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!