Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mind your manners tonight - New Year's Eve

No doubt, plenty of you will be socializing tonight, either at a bar, at a party, or taking in a movie and popcorn.

And no doubt, someone else (not you) will say something incorrect or just plain wrong. Heck, they may even commit a tiny social faux-pas, such as ordering a drink from a different waiter.

Your urge will be to correct them, either by explaining they have their facts wrong ("The 'h' in 'Thames' is silent") or that they broke a social taboo ("You don't order drinks from another waiter.").

Resist this urge. It's impolite to correct someone in public. If this is your mate/partner/significant other/sister/brother/mom/dad/you see where I'm going with this -- you may correct them privately, after the festivities. But do it in a lighthearted, loving way.

When is it okay to correct someone in public? If they're drunk, and insist on driving home. The right response is, "No, you're not, and I'm calling you a cab."

Have a fun, safe, polite New Year's Eve, everyone!

Cheers, and I'll see you in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When the gift is a duplicate

So you open the shiny wrapping paper to reveal...the Rufus Wainwright CD that you already have. (Yes, I know, everyone's downloading music these days, and even The Most Evil Retailer shrunk its music space...bear with me for the sake of a story.)

Don't be a jerk -- now or any other time of the year. "I already have this," while true, is not the correct response.

Pick your poison -- say/do one or more of the following:

  • "Oh how nice! I love [name thing you already own]."
  • Keep it. One for the house, one for the summer house.
  • Donate it. Toys for Tots, Amvets or Howard Brown can certainly make good use of it.
  • Still in its original packaging? Perhaps you can exchange it for some other crap at some large retailer who's especially liberal with exchanges this time of year.
And always, always, follow up with a thank-you note. Not a text. No twitter. No email. No quick, verbal. A hand-written note.

After some time has passed, don't confess, "Oh, I already had that Rufus Wainwright CD. I exchanged it for Animal Collective." Keep mum.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Overheard at the ATM today

[woman in work uniform @ ATM on her cell phone:]

"Do you have to be outside? Call me back. I can't hear you with all that noise around you, it's irritating me. Well it is! Call me back! Bye." [hangs up.]

Ah, my smile for the day. Nothing like a little manners smack-down.

Have we learned nothing from Joe Wilson?


There it was again last night, bad manners displayed in full force, onstage at Radio City Music Hall.

The most childish, immature rapper in the world had to go and interrupt Taylor Swift, who was accepting what was rightfully hers.

We wonder would he have done this were it not a woman onstage. Would the most childish, immature rapper in the universe dare if it were Kid Rock or Eminem or Jay-Z up there? My money's on "not."

I'm happy to say Beyonce demonstrated true class, and gave Taylor Swift her moment. For that, she gets a mad props.

In the meantime, if you have kids, or if you're a teacher, let's use this as a teaching moment.

Unless the speaker is causing harm, it's never okay to interrupt someone's speech with a tirade.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Okay, here we go. I had to try really hard this week, but here's what I got:

  • A nice threesome of diners leaving a waitress a 20% tip.
  • People holding the elevator for one another.
  • Drivers who were let into traffic who actually raised a polite hand and said, "Thanks!"
Thank you, polite people! You make all the noisy, inconsiderate jerk-offs in this world not matter so much.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I hate "people-of-cheap-store"

In case you haven't heard, there's this blog. It makes fun of, shall we say, not-so-attractive people (and cars) at the world's largest discounter.

First off, I don't know why big discounter (who, no, I don't like, either) isn't suing. I've studied photography, and the legalities of it, and to go into a business and photograph the property and anything in/on it is, technically, illegal.

And, no, I'm not above poking fun at WT myself. Ages ago, upon moving from Oh-So-Sophisticated San Francisco to Middle-America Indiana, I was appalled at the lack of class (and amount of girth) displayed at my local department store.

But I didn't broadcast it to the world.

And here's the thing: yes, those folks on that insulting blog may not be as attractive as your average ex-frat boy on the train, heading to his workaday 9 to 5 job. And, no, I probably wouldn't care to have a coffee with any of them, either.

But they're still people. And while those photographed might make some unfortunate hair or fashion choices, they are still people with feelings.

I've never had a taste for anything that intentionally aims to be mean-spirited. For that matter, I've long had a distaste for anything that, after 2 minutes, is boring.

And the blog to which I refer definitely falls into that category. Given the media-addicted public's fickle and ever-changing taste, I can only hope that those being insulted won't be much longer.

Mind your manners at a party

Is it the relaxed, oft-casual nature of parties that brings out the jackass in some people?

Last night, while enjoying myself and my martini at a cocktail party for (supposedly) professionals, I watched as one guest told another that the company she worked for is, indeed, "The Devil" and that they're "screwing her" by "paying her a pittance."

I know for a fact that the female guest is incredibly proud of what she does, and wasn't terribly happy to hear her work denigrated.

On another occasion, I attended an apartment party held on one of those sweltering, 90-plus degree Chicago nights. (This party was not held this year, our coldest summer, since, what, 1922?) This was in a vintage apartment, and in case you're not a Windy Citizen, vintage = no air conditioning.

The host was running her tiny window A/C unit full force, trying to keep everyone cool and happy. The salsa, despite being nestled in a bucket of ice, was melting into tomato soup. One guest, upon sampling the "soup" turned around and told the host, "You might want to consider keeping your food a little fresher."

And while the host was civil to rude offender after that, she no longer socialized with him.

When attending a party, you don't have to be all Pollyanna and agree with everyone's opinions; nor should you kiss everyone's butt. But a little respect and consideration is in order.

And if you're on the receiving end of a jackass, keep in mind that just because someone else is classless, doesn't mean you need to go there with him/her. Just smile, walk away, grab another martini, and make a mental note to check the jackass off your future guest lists.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Manners during a presentation

Last night Joe Wilson delivered the Heckle Heard 'Round the World.

Not cool. I'm not saying this as a political statement or support of any political party. I'm saying this as someone who has to present and listen a lot.

When you're attending a speech, whether you agree or not, keep shtum.

If there's a Q+A portion, save your comments and questions for then. Upset about something? Take it off-line with the speaker.

related: Clarence Page discusses Congressional Etiquette (or lack thereof).

Just in case we get our last heat wave... are some things you need to know before you make that last beach visit, courtesy of the blog Gropius vs. Eddie. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn has written about how summer doesn't end until later, anyway, so this is good advice. Clip and re-read next year if need be.

note: I know not all of my readers are in whale-land, but, you know, just in case you come across any wildlife for that matter, stay the eff away!

A Little Beach Etiquette

Here's what is totally NOT cool on the beach...
  1. Pulling your obnoxious boat so close to the beach that you nearly run over 3 swimming children, then turning your music up so loud that you're probably disturbing the same whales affected by the Navy's sonar.
  2. Okay, let me back up. ANY music on the beach is pretty annoying if others can hear it. I know you may debate me on this point, but what if I don't like your crappy tunes? Soooo inconsiderate.
  3. Taking your drinks in the water and burying the cans in the sand instead of throwing them away. Continue reading...

I feel like good manners are common sense. If you're doing something that is disturbing others or causing harm, for the love of Pete, STOP IT.

Thank you, Gropius! The soul of good manners is in your last sentence.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Politcs and facebook

A reader writes:

"What are your thoughts are on politics and Facebook? The health-care political debate has people talking politics now more than ever ...Recently one friend noted 'X doesn't log into Facebook to read political rants.' Now, same person also has shared the size and scope of his daily constitutional before (a topic about which I never log in to read), but it did bring up a question for me. Is it cool to write about political topics on Facebook?

For me, so long as it's civil, politics are certainly something one can discuss amongst friends and given the technological capability to ignore updates from people in FB, I don't see the harm. Am I off-base here?"

Just so I'm clear, your friend talks about the size and scope of his daily walks? Or were you euphemizing something else?

You bring up an excellent question. What does etiquette have to do with facebook? Well, everything. And those who post online (anywhere) need to be mindful of a) the message they are posting, b) who might see it, and, c) how it might be perceived -- or how it might affect the poster.

Certainly, everyone's entitled to his or her opinion. But there's a difference between, "Go Candidate Q!" (showing support) and, "[Name of political 'party' throwers] can suck it!" (insulting).

You are correct, that given the features of facebook, we can just click "ignore" on anyone's feeds, so if your friend X doesn't want to read political rants, s/he can use that feature.

But, but, but...there's that whole perception problem. What if you just want to express a civil thought about your preferred candidate/piece of legislation/health care reform? Go ahead, but know that it might be seen by others who hold sway over you...and who might be offended, innocent as your post is.

No, you're not off-base, but I can't help but wonder if political discussions aren't best held in person, over a bottle of Pinot with a plate of cheese and fruit. Or, hell, over beer and pizza.

So here's my bottom line on politics and facebook: tread lightly. When in doubt, don't.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In case you're coming down for Oprah...

Don't forget your good manners.

I know Michigan Avenue will be atwitter (aflush, a-crowded, a mob scene) with O fans who will just be dying to get a closer glimpse of her today.

But let's remember our good crowd behavior:

  • No pushing or shoving.
  • If you need to get past someone, say, "Excuse me."
  • Especially if you're tall, avoid the urge to cram past someone,then plant yourself right before her, effectively blocking the view that she rightfully had before you so rudely cut in.
  • No doubt you'll be patronizing the businesses on and near Michigan Avenue; be kind to the shopkeepers.
Let's keep it respectful, Oprah fans.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Labor Day Weekend! Ah, just when I thought, like most holiday weekends in Chicago, I could get parking anywhere, I was proven wrong. The world descended upon Chicago this weekend (blame either Oprah or the Red Sox-White Sox showdown). Even tiny parks on the far north side were teeming with humans.

And that's a good thing. I'm happy to report that this week was filled with good manners (save for the idiot on his cell phone who nearly ran me over yesterday. But no bitching on Sunday!).

On display in Chicago this past week:

  • People holding elevator doors open for strangers.
  • A mom teaching her young son good behavior on the bus.
  • A child saying, "I'm sorry," repeatedly to the adult who was hit by the child's errant football.
  • Adult graciously accepting the kid's apology.
  • In crowded areas: stores, malls, escalators, Jazz Fest* - no one was pushing or shoving!
  • Anyone who needed to get by this bitch said, "Excuse me."
Thank you, polite people! You make crazy holiday weekends nicer for everyone. We appreciate you.

* If you're in the area, and haven't already, I highly recommend getting down to Jazz Fest - even just for a bit - today, the last day. Grab some food, sit on some nearby grass and listen to some jazzy tunes. It's truly a gem.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Solicitations, part deux: Child labor

One of my lovely followers (and cool blogger) Iapetus999 fully admits that he's brought his kid to the office to go around and make sales. He poses a good question:

What is the proper etiquette for the reverse situation...when kids (or parents) come up to you? Blow them off or politely buy a small amount? Report them to the manager?

Erm. EB is conflicted here:

  • On one hand, I think it's good when kids sell things, because the experience simultaneously teaches them about professionalism, entrepreneurship, sales, and rejection. I love buying lemonade from kids on the street.
  • On the other hand, hardly anyone can bear to say "no" to a kid (unless it's this kid), and might feel pressured.
One doesn't have to be so rude as to "blow them off," but if you don't want the product, a simple, "No thanks, but I appreciate you asking!" will do. If you want to make a purchase, purchase away!

I'd say reporting the offending kid (or parent) seems a bit harsh, a step that should only be taken if the pint-sized sales are becoming disruptive and work can't get done. A word to the manager along the lines of, "Hey, just so you're aware, Nick's kid is my cube and won't stop singing Christmas Carols until I tip her. It's sorta making the conference call with Tokyo difficult."

So far, I haven't heard of any offices that have strict "no kids selling/no solicitations" policies in place, but if everyone brought their kids to work to sell, well, that might make a dent in productivity.

A large part of etiquette is making others feel comfortable (read: not uncomfortable), and sometimes a sales situation will invoke that pressure (see yesterday's post). In these economic times, I suggest we all step back a bit and not make anyone feel like they have to fork over. At the same time, though, I'm not for kiboshing the spirit of the small salespeople.

So let's do this: like most things in life, everything in moderation.

Thanks for writing!

Everyone, enjoy the three-day weekend, and don't forget your summer etiquette out there.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No solicitations at work, please

Staying on the office theme: It's not cool to solicit donations or sales at work.

No, you can not ask for contributions for a charity (even if the company as a whole is supporting it or doing some sort of Christmastime project), and tread lightly before asking co-workers to buy your little darling Susie's Girl Scout cookies.

Here's why: soliciting funds from co-workers, no matter how good your intentions, puts the co-worker in an awkward spot, and essentially in a lose-lose situation. Here's what's going through coworker's head: "Geez, I don't really want to support Mitt Romney. But Dave's my boss. Can't say no to the boss."

Or: "Ugh, I don't need an 80th box of Thin Mints. And I'm having trouble paying my gas bill this month. But I don't want Sara to be mad at me. Okay, $4, I'll fork it over. Now I resent her."

Also, when it comes to soliciting funds for political or even charitable causes, depending on the circumstances, you're likely crossing some ethical lines.

Here's what is okay: You have a form/catalog/whatever. You discreetly, or perhaps in a short email (sent only using bcc!) inform a handful of coworkers, "Susie's got Girl Scout cookies. I've got the form. Stop by my desk if you're interested. Thanks."

The political donations, though? Keep those out of the workplace, period. In Business Etiquette, we talk about the four things you never discuss in a business situation: Religion, Politics, Money, and S-E-X.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shared space? Clean up.

What is it about communal areas -- the office kitchen, conference rooms, apartment laundry areas -- that make people think it's okay to leave detritus behind?

Is it laziness?

Or is it the thought of, "If I ignore it, it will go away"? Or is it, "If I leave crap here, someone else will be so bothered, they'll clean it up. I'm far too important for janitor work."

I work in a shared office space, which means no one has an assigned desk - we come and go when we need to work (or not). You can't get access to the office until you take a tour and agree to the rules, one of which is, "When you use the dishes, put them in the dishwasher. If dishwasher is full (of clean dishes), you then either: a) empty it, and add your dirty dish, or; b) hand-wash and put it away."

Simple, right? You'd think a handful of Phds and high-school grads could grasp that one. Apparently not. As I type, a stack of dirty plates graces my office kitchen. These geniuses need gentle reminding all the time. Maybe not-so-gentle would have greater effect?

And it's not just the whole kitchen-dishes-microwave thing. I'll start my day by choosing a desk, and set down my laptop only to find a gaggle of cookie crumbs from who-knows-who carrying all sorts of germs.

Look, when you're in a common area: office, kitchen, laundry, whatever, it's simple: you spill it; you wipe it up. You dirty it, you clean it.

Like most good behavior, taking care of your surroundings expresses that you care about them; it's showing a sense of pride.

So what do you feel like saying? "I like this space" or "This space is trash...and I am too!"

Monday, August 31, 2009

What's etiquette about, anyway?

This blog doesn't exist solely so I can carp about the evil doers around me. It 's actually an educational tool.

I know that when I ask someone to silence their cell phone, or please wait for his/her turn in line, I get a an icy "how dare you tell me what to do!" glare.

Here's the thing: It's not that I want you to behave. (Partly. But that's really not it.)

Etiquette is about demonstrating respect for others around us -- whether we know them or not. And when we show respect for others, we're showing respect for ourselves.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mad props to the polite

The two best things I saw this week:

  • Drivers allowing others into traffic, and
  • The ones who were let in giving a "thank you" sign to the other driver.
In case you're wondering, the universal sign for "thank you" when driving is a raised hand, perhaps a tiny wave, all five digits up. When someone does you a kindness in traffic, raise your hand and say "thanks."

And if you see another driver struggling to get in, make a difficult turn, etc., just stop for a moment and let her or him in.

You'll be rewarded by the traffic gods.

Thank you, polite people! You make traffic not-so-horrid.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's also called a "cockroach"

As a follow-up to the ear mullet, a colleague of mine, with whom I'll be presenting Tuesday night, tells me that in his office, cell phone earpieces are called "cockroaches."

As in, "Take that cockroach out of your ear, the meeting's about to start."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lose the ear mullet

In the '90s, it was the cell-phone belt clip.

Today, it's the Bluetooth earpiece.

Both scream, "Look at me! I'm important! I can reach my personal communication device within a second!"

What they really say: "Look at me! I'm a douchebag!"

You don't need to walk around with your ear mullet (what Wired calls those cell-phone earpieces) attached all the time. Moreover, when you're in a meeting, take the damn thing off.

It's a distraction. (Not to you, sure, because you don't have to look at the stupid thing.) It borders on (and teeters into) disrespectful -- especially if that little blue light goes blinky-blinky-blinky.

A colleague of mine has business meetings all the time with individuals who refuse to remove their ear clips. "No, I'm waiting for a call," they tell her.

Really? And when the call arrives you can't either: a) let it go to voicemail, whereby you will return the call, or: b) spend the 2 seconds it takes to answer your phone (sans earpiece) and step out of the room?


This "I've got an earpiece" mentality smacks of such manufactured self-importance, it's ridiculous.

Unless you're Brad Pitt or severely disabled, take your earpiece off when you're in the company of others.

Mad props to the late Senator Kennedy

I'm going to step out of the norm for just a quick post. I don't like to have any political tones here, but I've got to say "thanks for your service" and a fond farewell to the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

As I watched the news coverage, what struck me was that Senator Kennedy reached out to many, but did so quite frequently through letters.*

Watch CBS Videos Online

*for those of you under 30: "letters" are longer, more thoughtful emails, but on paper, written with ink. Instead of pressing "send," one puts the paper-with-ink into a paper envelope and snail-mails it to the recipient.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To clarify about tacky thank-yous

Reader marybt posted a great comment yesterday asking about my disdain for photo thank-yous:

"I had some made by Shutterfly that have my kid's picture on the front and say thank you. But then we actually write a note on the inside. How is that tacky?

I'd hate to unknowingly make some faux pas.

BTW, my daughter will be 2 next month. I already have her color on the thank you notes so that she gets into the habit."

So, first, let's give some major kudos to marybt for: a) teaching her child to write thank yous, and b) including a personal note.

What marybt is doing (photo+note) is acceptable and nice. She's saying thank you and including a photo.

To clarify: Photo cards are not inherently evil; it's when they are sent solo in place of a thank you, sans handwritten note, that they are evil.

My classless (but not immediate, thank god) relatives have sent something like this, instead of writing a thank-you.

I'm with marybt -- photos are nice. In fact, I'd love a picture of the kids, your wedding, whatever -- as long as you make a minuscule effort and write "thank you, I love the $100 check you gave me."

Shoving a photo into a card and mailing it off is not effort.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To gift, or not to gift?

Just as a follow-up to yesterday: the thank-you to the innkeeper is on its way!

Okay, so I have a slew of parties coming up, and it dawned on me that there are many areas of etiquette that are fuzzy, because no matter how much us good-manners lovers bitch about it, the general public is just going to do as it pleases anyway. (Actually, I think that's unfortunately true about all etiquette guidelines. But anyway...)

The one party "rule" that is always messy is whether to say "no presents" on the invite.

Old-school etiquette says that any mention of presents on the invite (email, evite, or hand-written) is tacky. You don't mention presents either way. I agree with half of this: you don't mention that you want presents, nor do you ever mention where you (or the guest of honor) are registered. Registry info goes on a separate card.

I'm actually okay with "no presents" on the invite...but the much of the general public isn't. Mainly because they won't (or don't want to) listen.

If you say "no presents," invariably, there will be the one or two guests who insist on bringing a gift, thereby making the others (who followed your instructions) feel uncomfortable. When these naysayers show up, gift in hand, thank them quietly, then spirit the gift off to an undisclosed location, away from partyland.

The other good graces faux pas comes in the form of those who put "no presents, please" on their invites, and then secretly hope their guests will bring presents. These people usually end up getting pissed off that everyone followed their instructions.

The easiest, most fool-proof strategy all around? Don't mention presents at all. If some show up, put 'em away. If they don't, well, then, you had your friends over and had a good time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another nice thing and thank-yous

My friend K. went on a trip last week, and left a t-shirt behind. He didn't even notice it was missing until it turned up in the mail, shipped to him by the owner of the inn where he stayed.

Of course, the inn owners are getting a nice, hand-written thank you in the mail.

Although these days you'll hear that you're "technically" not required to send a thank you (because gifts should be given in the spirit -- yeah, bullshit), good manners dictate that when someone goes out of their way for you, or buys you a gift, you take about 2 minutes out of your life, and send a thank you note. Hand-written. Not pre-printed photocards -- those stupid things are tacky and, no, they don't get you off the hook.

I was filing receipts this weekend and came across proof of multiple baby gifts I'd bought for random procreators--you know, casual friends and acquaintances. Not one had sent me a thank-you or even called to say thanks. So unless you're a friend or relative of mine and you're pregnant, no more gifts from the Bitch.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mad props to the polite

This week was pretty mellow, meaning that people all around were behaving pretty nicely, which is as it should be. Let's hope this nice trend continues. (Of course, if everyone is nice and polite, what the eff will I write about?)

Some good things I saw this week:

  • People saying "Excuse me," to strangers on a crowded sidewalk when they needed to pass.
  • One mother and child moving out of the way at a shoe store so a stranger could see the display.
  • A yoga teacher staying after class (20 minutes) to help a student.
These are all just little nice things, but they make our world nicer. Thank you, kind folks!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I don't need to see the email addressess of your 1,000 friends

There's this field in email called "bcc." Learn how to use it properly and not annoy the hell out of your friends.

"BCC" stands for "blind carbon copy" and it's a hangover from the old typewriter days. (Click here if you don't know what a typewriter is.)*

What it means: The person(s) listed in the "to" or "cc" field don't see the names/emails of anyone in the "bcc" field. In corporate america, this is great for sending secret/confidential information.

Out here in the real world, "bcc" is great when you have more than a few folks to email, i.e., more than four.

When sending out mass emails for your Tupperware party, improv show, Super Bowl party, bachelor/bachelorette party, book club, job lead, request for job leads -- you catch my drift -- send one copy to yourself, and list your myriad contacts in the "bcc" field.


Well, as is a good practice, put yourself in your reader's shoes. No one likes to get an email, open it, and then have to scroll for 2 pages past all the "to:" emails. Plus, the reader is also thinking, "Great, now all these people I don't know can contact me. I thought that's what facebook was for."

Now, once your friends pick up on this tip and start sending you clean emails, you have a responsibility as the recipient in the "bcc" field.

Do not hit "reply to all" if you're a "bcc." (You can tell you're a "bcc" if you look up at your name. It will say: "bcc: [Your Name/email].")

Why? Because the initial recipients aren't supposed to know you received this email. Secondly, mass "reply to all"s are annoying as fuck.

I once sent an email to a client of mine, recommending the services of my friend "Alex." I put "Alex" in the "bcc" field so he would know I was referring business to him. "Alex" then did a stupid thing and hit "reply to all" and addressed my client, asking for a sales meeting. Oh, I was pissed.

* I am genuinely surprised that a) typewriters are still manufactured, b) they are
expensive, and c) one model is actually on backorder and not due in until Halloween of this year. Yikes!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I imagine "Mad Men" had some good and bad manners

According to Nathan Bransford, apparently your blog doesn't even exist unless you mention "Mad Men."

Arguably a wonderful show. But losing cable last year has forced me to cease viewing, save for the scarce free-viewings available on the internet.

So I'll blog about what I know/recall about this show.

Women are treated like meat. Not good, not cool. Don Draper's a little better than dirtbag Pete Campbell, ah, except for how he disregards his wife. Scratch that last one.

I know, I know, it's "of the times," "it's how things were back then," "it's a cutthroat industry," blah, blah, blah.

But it doesn't mean I want to squeeze myself into a dress, don my foot-killing spike heels and parade around the office so men can make cruel comments behind my back.

What's an important aspect of etiquette? "Respect." That's right, class.

Watch "Mad Men" for entertainment value; not as a modern-day how-to.

Take just one, please

Last week I was at one of those suites-only hotels that provides free dinner, complete with milk and cookies in the evening.

In general, I love those places, except when the food is so awful I wouldn't leave it out for the rats. Happily, this was not one of those places. The food was, well, good.

Every night, the cookies would disappear about 5 minutes into dinnertime. One evening, I popped into the lobby to snag a cookie...and they were all gone.

Pasta? Plenty. Green salad? Oh, I could have all the salad I wanted. Cheap wine? Abundant. But the cookie jar? Empty.

And then I saw why. One woman sat solo at a table, eating her dinner, plate piled high with pasta and salad. And next to her was a second plate....with four chocolate-chip cookies on it.

Listen, rude-asses, the hotel puts that stuff out for everybody. And you may not have noticed, but they also do not replenish the good stuff -- like cookies.

Realize that you're not the only person staying at the hotel. Take just one, please.

This rule applies whenever you're grabbing freebies -- leave some for the others.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to get off an airplane

Kind of like how we're not taught how to blow our noses in public, I really don't recall anyone ever teaching us how to exit an airplane (or a bus or elevator for that matter.)

Let's apply a little common sense here, shall we? You know how when you get ON an airplane, not everyone can get on at the same time? That's why there's a BOARDING procedure.

Let's use an "Exit Procedure" shall we?

Once the plane lands, leave your seat belt on, stay seated, and wait until the seat belt sign is turned off. Only then may you unbuckle, stand up, and then rustle about for your belongings so you may get off the plane asfastasyoucan.

Here's the proper, most efficient way to exit the plane: one row at a time, front to back. Wait your turn, impatient assholes. If you're seated in the middle or aisle, that means the aisle person goes first, middle-seat person goes second, then the window-seat person goes third.

I really shouldn't have to tell anybody any of this, but unfortunately, witnessed by last week's travels, I do. Upon my arrival in San Jose, Grandma Jones, seated in the middle seat, quite literally crawled over me as I wrangled with my stowed laptop case overhead. All so she could get one step ahead of me, when I wasn't even out of my seat yet.

"Could you wait two seconds?" I muttered to her. Apparently not, even though her sprint-over-the 30-something gave her a 2 second advantage, she then had to wait in the gate for her handicapped husband.

As she waited, she called to every exiting passenger, "Herb! Herb!"

Really, you have to wait for your husband, and you have to jump over one passenger? I call this the height of rudeness!

What else I find amazing is the "I gotta get out first!" passengers who run up the aisle when the airplane doors aren't even open yet, block everyone else's way so they can't even gather their belongings, and just stand there, impatiently. They then push past everyone, only to get down to baggage claim where....their bags aren't even there for another 20 minutes.

Let's apply a little common sense and courtesy, people. If you have to go get bags, you're just as well off waiting on the plane, and waiting your turn.

The one exception to "wait your turn" are the folks who are desperately trying to make a connecting flight -- especially the last one of the evening -- and are delayed as it is. In those cases, I find that the crew is usually kind enough to make an announcement to ask the non-connectors to please let the frantically-hurried passengers bolt down the aisle first...and then please stand up, collect your belongings and exit in an orderly fashion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Forgive my day-lateness; etiquette buffs need a vacation, too!

Okay, here we go, good stuff I saw in the last week:

  • A woman on the airplane actually picking up her trash around her seat.
  • A young man holding a restaurant door open for two elderly, not-so-healthy folks. The elder gentleman walked with a cane; his female companion, lugging her oxygen tank, joked with the door-holder: "I need a prod for him" and made poking gestures.
  • A large family (6 of them? 10 of them?) bringing beer, sodas, chips, and watermelon to the hotel pool -- and cleaning up after themselves and throwing everything away.*
  • Matriarch of same family above offering snacks to everyone (ie, nearby strangers) at the pool.
  • Same family: all the adults teaching the children good manners in public, including: not running, saying "please," "excuse me," and "thank you."
Thank you, polite people! You make the world -- and traveling -- much nicer.

*I find this one so wonderful because, for whatever reason, the darling people who live in my neighborhood think it's okay to leave their trash curbside and hope that someone -- like my cash-strapped city -- will clean it up for them. The street looks nothing like the guest suite at the Hilton, at least to my eyes.

Monday, August 10, 2009


A recent Miss Manners column caught my eye, and made me realize most of us are not taught what to do when we need to sneeze in public.

Miss Manners says to carry a handkerchief (cloth) all the time, and sneeze into it.

I'm of the disposable age, so I'll say keep a Kleenex tucked inside your purse or pocket.

When with others, especially at the dinner table (or any meal, for that matter), do not do the following when you sneeze:

  • Just let it out and let germs and moisture fly every which way.
  • Pull your shirt away from you, tuck chin to chest, and sneeze into your clothing.
  • Sneeze into your hand, finish with an, "Ahhhh...." and then wipe your hand on your pants.
A sneeze into a kerchief or Kleenex is acceptable, as long as you are quick, quiet, and discreet. Need a moment to blow? Excuse yourself and head to the bathroom to clear your sinuses.

And then wash your germ-covered hands before returning to the table.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Is there a good-manners vibe rippling through the universe, or at least through the Midwest?I am most grateful!

For the second time inside a month, I went to a movie (8 p.m. on a Saturday, "Julie and Julia," every single seat taken) and -- gasp -- cell phone silence!

I was about 5 rows from the front of the screen, so I can't say with certainty that the movie was completely free of ignoramuses who texted or pressed a button on their phones, thus emitting 1,000 lumens to annoy their neighbors.

But it was a (mostly) quiet audience, and I enjoyed the movie without someone else's running commentary or verbal predictions.

And, apparently, I had an etiquette lover sitting to my right. My friend/date-for-the-evening was sitting to my left. At the start of the movie, my friend leaned over and made some comment to me, full-voice.

Guy to my right announces, full-voice: "If we could not talk during the movie, that would be great."

It was all I could do to not say to him, "HEY! That's my job!"

My friend was quiet and respectful for the duration of the movie.

Thanks, polite and quiet people. You make movies enjoyable, and the world a better place.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nothing on the internet is private

Oh, no, it's not.

Email never dies. Your potential employer can and will find your beer bong photos on Facebook or Myspace.

And real people have feelings.

One of the benefits/downsides (depending on your perspective) of Facebook is that every genius on it can share every single thought he/she has -- everything from "I'm hungry" to "Wondering why my neighbor feels it's okay to clomp around in high heels at 1 a.m. and wake me up????" *

Private thoughts are okay. In fact, they're good. Most of your FB friends do not care that you regret that cheeseburger with fudge that you ate last night. Also, your FB friends don't want to hear about your colonoscopy. And while they might not care about your dietary habits, they do have feelings.

So think twice before you post. If you're hosting a wedding (or some other massive social event) to which not everyone is invited, you might not want to post every detail every ten minutes.

And if you're about to bad-mouth someone? Skip it. Chances are one of their friends will see it. Even if you post on someone's wall (vs. posting a public comment), all of their friends can see the wall post.

Nothing on the internet is private. And there are people out there in the real world -- people with feelings -- reading this crap.

* Tip from Wired Magazine: Hunger and fatigue are never good facebook posts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dinner conversation

I suppose when one experiences good graces (lovely house guests) one must also encounter something in the universe to balance it out, right?

Enter the unpalatable dinner conversation.

In the last 72 hours, I've attended two dinner parties. Okay, they were both barbecues, but still -- let us not forget that when we are with a group of people who have food before them, then perhaps we should mind our manners and stick to non-offensive, easy-to-digest topics for the table.

In the last three days, I've heard the following discussed (or blathered about, depending on the speaker's drunkenness) over dinner:

  • Urination, defecation, vomiting, or faking retardation as a rape-avoidance technique.
  • The appearance (black) and size (large) of one's scrotum after a vasectomy.
  • Another guest's breasts -- and whether they would make an appearance at the table.
All three were tasteless; the first two were excellent appetite suppressants.

At a social gathering, unless you're hanging exclusively with your sorority sisters or frat brothers and you're all wasted, please remember the phrase polite company and make sure that you act, well, polite.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Those pesky handicapped people

I'm happy to say I had wonderful house guests. It was a great week.

Taking care of other people, though, makes you notice aspects about the real world that you may have overlooked before.

Like that most people, in public, are incredibly ignorant when they cross paths with an injured or handicapped person.

Here's the right thing to do: give a little courtesy to the disabled party. Perhaps hold a door open for him or her. No need to push past the handicapped person -- wait your turn.

During my visit with my guest-on-crutches, I saw people push past her in stores, and when she was struggling to get out of a car, an asshole female driver -- whom I had asked to please wait -- drove past my injured guest, nearly hitting her.

Guess what, morons? An additional two-to-thirty second wait is not going to kill you, and --gasp--you probably will still be on time wherever you're going.

The next time you see an injured, feeble, or handicapped person who's in your path, stop and think for a minute: What if this was my mother? My father? Brother? Sister? Wouldn't you want everyone else to be a little patient and courteous?

Yeah, me, too.

Related: Public transportation and giving up seats.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Good stuff I saw in the last week:

  • House guests who took their host out to dinner.
  • At said dinner, one set of parents with a stroller saw two parents burdened with a sleeping child and no stroller. "Would you like to borrow this?" stroller-parents said. They let the sleeping baby's parents borrow the stroller so they could eat dinner sans sleeping baby.
Thank you, nice parents!
You make the world a nicer place.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who's encouraging the assholes of tomorrow?

Verizon Wireless and Motorola, that's who.

These moronic companies currently have an ad running featuring teens. Each teen has a blurb of text over his or her image, telling how they text. The very first one?

"I text through the movie."

Okay, jerks -- and this includes you verizon and motorola -- cell phones and PDAs now have super-bright screens that emit a ton of lumens. Translation? Even if you hit one button to check the time during the film, you're bothering everyone within a 50-foot radius.

Cell phones - the lights, the noises, the rings, and you talking - are a DISTRACTION at any public theater venue. So if you go to see a movie, a quiet-ish concert, a play, the opera, the symphony -- shut the damn thing off.

Do you have kids? Please teach them to turn off their cell phones when out at social events. Also teach them when it is rude to use the phone -- and when it's time to put it away. Guess what? The world will keep spinning for an hour or two, and your friends won't die because they didn't get an immediate response from you.

Let's start demonstrating respect for others around us by not disturbing them -- least of all when they've just paid $20 admission and $15 for food for an enjoyable (not annoying) night out.

And the dumbest "teen" in this ad? "I text between the sheets." I hope to god they mean when he's beating off.

Read more on the dangers of texting here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finally, for house guests

The last rule for house guests is: Leave your host(s) alone. Go for a walk by yourself. Go visit the nearest large city without them. Run to the store solo and stock up on groceries for the household.

But do give your host a few minutes of peace.

Having someone else in your space for days is jarring to the soul and psyche. And with or without house guests, we all need a little decompression time.

So when someone's kind enough to put you up, leave them alone.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Good behavior witnessed this week:

  • Lots of "please"s and "thank yous."
  • Drivers not talking on their cell phones, letting others into traffic in one-lane construction zones.
  • An entire family reunion crowd waiting patiently and taking their turns at the buffet table.
  • Kids of all ages saying, "Nice to meet you," upon meeting someone for the first time.
Polite people, you make the world a nicer place.

Friday, July 24, 2009

If you're a houseguest

The big no-no of host gifts...see why below.

When staying at someone else's home, make sure you make an offering of gratitude -- and I don't mean a stupid post-it note on the fridge with the word "Thanks!" scrawled across it.

  • A gift is cheaper than a hotel. Show up with a hostess gift - even if you're only staying for one night. A bottle of wine, a bag of nice coffee beans, or sweets are nice -- anything that you think your host would appreciate.

  • Do not bring hostess soaps. Nobody likes those. And they stink to high heaven.

  • When visiting a home that includes small children, a little something for the little somethings is always nice.

  • Staying for a few days? Or a week? Buy your host(s) at least one meal, if not more.

  • Short on cash? Cook for your host(s) one night. Or morning. We loooove to be waited on.
The worst house guests I ever had stayed for two days, said, "We want to take you out for dinner!" then asked me for $30 when the bill came. Their act of gratitude? A stupid post-it note on the fridge with the word, "Thanks!" scrawled across it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

For houseguests and hosts

In honor of the fact that I'm about to have four house guests for seven days (yow!), I thought this might be a good time to post some dos and don'ts for those who host and those who stay.

Before the visit:

House guests...
  • Never invite yourself. Just because your buddy Dave lives in Hawaii doesn't mean he has room for, or necessarily wants, house guests. Wait to be invited. If you're not invited but you're dying to go to Hawaii (or any other locale where you have friends/relatives/acquaintances), buy a ticket and book a hotel room, or stay home, cheapskate.

  • Take care of your own special accommodations and accoutrements. If you're on a restrictive diet of enzyme-free yogurt and flax-infused chamomile enemas, don't demand your host stock up on these items, especially if they're hard to get. Same goes for special accommodations -- down-free pillows, lint-free sheets. When someone opens their home to you, this is not the time to be a diva.
  • Board Fluffy or hire a pet sitter. Don't put your host in the uncomfortable position of having to answer, "Can we bring Fido?" Assume the answer is "no." This is best for all involved.
  • Do have some food and snacks on hand for your guests. It is nice to ask beforehand what they prefer, or if they have any food allergies.

  • Whatever you stock up on, don't buy the cheap stuff. Never serve your guests something you wouldn't eat or drink.

  • Add some touches of comfort: Kleenex in every room, (non-pornographic) reading material near the sleeping quarters, and fresh, clean towels and washcloths are always welcoming. And "welcome" is what you want your guests to feel.
More on guests and hosts:

Never go empty-handed
Be nice to your host

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No touching part 2

If you missed the comments in last week's post, there's another type of stranger you are never allowed to touch: pregnant women.

Would you walk up to a random guy in public and touch his crotch? (I'm asking everyone except the drunken sorority girls and bachelorette parties.) How about a skinny woman and touch her belly, boobs, or ass? Not acceptable, right?

Putting your hands on a pregnant woman's belly (doubly offensive if she's not pregnant and you think she is) is never okay.

And here are the bullshit responses I've heard:

1. "But there's a baby in there!"

So? Why not go to the maternity ward at your local hospital and press your face and hands up against the nursery glass. There's babies in there! That won't make you look like a psycho.

2. "You know, in some cultures, it's considered good luck to rub a pregnant woman's belly."

Yeah, well, this is America and that one somehow never made it into our culture. We have this thing called personal space, and we'll thank y'all to respect it. If you need to find a belly to rub for luck, go to your nearest funky home furnishings store, buy a statue of Buddha, and rub away.

Even with pregnant friends and relatives, ask first before touching.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On movie theaters and public transport

1) Why have movie theaters stopped showing those little "turn off your cell phone" promos before the movie? I think cingular used to sponsor them, and cingular no longer exists, so neither do the promos.

If you go to a movie, turn off your fucking cell phone, iphone, sidekick or whatever. It's rude to text or talk on your phone during the movie, no matter how quick you are. You're disturbing others in the audience.*

2) Will someone under 30 please tell Generation Y that when you see an old, feeble person get on the bus or train, the right thing to do is give up your seat to the old person? Ditto if it's a pregnant woman.

Note: if you are disabled, pregnant, or dealing with some injury, you don't have to give up your seat. But if you're healthy, and someone needs it more than you do, do them a kindness and give up your seat.

Besides, standing is healthier for your spine.

* today's inspiration: yesterday, 4:00 pm showing of "(500) Days of Summer" at the Landmark Century Theater. Some moron in my row answered his phone (on vibrate, so he got one thing right) during the movie to tell the person, "I'm in a movie I'll call you back."

Hey, rude-ass! Your cell phone has this thing called "voice mail" on it. You know what it's for? So the caller can leave a message and when you're free you can call them back. Nifty invention, huh?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mad props to the polite

At Trader Joe's this week, two young girls (about ages 10 and 8, I'd say) walked up to the freebie-snack treasure chest at the front of the store and asked permission first before they took said freebies.

Yes! A child asking politely! Yes! Yes! (fist pump into air) I love these kids and I love the parents who are teaching them good manners!

You rule, polite parents!

Friday, July 17, 2009

No touching

It amazes me how many people think it's okay to touch strangers in public. It's not. It's rude, offensive, and a violation of one's personal space.

I've been pushed in a bank line and chummily grabbed by the shoulders in a buffet line. The second offender got an earful from me.

The other "no touching" rule that I urge all to follow is: Don't Touch Random Babies Whom You Don't Know.

I know people who do this all the time -- we're out at the mall, and up behind us steps a parent with an infant -- and my friend is cooing and drooling -- and then they have to grab the baby's hand, or touch the baby on the face. Yes, babies are beyond adorable. But it's not your adorable kid to touch.

Newsflash: That parent or nanny has no idea where your hands have been, and that child is more than likely going to pick up your germs.

This no-touching rule extends to the workplace: even if you know someone, even if you're "friendly" with them, no inappropriate touching at work. I realize there are some business cultures where a hug is okay between colleagues -- but make sure you know that a hug is okay before reaching out to touch someone.

I'll never forget the first time a business colleague (female) hugged me after a meeting -- I was flabbergasted. I was taught you don't hug at work, and I was thrown. Now, I have a few colleagues whom I do hug, but we've also been working together for eight years, and we only hug hello or good-bye if we're out, like at a lunch. Never in front of clients.

And please, never ever ever do this at work.

Have a great weekend, readers...and stay polite!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to dress

It sounds silly, doesn't it? Your mommy doesn't dress you anymore, right? Perhaps more mommies should still dress their adult or near-adult offspring.

Think about where you are going first. Think about whom you might see -- especially if this is a business situation, or even a social situation where you might see a potential business contact. Dress appropriately for the occasion. If you're not sure what's best -- black tie or Juicy Couture sweats? -- ask somebody.

Grievous sartorial offenses I've observed multiple times:

  • Real estate agents wearing jeans, yoga stretch pants, or raggy shorts while
    showing a property.*
  • Denim-clad women attending non-casual cocktail parties.
  • Hoochie-mama attire in the workplace.
  • Chest hair displayed in the workplace.
One of the greatest lessons imparted to me came from actor and teacher John Howard Swain. He demonstrated that you show respect for your audience, respect for yourself, and respect for the work by how you dress.

So what does your attire say about you? "Eff you"? or "I like myself"?

*This describes, sadly, about 99.9% of the real estate agents in Chicago. Who told these morons it's okay to look like you're picking up groceries, and you just happened to swing by to maybe make a buck? Show a little respect, lazy asses.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More netiquette

"Netiquette" (Internet + Etiquette) isn't just for's for -- duh! -- the internet.

When posting in chatrooms, forums, message boards, any where on line:

  • Keep it clean.

  • Even if you feel like swearing (yes, I know I likes my cusses, but it's my blog, dammit.), don't find some creative way to hide your swear in another word or with funky spacing. Your post will likely get deleted or blocked anyway.

  • Resist the urge to flame other posters. Would you say that to the poster's face if he/she were right in front of you? Yeah, I didn't think so. (If you just said "Yes I would," then I dare you to go walk over to a coworker right now, and say something nasty ("Hey genius! Nice comment!") with a sarcastic, snarky tone. See what happens.)

  • Don't ramble. No one likes a rambler -- in an email, on a voice mail, or in a post.

  • Don't bore the rest of the world by describing your word verification and what you thought of it. Yes, it's effing hilarious that your WV on today's Cakewrecks was "putrefied" and that's what you thought of the photo. The rest of us don't care.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wisdom from my pedicurist

"I don't interrupt people when they're talking. That's rude."

Rock on, Hannah.

Monday, July 13, 2009


"Netiquette" is etiquette for the internet; usually applied to email. Today we're doing email.

Lesson 1: Write appropriately, and punctuate appropriately, especially if this is business communication.

Translation: when communicating at work, you're at work, not in junior high, and your message should read as such.

Good ideas, so you don't piss off your reader or your boss:

  • Avoid using emoticons (the "smiley" or "frowny" faces). It's just not professional.

  • Punctuation????? Less is more!!! Even if you ARE really excited??? You only need one exclamation point! Asking a question? One question mark. Ending a sentence? One period. Period.

  • AVOID USING ALL CAPS. All caps means you are SHOUTING, and, yes, it's considered RUDE.

  • Re-read every email you are about to send, yes, even the two-word email that says: "thank you." You don't want it to go out saying "thank yo."

  • Re-read every email you are about to send.

  • Use sepll chcek evry tme.

  • No, txt abbrs r nt ok. Type out words fully, even if you are emailing from a handheld. This isn't eighth grade, remember?

  • Never forget that this is business communication, no matter where your email originates from. Translation: no, you can't let typos go just because you're on a handheld.

Little things mean a lot, especially in the workplace. Take it from someone who works with VPs and CEOs all the time -- your constant email foibles will keep you from being promoted.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Examiner.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mad props to the polite

This week's mad props go to...

  • The couple who brought wine to a dinner party and presented it to the host.
  • The host who then asked, "Would you like me to open this now?"* (guest politely declined)
  • The guests who offered to help clear place settings after dinner.*
* The last two are optional -- nice things to do, but you don't hafta.

I've been argued against by wine snobs who tell me, "If the host has planned a dinner party with a wine that complements the food, then the host shouldn't open the new wine."

Yeah, "whatevs" as the kids are saying. Despite living in Northern California for five years, my wine snobbery extends to "If it tastes good, and you like it, drink it." Only wine-drinking rule in my house is the ban on two-buck Chuck.

Mad props to you, polite people! You make the world a better place!

Friday, July 10, 2009

If you're hosting a shower...

...for a bride or a mother-to-be, please print out this list of no-nos and make sure you don't commit any of these offenses.

  • NO, you may not blatantly ask for specific gifts. Not even if you write a cutesy poem, not even if you have a "good" reason (whine: "but I already have everything I neeeeed...").

  • NO, you may not ask for cash. Ever. Again, regardless of what you think, it's never a good idea. It's offensive. (Good graces = "it's not all about you.")

  • NO, you may not dictate what gifts guests may or may not bring. (Look up the definition of "gift" rude-ass.) EB once got a baby shower invite with the words: "Do not give clothes." Your rude-ass can return it after the shower.

  • NO, you may not ask guests to address their own thank-you notes before they leave. (Taaaackyyyy!) (Ruuuuude!)

  • NO, you may not ask attendees to bring refreshments as well as gifts.
The point of a shower is to "shower the recipient with gifts." People know this.

Yes, you can have a gift registry, but know that registries are guidelines and the guests are not obligated to buy solely off the registry. Enclose registry information on a separate piece of paper or card inside the invite. Let your guests buy what they will; exchange what you don't like or need, or sell it on Ebay. Or give it to a more-appreciative friend.

And if you're attending a shower...

  • NO, you can't show up empty-handed. Taaaacckyyy!
    "Shower" = "Bring a gift. Some kind of gift. A bottle of Three-Buck-Chuck, for fuck's sake."

  • NO, you can't show up drunk, or proceed to get drunk at the shower. Show a little grace.

  • NO, you can't hide in the bathroom texting your best friend about how much you hate showers. Send a gift, don't attend if that's the case.

Got a shower horror story? Email me at etiquetteb [at] gmail [dot] com and share, please!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bk 2 wrk - txtng @ dsk = bad

Yes, I know, you're just sending a quick message to T-Bone. And Sherri needs to know what color nail polish you're wearing to the cocktail party on Friday. Such matters are pressing, and the world will stop spinning if you don't respond within 30 seconds.

But employees of the world, put down those cell phones/Crackberries/Treos -- whatever you're texting on -- between 9 and 5 (or whatever your work hours are. This includes you, Walgreen's cashiers and Jewel Deli Workers).

My good friend Manager X related his story of the week: "I had to talk to two of my employees about their texting at work -- because whenever I passed their desks -- and I mean every time -- there they were--" [makes gesture of head bent over a crackberry, typing away with thumbs.]

"How'd they take it?" I asked.

"One was polite, and promised it won't happen again. The other said, 'But I-- It was just this once!!' and I reminded him that, no, it wasn't 'just this once.' He was upset, but I need him to do his job--not talk to his friends all day."

You're being paid to work, think, and solve problems. During the workday, your personal communication device needs to be stashed away. Text on your personal time -- at lunch, or if you step outside for a break. I promise you that T-Bone and Sherri can wait to hear from you, and the world will keep spinning.

Oh, and outside of work? No texting while driving, either. It's dangerous, and you're holding up the 3,000 people behind you. I've seen it.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Chicago Examiner.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer etiquette, part 3

If you're at the beach, and you play a game with a buddy (frisbee, volleyball without a net, that ping-pongy type game with paddles and a ball), make sure you're far, far away from other beach patrons.

Beach blanket dwellers everywhere thank you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mad props to the polite

I don't know what it was about this holiday weekend, but I do have a theory that all the Rude Asses were sequestered at the fireworks or out of town for the weekend.

Excellent, lovely, wonderful, puts-a-smile-on-my-face good manners I saw this weekend:

  • Not one person talked, ate noisy food, texted or took or made a phone call at the 7:30 showing of "Away We Go." Best movie audience ever!*

  • Thirty-something guy walks into cafe. His cell phone rings. He turns, walks out, and takes the call outside!!!! (Thank you, nice patron at Coffee Studio!)

  • Obviously-exhausted mom takes her fussing, freaking-out toddler out of Panera when he can't stop crying at the table. She led him into the foyer to cry it out before they went back in. I smiled at her on my way out. Thank you, polite mom!
Y'all make society a nicer place to be. I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!

*The movie was also superb. You must go see it. Funny and touching.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer etiquette, part 2

As we head into this lovely holiday weekend, let's remember our manners. That means being aware of, and courteous to, those around you.

If you head to the beach, at any time this summer, please:

  • Keep your voice down on your cell phone. Voices carry in open air.
    In fact, turn it off or leave the damn thing at home. We're at the beach. Most of us rarely get sun, water, and sand -- just sit back and enjoy it.

  • Teach your kids (and yourself) to be mindful of where others are sitting, and walk a good six inches or more away from others' blankets and towels. Nothing chafes my butt like the sun or some kid who steps right next to me and kicks up sand into my bikini bottom. A simple footstep -- or deliberate kicking -- will do this.

  • Keep your music turned down, too. I know we all have iPods to shut out the world, but if someone else can hear your music from your earbuds, it's too loud. Turn it down, yes, even if it is your iPod.
What's the thing to remember, class? "Respect." Yes.

Now go have a nice holiday weekend.

On the phone at the office

Some simple guidelines for using your phone at the office - whether it's the office phone or your cell phone.

Just because you've been around one your whole life doesn't mean you know how to use it properly (ie, not annoy anyone).

When taking calls at work...

  • Keep your voice to a respectable level. Not whisper-quiet, but not so loud that we hear you gabbing about Pinella's latest trade 2 cubes over.

  • Keep your cell phone on "vibrate" or on the "soft" setting. No one likes to be hard at work only to be startled by a tinny rendition of "In Da Club."

  • Limit the personal calls. You're on company time, not your own.

  • If you do need to take an involved, personal call on your cell, step into a private area like a conference room. Your co-workers don't need to hear you fighting with your teenage daughter or about your prostate results.
Key word: respect. Have respect for those around you, and for the fact that this is a workplace. I shudder when I recall some of the gruesome, TMI conversations I've overheard at work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Just hangin' out

One of the most grievous offenses in the office is the impromptu meeting that somehow takes place at the admin's desk...and doesn't include, involve, or interest the admin.

(I say "admin" because that seems to be whom these offenses tend to fall upon, but really, this example could be anyone at a desk, in a cubicle farm.)

Here's how it usually goes: Workers A, B, and C somehow find themselves together in a cubicle aisle, realize they need to discuss the all-important TPS Reports, and congregate wherever they happen to be -- which is usually beside or in front of another co-worker's desk. Then they yap for 30 minutes about the cover sheets on the TPS Reports.

Guess what--this disturbs the Desk Dweller (and probably others around her) who need to get work done!

Now, the simple etiquette lesson says that Desk Dweller, who has committed no rudeness of her own, should say, "Excuse me, I need to get some work done. Would you mind taking the conversation elsewhere?"

And it sounds good on paper, but let's add a few real-life factors into the scenario:

Worker A is her boss.
Worker B is her boss's boss.
Worker C is the VP above both of them.

Desk Dweller has been holding her breath for a promotion for the last month, and doesn't want to piss any of them off. She also works in a button-down company where speaking up for yourself will delay that next promotion by a good two years or more.

So, hardly an ideal scenario. The snarky side of me wants to say that Desk Dweller should then get on an imaginary phone call and begin to discuss imaginary rectal exam results with her imaginary doctor.

Best solution: Don't have cubicleside meetings. Yes, I know your company is pressed for space and no one can get a conference room. Grab someone's empty office. Go down to the coffee room. See (actually try and see) if a conference room is free for 10 minutes, and go gab. Go to the cafeteria. Take off and hit Starbucks.

But please let the poor admin and her brethren get some work done.

Remember: a key to good etiquette is to think of others around you. When you demonstrate respect for others, you're demonstrating respect for yourself.

Now get back to work. And finish those TPS reports!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Now onto business...

My head's been stuck around weddings and things we see out and about everyday.

Ah, but most of us still need to go to work five days a week. Or more, given the current economy. So let's talk about how to comport ourselves in the office, shall we?

Notice that there are others around you -- and what you do and say more than likely affects them (just as their actions do you).

Cubicle farms are places where, if anything, etiquette and good manners need to play a starring role more so. Oh, sure, I can forgive the twit who didn't show at my wedding, but the guy who clips his fingernails five feet away from me? Never.

In the office, think about what you're doing and how it may be perceived -- even if you don't agree with the perception.

Offenses against common decency I've witnessed:

  • Nail clipping in the office (not the restroom, the office)
  • Smelly food cooked and eaten at the desk
  • Loud personal conversations - in person or on the phone
  • Conversations held while hanging around someone's desk -- someone who is trying to work
I'll expand on these and other acts of rudeness as the week progresses. Any workplace rudeness you've witnessed that you want to get of your chest? Tell me in the comments.

Until next time, eat your smelly food in the lunch room.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mad props to the polite

I absolutely love Menards. As you wander the aisles with that "I have no idea what an aerator is" look on your face, a Menards Associate will usually approach you and offer help.

Assistance is offered up in a friendly manner. If the approacher isn't the person to help you, s/he will walk you over to the expert in the appropriate department. How I wish everyone in real life and corporate America operated this way.

And I gotta say, their associates are so knowledgeable. (Nice change from some of my other shopping experiences.) I actually saw a cheapskate customer trying to talk the plumbing expert down on a kit he needed. She told him where he could buy his parts cheaper, and even gave him directions to the cheaper store. (It was almost comical to watch. You're at flippin Menards -- you're not going to get much cheaper.)

Thank you, Menards folks, who helped me find my sink adapters and paint pads!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Leave the engaged couple alone

More wedding-ish etiquette.

Sigh. It's unfortunate that rude comments and imposed-expectations don't go away once the reception is over. I think I dodged a lot of impolite bullets by eloping. My engaged friends -- who aren't even married yet -- are informing me of the further rude and too-personal comments they're receiving:

  • "When are you two having kids?" (None of your business.)


  • "You'd better get going right away with a baby -- you're no spring chicken, you know" (Variations on this one: "Your eggs will dry up.")
Let's assume that the questioner is well-intentioned and either genuinely curious, trying to be helpful, or really has nothing more creative to say. The best you, the listener, can do is to rise above it, smile, be evasive ("Hmm, that's on a need to know basis. I'll let you know when you need to know...") then change the subject. ("How about that Crosstown Classic? Wild, huh?")

When someone is impolite, don't go there with him or her.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer etiquette

As I sat and tried to enjoy the festivities at last night's free music show, it occurred to me that summer has its own strain of etiquette, especially for those outdoor activities that involve more than one person.

Some "dos" that apply when you're out enjoying the warm weather:

  • Throw out your own damn garbage. Don't strew it every which way and expect the city (or passersby) to pick it up. Probably a good idea to take a used plastic grocery bag with you, and collect your own detritus.
  • Are you in a public place where others are present? Then please remember that it's not all about you. Keep your voice down; remove obstructive hats; bathe before leaving the house; use deodorant.

  • Follow the rules. Even though it's a public place, chances are if you're in a major city, there's some rule like "No Smoking in This Public Place." Don't try to sneak a ciggy; moreover, don't get pissed off at the security guard who does his job and asks you to stop.
The best thing you can bear in mind when out and about is that we're all in this together. Let's make it pleasant for everyone.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mad props to the polite

Happy Father's Day to Dads everywhere -- especially those who are man enough to take on the role of being a dad (not just a sperm donor).

Okay, on with the goods. Lovely behavior I witnessed this weekend:

  • Kids of all ages saying "please" and "thank you."
  • People wiping off their mats and equipment at the gym.
  • Gentlemen allowing ladies to exit first from the elevator.
Mad props to all you wonderful, polite people!

Friday, June 19, 2009

There's someone out there in cyberspace

It blows my mind that when we communicate electronically -- via email, twitter, facebook, comment boards, whatever -- we always forget that our words have impact and there's a flippin' person on the other end.

Respect, decency, kindness and manners all seem to go out the window when we type away. Sure, the computer is a great place to vent your frustrations. But who has to listen, and who's being impacted (and probably hurt) by your words?

Today the Chicago Tribune posted that Walter Cronkite is in ill health and likely near death. The comment boards brought out the worst in people. The comments ranged from "I thought he was already dead," to "What a liberal commie. He started the liberal bias in media."

Okay, now think for a minute if your grandma or grandpa [or insert loving relative here] were dying and anonymous people said this about your loved one. Hurts, don't it?

And never forget: Do not (ever!) post or email in anger! The most mean-spirited email I ever got contained the two gems below:

"[You are] not a priority for me as I am 9 months pregnant and I don't need the aggravation of you demanding answers or being aggravated at all. It just goes to show how self centered you are and have no regard for anyone that lives a different life than you."


"your wedding was not pleasant on any level."


Now, trust me, EB considered the source, who, quite honestly, I can't say anything good about. But know that someone is on the receiving end. In the digital age, we tend to forget that there's a person out there reading our words.

Write -- stop -- re-read and then ask yourself: is this really worth sending? Who will it impact, and how?

Look forward to seeing you Sunday with some mad props. A polite email, perhaps?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Splitting the check and tipping

A reader writes:

My wife and I enjoy eating out. Once a week or so we hit a nice "sit-down" restaurant where a fine hard-working server tends to our every need. Sometimes we engage in our favorite activity with friends.

In your opinion, what's the best way to handle tips for a party of four or more? I've heard some say never to ask for separate checks, but to split the entire bill, tips and all, on a 50/50 basis. Some, like myself, say pay for what you get. As neither my wife nor I are alcohol drinkers, our check is always substantially lower than the other party. Additionally, we are both generous tippers and do not want the double deduction of paying extra for what we didn't consume and possibly covering the difference from others who are cheap-skate tippers.
So where do you weigh in on the great group-tipping debate?

Sincerely, C.

Ah, how to split the check when it's a group outing. This is one of those fuzzy areas that is constantly under debate.

In a perfect world, everyone would pay their fair share and no one would ever be shorted a penny. But it rarely works out that way.

There's nothing wrong with asking for separate checks, as long as the restaurant doesn't have some pain-in-the-ass policy against it. You could preface your request with something like, "Just so this is easier, could we have separate checks please?"

Or, when the bill for all four comes, you could say, at payment time, "Pass it here, let me see what Suzie and I owe. Why don't we all just pay what we owe?" I do this with friends some of the time, and they nod in agreement. I've never had someone say, "No! We must split it!"

Other times, when there's four of us (or more), we just say, "Let's split this." I honestly don't mind paying a little more when the bill is somewhat balanced. When it's majorly out of whack I'll speak up and say, "But I didn't have any of those lovely top-shelf margaritas." (I was asked to pay $40 at a group birthday dinner. My intake? A single $3 burrito.)

The argument goes that "it all comes out in the wash"--an argument I'm inclined to disagree with, because, just like in your example, what if you don't drink, but Tommy and Sally are sucking down the $13 Appletinis like air?

Here's my solution: Lay out expectations at the start (if you're comfortable enough), or ask to pay for just your share (plus tax and tip) at the end.

And if what you pay is consistently, egregiously off-balance? You don't dine out with those friends again. Trust me, Ms. $40-For-Her-Margaritas hasn't seen me outside of a cocktail party in seven years.

On a side note -- thank you for kindly and generously tipping your servers. One way to also ensure that the server is tipped fairly is to look at the bill, and announce, "Okay, it's $60, so let's say $72 total..." and allow the now-calculated-tip to be part of the calculations.

Got an etiquette question of your own? Ask me! Email etiquetteb [at] gmail -dot- com

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is it really an "invite" if your guests have to pay?

One thing that always chafes my hide is when I get an invitation to something fun-sounding, then open it only to find that I have to pay to attend the fun-sounding thing.

The use of web-based invitations to invite people to pay-for-it events seems hardly offensive -- I mean, after all, we get event invites (via email or snail mail) that require us to pay, right? The Benefit Viewing Party of "Borat," or the Benefit Concert for Epileptic Dogs.

I think it's the way these events announce themselves that make the difference. When I see an email with the subject line "You're invited!" I automatically think "party!" not, "something I have to pay for!"

And, web-based invite programs do offer a "pay with paypal" option. These free programs have to monetize somehow, and I get that. So does that kill off the impolite factor? I don't think so.

I'm sort of on the fence. I looked back to pay-event invitations that didn't offend me, and they were worded better (e.g. - "Join us for a lecture and lunch") -- and I think that's what I'm looking for - more "truth in advertising." "Join us" doesn't imply that you're being invited gratis; you read on and have the option to pay and go, or not go.

The way I was raised, when you invited someone to something, that meant s/he was to be your guest.

What say ye, my amazing readers?

Mad props to the polite

So, it occurred to me that maybe instead of just bitching all the time, I need to give some shout-outs to the well-mannered in our society.

Good manners I saw this weekend:

  • A teenage boy who insisted I enter before him as he held the (automatic) door. Very sweet.
  • A parent who was actually calming his wailing child at Trader Joe's.
  • A parent who fed his daughter from the samples table at Trader Joe's, rather than opening up a bag of unpaid-for food and eating it right there in the store.
Cheers to the well-mannered everywhere! We love you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mind your manners on the plane

With summer travel coming up, it's imperative to remember that just because you're hopping on an airplane does not absolve you from responsibility...and good manners. Special thanks to Patti S. who shared this wonderful article with me. Enjoy!

From Yahoo! Travel:

7 Ways to Annoy a Flight Attendant

Our anonymous flight attendant has worked for a well-known commercial airline for 12 years. She dishes on what irritates her most in passenger behavior.

1. Bring your pet on the plane and then act like an animal.

Over the years, I've seen a pet on a passenger's lap, a pet tucked into a seatback pocket, and a pet loose in the aisle (I nearly hit one with my beverage cart). All of this is against federal regulations. People tell me how well-behaved their pet is, but they can't follow the rules themselves! Your pet must stay in its carrier while you're on the plane. Yes, even if you've paid a "pet-in-cabin" fee.

2. Shove your bag into the first bin you see and then walk to your seat in the back of the plane.

You think you're clever, I know. You expect to grab your bag on your way out of the plane, but you're selfishly inconveniencing others. I can't lie and say we flight attendants don't take some small satisfaction when we tell you, "We couldn't identify the bag's owner, so we sent it to cargo." It's a security issue, for real. Carry-ons need to stay near their owners! So don't look so shocked when we say, "The signs will direct you to baggage claim. You can pick up your bag there."

Continue reading here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Extra, extra! Get your EB updates by email!

Yay! The Luddite factor continues to decrease for EB. You can now subscribe to EB via email. Mad props to FeedBurner!

Follow me on Blogger, or enter your email on the right to get an email whenever I find some new impoliteness to carp about.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aren't we getting just a little too sensitive?

Okay, I'll admit I'm the first to rise up on my haunches when I suffer an injustice in public (like that twitty, rude 11-year old who cut in front of me at my gym last week). But when a stranger offers a pleasantry (so rare these days), why not just smile and accept it, even if it doesn't make sense to you?

I love hearing "Merry Christmas" in December (or hell, any time of year). I bristle inside, but still like hearing, "Happy Holidays." (It tells me said person has been instructed in the evil ways of PC.) Around Xmas one year, I recall reading an advice column in which the letter writer bitched about the glut of displays at Christmastime. She was Jewish, and she hated seeing Christmas Trees, Decorations, and "Merry Christmas" signs at the mall. She thought there should be equal Hanukkah swag. Thinking she may have had a point, I asked my friend Don (who happens to be Jewish) what he thought.

"This is a mostly Christian nation. Get over it," was his take.

I couldn't agree more.

We just had Mother's Day. In 11 days, we stumble upon Father's Day. And, of course, the advice columns are rife with letters such as:
  • "My mom died last year! I'm still grieving! How dare the bag boy wish me Happy Mother's Day!"
  • "My son's father is a bum! How dare the cashier tell us 'Have a nice Father's Day tomorrow!'"
Okay, first of all, how is a stranger supposed to know what private hell you are enduring?

They're not. More complaining like this, and pretty soon all small businesses and corporate entities, fearful of lawsuits, will instruct all employees not to say anything ever, and then any semblance of kind wishes will go away. It's bad enough that my Walgreen's cashier is usually eating potato chips and talking on her cell phone while barely managing to scan my items (then gives me the evil eye when I tell her she still owes me $1 in change).

I get "Have a nice Mother's Day!" when I go shopping on the 3rd (or is it 2nd?) Sunday in May. I'm not a mom -- but I enjoy the niceness, so I just smile and say, "Thanks, you too!" regardless of the nice person's gender.

I have a cousin, who, like me, is child-free. We'll usually call each other on these holidays that don't apply to us (Mother's and Father's Day) and wish each other a Happy Whatever, then we have a laugh.

Also, when you think about it, the person who is offended is feeling so because s/he (and I hate to say it, but it usually is a "she") has chosen to attach meaning and emotion to a stranger's words. Words that are, essentially, meaningless. They're on par with "Have a nice day."

Deepak Chopra writes about how we can choose to feel as a result of someone's words. If someone says something to us, it's really our choice to feel offended. We can equally choose to ignore it.

If you choose to be offended, though, I suppose it's also your choice to email as many advice columnists as you choose, and bitch about how you were wronged by someone who doesn't even know you.

Monday, June 8, 2009

More on weddings -- what about all those parties before the wedding?

Q: Who should be invited to a shower or bachelor/bachelorette party?

A: A sampling of people who are invited to the wedding.

Not those who are on your "B" list, not those whom you don't want at the wedding - but you want their money and gifts.

Your showers and pre-parties are not a gift-grab (well, okay, showers technically are). To invite someone to a shower or stag/hen party, and then not include them on the big day, well, that's just impolite.

I will allow for one minor exception: when a celebration is thrown for you by someone else, and is either without your knowledge, or it's understood that this is a context in which it's okay for you to not invite them to the wedding. Example: the girls at the office throw you a luncheon shower, but it's already been made clear that you and your intended are having a small, family-only ceremony. Or your mom threw you a shower (ahem) and invited distant family friends whom you hardly know. (ahem.)
(Variations on this theme are welcome.)

But to expect others to throw you a bachelor/bachelorette party and then exclude them? Rude and unacceptable.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When someone you know is getting married...'s possible that you're not invited. Live with it.

Ah, one of the hallmarks of a wedding is that everyone who is not the bride or groom thinks it's about them. I remember when I got engaged and told my next-door neighbors (loud, obnoxious people whom I did not like), they responded with, "Make sure you invite us!"

Um, no.

If you know someone is about to say "I do," wish them well, and then be quiet. You need say nothing more.

Yes, weddings are fun. Or can be, you know, depending. Yes, there's food, booze, and dancing.

But you may not be invited for a host of reasons -- none of which you should take personally.

Speaking as someone who paid cash for her own (scaled-back) wedding, the nuptials and festivities are darn expensive. (Yes, even the scaled back ones.) The bride and groom may have budgetary concerns. They may have family issues putting a squeeze on their invites, e.g., Mom said you had to invite Aunt Greta and Uncle Karl and their 10 children, which put the couple over the limit on guests. They may just want to keep it small (ahem) because the thought of greeting 300 people in an evening is just too much, and they want to enjoy their own wedding.

I could go on and on. Perhaps you have bad breath, or the bride's BFF can't stand being around you ever since you called her 30 times in one day after that bad coffee date.

No matter what, the wedding isn't about you, and who the groom and bride invite is none of your business.

And please don't create an uncomfortable situation by asking, "When's my invitation showing up?" or threatening to show at the reception, sans invite.

Special thanks to N. for the inspiration. Best wishes to you!