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!"