair--why should you have to be inconvenienced and miss part of your favorite act due to someone else's rudeness? But go get someone -- it'll be better than you trying to shush them, and getting only a smug "nuh-uh" in return. Trust me -- I tried.

After the movie ends...

Okay, number 2: It's summertime. Many highly-anticipated movies are out right now. When you are leaving the theater, or out having drinks or dinner post-show (yes, even days after), please, please, please for the love of all good entertainment, keep mum about What Happened to Carrie or How Indy Escaped.

Other folks who are dying to see the coolest film have not gone yet. Please keep your voice down.

If you are one of those slow-goers, like myself, feel free to kindly, and politely, lean over to The Spoiler and say, "I'm sorry, forgive me for eavesdropping, but I couldn't help overhear you talking about [Carrie/Indie/Hulk/IronMan/Crappy Drew Barrymore Film]. I haven't seen it yet. Can I just ask you not to say anything please? Thanks."

If this doesn't work, walk away, or stick your fingers in your ears and go "nah-nah-nah-nah."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Good Driving

Folks, especially you Chicago Drivers, this is why you don't run stop signs, okay?

An ad in The Chicago Reader caught my eye. It's the "UR The Spokesperson" campaign by the Ad Council. The graphic is one of those 1950s-looking guys-- my favorite style of graphic design. The campaign is to promote speaking up against reckless driving.

I love it. Read the safe driving guidelines and then follow them.

It seemed odd to me that the ad was in the Reader, because this campaign, according to Ad Council's website, is aimed at teens. Driving on the streets of Chicago for the last ten years, I think any moron (that means all of us) who gets behind the wheel needs to follow these guidelines. Read what the Ad Council has to say. And please read some of Etiquette Bitch's good driving guidelines. Driving politely is safe, and also demonstrates respect for yourself, and all those strangers out there around you -- which is what etiquette is all about.

Remember, we're all in this together, folks.

Etiquette Bitch's Top 4 Good Driving Guidelines

  1. Don't tailgate. You are not going to make it there any faster.
    Plus, if you rear-end someone, regardless of the circumstances, it is your fault.

    (This is how the courts, insurance, and law will rule. How do I know? Because I rear-ended someone. Twice.)

  2. Stop. You know those red signs that say "STOP"? They mean you need to stop completely. Not "roll through." Not "ignore this sign and go."
    Stop. Fully. Wait. Now Go.

  3. Silence is golden. Unless there is some imminent danger, do not blow your horn. It's noisy, and you are probably annoying someone nearby. Waiting to pick up someone? Then go to their door, lazy-ass, or call them with your cell phone.

  4. Hang up and drive. No texting (teens!) while driving. No talking on your phone -- whatsoever. If you must make a call (lost, directions, etc.) pull the eff over for two minutes, make call, then get back on the road.

    In Chicago, you may only yak on your cell phone if you have a hands-free device, but please don't even use this. When you are on the phone -- no matter how -- while driving, your brain is distracted, and you are not fully present and aware, and your reaction time is slowed.

    Be respectful and present while driving. It's safer for you and everyone else around you.
Thank you!!!