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!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Keep the personal questions to yourself, rude-o

A reader writes:

I went to a barbecue with my husband's family over the weekend. My husband's grandma asked us when WE would be having kids. We told her in the cutest way possible that the answer was never, if we could at all help it. She made a face and some sort of dismissive noise, and conversation moved on. She came back at me three more times with the same question, each time more and more unhappy at the answer she received. She informed me that I was being selfish, and that God would hate me for not having children.

Is it just me, or should people just butt the hell out of a personal decision like whether or not my husband and I choose to spawn?

There are so many ways the question, "When are you two having kids," could go wrong.

Ultimately, the choice to have or not have children is a deeply personal one that I believe should remain between a husband and wife. But, what if we make that leap to presume that it WAS Grandma's business? What gives her the right to tell us that we're horrible people because we're not making the same life choices she made?

Our reasons for not having children are numerous and very well thought out. Should we have to defend them over and over?

- A Reader

Dear Reader:

Short answer to your last question: No.

People everywhere, let's get this straight: asking about children, born, unborn or imagined in your head, is effing rude. No matter what -- whether the person is single, married, Mormon -- it's none of your business.

The wisdom here lies in the writer's third paragraph:

There are so many ways the question, "When are you two having kids?" could go wrong.

Yes, yes, yes. And this is so true for everyone -- those who want kids and those who don't.

  • -Maybe the couple can't have children due to some emotionally-painful medical reason.
  • -Maybe they are trying, and that's causing them distress.
  • -Maybe they've chosen not to reproduce
Either way, what they do with their reproductive organs is none of your business. Ever. Even if you think someone is pregnant and want to bring it up, don't.

Women who are newly pregnant don't talk about it for a variety of reasons, all which make sense: It's a medically sensitive time, they may not carry to term, they may not want it. No guessing games, stupid people.

Whether someone wants to reproduce or not is a personal decision. Please respect that, and keep your mouth shut.

Now, for those of you who get asked intrusive questions, here's some responses. Practice, practice, practice:

  • -"Hmm, that's an interesting question. Why do you ask?" Then shut up and say nothing -- no matter what kind of clever "I want to know" answer they give you.

  • -"Mmm...I'm sorry, that info is on a need-to-know basis." Tell them you'll let them know if they "need to know."

  • -"Oh, we're still in our honeymoon phase!"*

  • -"That's a rather personal question, don't you think?" (Then be quiet. Don't justify.)

  • -"It's just not in the cards right now."
Readers, you never have to justify your life choices to anyone. Use a little polite deflection, be quiet, and don't offer up any more information. Then smile and change the subject.

*This one was shared by my 50-something friend who's been married for 25 years. Whenever she's asked, "Do you have children?" She always answers, "Oh, we're still in our honeymoon phase!" Thinking she married late, the questioner will always say, "Oh, when did you get married?" and she revels as she answers, "Twenty-five years ago!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

When traveling by air...

Hello readers!

EB is back from a week out East. She's returned sunburned and refreshed, and full of stuff to bitch about.

Some no-nos I saw while traveling:

  • Bitching and/or making a scene on the plane.

    While seated before take-off, an oh-so-important businessman (in coach) was talking loudly on his phone (of course, my favorite) but then carping loudly about how hot the plane was. "I know we're all trying to cut back and save money, but Jeezus Christ this is ridiculous!" he boomed. He then halted a passing flight attendant, "Hey, could you turn on the air please?"

    Bless her, she explained in a quiet voice why she could not.

  • Not wearing underwear. (This is a no-no no matter where you are: sea, plane, land.)

    The offender in question was a young male seated a few rows ahead of me at a jazz show. He was wearing jeans. He bent over to tie his shoe, and, oh my. I may have been on the East Coast, but I was viewing the Southern Hemisphere.

    I so did not want to see that. People -- male and female, young and old -- please cover up.

  • Talking loudly at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.

    When at the airport, especially if it's before noon on a Sunday, and you have to yap on your cell phone, please keep your voice low. It's not 1996 anymore, and one no longer needs to shout into one's cell phone in order to be heard.

    Please just consider the others around you for a moment -- do they really care that you took Billy to the beach? Or that you're having that cyst tested on Wednesday? Or that you're going to ask for a silk wrap at your nail appointment? Answer: no. Also, most of us are not awake yet, and your incessant chatter is annoying. Lower your voice and let us finish our coffee. We thank you.