Archive for the ‘Manners’ Category

Service of the New Manners

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Change is an easy topic to cover as it happens whether or not we want it to. I like to feel the pulse of manners every once in a while.

Kindness of Strangers Never Gets Old

There’s a construction site I pass almost daily. The configuration of the pedestrian walkway just changed. A young man was helping an ancient woman with walker and failing eyesight down a gentle slope of wood [photo below] to ease the transition from sidewalk to street level. He then nudged her off in the right direction. He was so caring I thought they were together but soon he continued in the opposite direction—where I was going. I complimented him and we spoke until he reached his moving van parked a block away.

He said “she could have been my grandma.” I mentioned how when my broken foot was in a boot some 10 years ago, I lost every race to a cab to a younger, faster person. He remarked on how hard we can be to each other though I told him that my husband, when frail, reported countless incidents in which strangers were helpful. Then an elderly friend told me she tripped due to ill-fitting shoes and fell on the street recently and nobody helped her up. Thank goodness she wasn’t badly hurt.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Do people who speak with you on the phone while running water realize there is a mute option on their phone? I like to do things, if a chat lasts a long time, like water my plants or iron or start making my dinner. But I want the activity to be secret. It can be distracting to hear running water during a conversation.

Begging 2023 Style

Young man followed old man down Third Avenue in the 40s last week and the old man turns to him and says, “I’ll give you a buck.” The young man responded but I couldn’t hear. I did hear the old man reply, “What? You want $10 bucks?”

Merci, Muchas Gracias, Thanks:  In or Out of Style?

The thank you issue never goes away. I received lovely notes—both a text and a traditional card–from a 20-something which is unusual. It made me happy. A text would have been more than enough. Some send no smoke signals. I wonder if those who don’t thank me thank their clients, colleagues and bosses—current and potential.

Have you noticed a recurrence of traditional manners or some new ones?

The gentle slope of wood to ease the transition from sidewalk to street level at a construction site.

Service of Museum Manners in New York and Paris

Thursday, June 29th, 2023

Unusual to see the Louvre so empty.
“Winged Victory” at the Louvre and not a soul in sight. Spooky.

I’ve written about behavior at museums quite a lot from, for example, strangers who glom onto a private tour to busy bodies who interrupt a stranger’s conversation about an exhibit only to insert incorrect information. I also wrote about people who express their anger over personal matters by destroying art.

A friend shared the idea for this post after an afternoon at one of her favorite NYC museums. She wrote: “Real lack of decorum at the museum: People noisily chatting, taking selfies, reaching over others to take pics, blocking paintings.”

I couldn’t agree more with her frustration.

Children waiting to visit L’Orangerie in Paris

This is not just a NYC thing. In fact, I found museum manners of tourists even worse in Paris. The most blatant example was at the Louvre. Because French President Macron was greeting dignitaries from Naples for the opening of the Capodimonte National Museum exhibit the day of my timed ticket, my scheduled arrival was moved first to 1:30 and at the last minute to 2:00 p.m. Our group was the first one in the museum that day so it was shockingly empty. I figured why not say hello to the “Mona Lisa,” known in France as Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Jaconde.”

This class of little ones waited quietly to get enter the Rodin Museum, Paris.

The room that housed her picture was set up for a huge line but there were only a dozen tourists there when I arrived. Were they looking at one of the world’s most famous paintings—the oil on poplar wood panel of Francesco del Giocondo’s wife Lisa Gherardini? NO. They had their backs to her while someone took their pictures with Lisa in the background or they snapped selfies. Then they hung out and chatted.

Same thing happened at L’Orangerie where tourists stood for far too long with their backs to Monet’s “Water Lilies” to have a photo taken to prove they’d been to see [?] the work. It didn’t occur to them that they were covering up the art that others were there to enjoy.

When visitors face one another to carry on a conversation right in front of a picture—and they are clearly not speaking about the exhibit or the work—it baffles and irritates me.

However, I’m thrilled to see public interest in art even if sometimes the inspiration is more “look at me,” not “look at what I saw.” Visitors come in all sizes. At the Musée de l’Orangerie and Rodin Museum I was charmed by the youngest ones who were anticipating a look at the collections.

Have you been peeved by the behavior of fellow museum visitors? Do you say something, or do you tolerate them?

She smiled at me even though I was wedged to the side in order to get a shot of her without the other tourists who had settled in straight in front for the best selfie.

Service of Power Misunderstood

Thursday, March 30th, 2023


Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay 

The way some people assume postures that they think make them seem powerful often backfires as it irritates and doesn’t impress others.

This dialog might be familiar. Phone rings. The person on the line asks to meet with you so that you can advise them [for free] about your industry, your job, company or clients –you name it. You’re a good soul and you like to help people so you agree. But at the end of the conversation the milk of human kindness sours when the caller says: “Send me a calendar invite please.” Huh? You’re busy and doing a favor and now the caller, who wants something from you, gives you a job. Faux pas.

It happened the other day to a friend.

In another instance, a friend responded to a request for clothing made on an online neighborhood group site. The writer said she had lost everything in a fire. When my friend responded that she had some blouses to give, the person told her where to drop them off. The donor who already juggles too many things daily, had expected that the person would send someone to pick them up or do so herself. I wonder if the blouses will reach the woman in need.

I’ve written before about a peeve of similar stripe. You have a scheduled call, you make it on the dot and the person says “Can you call me back in 20 minutes?” If they are cancelling or moving the time of the call, shouldn’t it be they who calls you when they’ve finished a chore or a meeting or another phone call?

Even if I’m the one in charge of a business relationship, I find that skipping the irritating, superficial power image stuff and being respectful lubricates the dynamics between me and the other person. The result? Usually the best effort. When people feel put down, taken advantage of or simply annoyed they aren’t working at their best for you nor are they feeling cooperative if you’ve asked a favor of them. Your thoughts?

Image by G.C. from Pixabay

Service of Good & Bad Houseguests

Thursday, August 11th, 2022


Image by 5460160 from Pixabay

I’ve been both host and guest many times, the latter since childhood when in addition to packing my clothes my mother sent me off with clear guidelines. “Check the bathroom sink and leave no hair in it;”  “Make your bed in the morning” and if there was a cook, “Thank her as well as Mr. and Mrs. ___ when you leave.”


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

An acquaintance awaits a two week visit from someone who doesn’t sound like house guest material. Long before arrival she announced demands regarding her accommodation reflecting countless quirks including dietary ones. For starters: “I need silence to sleep. No light.” Her host’s apartment is on a main thoroughfare. On learning about her foibles, were I the host, I’d suddenly develop chronic migraine and postpone the stay until 2035.

Most have had some memorable house guests. For this post I dredged a few out of my memory that mercifully had otherwise been long forgotten. There was an American stationed in Ankara, Turkey, who stayed with us in Adana for R&R. He sat for hours in the living room, drank whiskey and smoked nonstop without paying attention to where the ashes went. I envisioned holes in upholstery and rugs not to speak of fire and he wasn’t good company.

There are those who make a shambles of your home, leaving their stuff all over the place and the guest bedroom a disaster. If you’ve planned a dinner party coinciding with the unfortunate visit, and you like to entertain in a tidy home, the stress on the host is palpable.

Still others act as though you have hot and cold running help. I’ve lived through them too. That’s why, on the last morning of my visit I strip the bed and ask for clean sheets to prepare the guestroom for the next visitor. I volunteer for KP as sous-chef peeling and cutting as instructed, offer to wash dishes and if appropriate, invite the hosts for a meal.

I was told by someone who owns a shop that guests don’t bring house gifts anymore. Do or would you? Have you had spectacular house guests–either good or bad? To be a welcome house guest a person needs to be flexible, don’t you think?


Image by Anna Moskowitz from Pixabay

Service of RSVP–Literally

Monday, August 1st, 2022


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

In 2015 I wrote “Service of Silent Guests,” about the folks who don’t respond to invitations or who do and then don’t come or who don’t and arrive unexpectedly. Never forgot the time several lives ago I tried to introduce two people. The male, a friend of my then husband, showed up at our dinner party with a date he’d neither mentioned nor asked if he could bring. This was tricky on many counts starting with the scramble to make room for another person at a very small dining table.

EAM, who comments on this blog, suggested another spin on RSVP. If you take the acronym literally–Répondez s’il vous plaît–it applies to all sorts of situations. In a world of “rush-rush” some seemingly catatonic actors can drive crazy those waiting or hoping to hear from them. Instances range from a doctor sharing test results and a vendor or repairman with whom you need to make an appointment to a reporter, editor or prospective employer you’ve reached out to repeatedly. Invitations to join a Zoom conference or to meet for lunch with a choice of several dates frequently seemingly land on deaf ears.

If you’ve chosen a mutually convenient date the next thing to be decided is the time. A response “Yes,” to the question “2 pm or 3 pm?” doesn’t do the trick. Nor does “OK” when you’ve asked for a piece of information or whether the other person wants to make the next move–or do they want you to do so.

It can help if you keep texts or emails short and if you need an answer, never address anything else in the communication. This tip isn’t perfect as some people don’t read. I’ve had some success by claiming an overactive SPAM file and would be grateful if they’d send the information again.

Enter an elevator in my apartment building and you’re almost shocked if a 20-30- something tenant replies “hi,” or “hello” to my greeting. As a kid, the first time I passed a stranger who greeted me in a hotel hallway I was taken aback but replied in kind following my mother’s lead. Guess such recognition is out of fashion even if you’re sharing a roof with others for much more than the length of a vacation.

Are there instances in which you are irritated by silence when a response is in order? Any tricks to get a reaction from someone you need to hear back from?

Service of Thoughtless Actions and Words

Thursday, December 30th, 2021


Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

I’ve opened my big mouth at times off-putting others, though I try so hard not to. A friend reprimanded me, after we moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn, because I told him that our apartment was on “the wrong side of Park Avenue.” He said I sounded arrogant. And I despise arrogance.

I witnessed a woman who didn’t think when she sailed out of the hair salon last week, wishing all and sundry a Merry Christmas following up in a voice that could have been heard across the street saying “Gotta run: I’m off to get my hair cut.” When I asked the salon owner if she thought the customer noticed people cutting hair all around her she shrugged and said “she gets her manicures here.”

The owner shared an incident that did broil her about a customer with severely dry hair. She showed her three products that would reverse the problem and explained how and when to use them. “Let me photograph them so I can buy them on Amazon,” said the customer who knew that the salon also sold the products. The owner added that Amazon didn’t have all the experience she’d shared with the woman and admitted that she didn’t say this to her.

A friend who owns a New England shop told me that a customer walked in recently, looked around and said, “Is this all there is?” Another day she found a 30-something photographing her greeting cards. “I want to text the images to my friends,” she said. The shop owner asked the woman to stop. Did the potential customer [who bought nothing] think she was in a museum?

mage by kaleido-dp from Pixabay  haircut

We’ve come a long way from the days my mother asked me to take supermarket groceries home before buying the bread my dad liked at the neighborhood deli. [Supermarket bread tasted like cotton.] She explained that it was rude to enter a business with purchases from another.

You be the judge if the point of Melinda Wenner Moyer’s New York Times article is pertinent to the subject. It was Thanksgiving, she wrote, and her seven year old ordered her grandfather, whom she rarely saw, to “stop taking pictures and put down your camera.” 

Wenner Moyers wrote: “Children who feel comfortable challenging their parents or grandparents about rules and expectations, who occasionally say sassy or rude things, are, in essence, kids who know they are loved and accepted for who they are.”

At the end of the article she added “Do I wish my daughter had been more polite in asking her grandpa to put down his camera? Absolutely. But I’m also proud that she’s brave enough to advocate for herself, and that she knows she has a voice within our family.”

It was fun to read the comments linking to this article “Why Your Kid’s Bad Behavior May Be a Good Thing: The safer children feel, the more they can show their true selves — warts and all — experts say. And that’s good for their development.” I didn’t read them all but starting at the top, many expressed concern about the kind of adults these children will turn out to be.

Do you think there’s a connection between unfiltered words and actions and upbringing or is it more of a personality thing? Have you witnessed thoughtless speech or behavior?  Do you agree that a child’s bad behavior is a positive thing and is good for their development?

Service of Biting Your Tongue and Keeping Your Cool

Monday, October 11th, 2021



Image by kaleido-dp from Pixabay

Some feel that because they pay for a service or a purchase they can treat the vendor or salesperson with disrespect. I wonder how retail business owners remain sane and silent when they inevitably deal with at least one entitled, nasty, thoughtless customer/client every so often.

Here’s one: A customer flounced into a hair salon last week, marched over to the chair I was in and said to the stylist, who was in the middle of touching up my color: “I’m in a rush. I can’t be away from my office for long. My boss doesn’t want me to leave. I’ll have to reschedule unless you can you take me NOW.” [Note: She didn’t greet the stylist who also owns the salon.] Did she expect her to kick me out of the chair with half a job done, a procedure that involves timing? The stylist responded, as she continued to work on my hair, and had to repeat, because of the bombardment of the same question, “in five minutes,” as the woman paced nearby. The stylist remained cool.


Image by petitcarre from Pixabay

When suddenly the customer dashed outside to place a call I said “she is a bit much.” The beleaguered salon owner told me about a longtime client who consistently blows off three hour appointments or arrives an hour late without a peep of update. Clearing the decks for that long for a no-show represents a significant financial loss. The customer, who always confirms the appointment the night before, didn’t show twice in a row and never apologized. The last time the woman arrived at 7 pm for a 6 pm appointment at 8 pm she declared she was hungry. The stylist asked her to please call and order in to save time and she refused and left the shop, oblivious of the late hour and the staff waiting for her return to complete the work.

In another example, the owner of an antique shop in New England that specializes in small collectibles shared some recent confrontations. A woman recently looked around and announced, “Nobody wants these things anymore.” Rude? [Shortly thereafter the dealer made a several hundred dollar sale.] Another visitor started taking photos of some high-end greeting cards with clever sayings to text them to friends rather than buy [and mail] them. The dealer asked that clueless person to stop.

In the same vein, seven years ago I wrote “Service of Being a Good Customer.” I asked then and reiterate: “Have you been in the enviable position of being able to give a nasty client/customer short shrift? Do you think pushy, entitled, aggressive behavior wins in the end?”

Were you faced with thoughtless, rude or hostile conduct, how would you control your irritation so as to keep your cool and not snap back? What responsibilities do customers have to the good businesses they support?



Image by Rose McAvoy from Pixabay

Service of Here We Go Again: Phone Snubbing

Monday, August 30th, 2021


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

At lunch with three friends last week my phone pinged a few times signaling the arrival of a text. One pal repeatedly asked if it was my phone. It was, but I didn’t look. We were eating.

Dan Ariely just covered the subject of “Why We Ignore Friends to Look at Our Phones” in his Wall Street Journal advice column “Ask Ariely.” The subject falls in my “Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose” series. When mobile phones were new, some diners chatted incessantly even when facing a date or friend across a restaurant table, often disturbing neighboring diners while disrespecting their dinner companion.

Ariely responded to reader Alan who asked him why people “engage in such rude behavior,” that the columnist called phone snubbing or “phubbing” which he claimed could impact “the level of satisfaction in a friendship.” He attributed it not to lack of interest in the dialogue as much as to the personality of the phubber.

Ariely reported: “In a 2021 study of young adults, the authors found that depressed and socially anxious people are more likely to phub their friends. This is likely explained by the fact that people with social anxiety find online communication less uncomfortable than in-person conversations.”

He continued, “On the other hand, phubbing is less common among people who score high on ‘agreeableness,’ which psychologists define as striving to avoid conflict. Agreeable people make an effort to be polite and friendly in order to maintain social harmony.”

His suggestions for those who can’t stop looking at their phones is to disengage text and email message notices or to put the phone on airplane mode. That switches off the phone’s connection to Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

There are exceptions when being a phubber is legit but I think you should announce your reason when you sit down. If you’re expecting to hear from a client, customer, sick friend or relative or colleague about a deadline-driven project say so.

Do you care if your dining companion keeps checking his/her phone? Do you apologize if/when you do it?


Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Service of Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

I asked our hosts who are giving a Halloween party this weekend whether Frank and Mary [not their real names] were coming. They weren’t invited this year because Frank had been such a pain before last year’s celebration.

In addition to decorating their house with fantastic collections of goblins, ghosts and grinning jack- o’-lanterns and treating guests to a delicious dinner, they show a frightening flick in their home’s movie theater. Frank told them that he didn’t like chilling movies and asked if they could show something else. And he didn’t say it once, he kept bringing it up. We all enjoyed the movie and company of good friends last year, and expect to again on Saturday, but without Frank and Mary!

And one of the best reasons for striking someone from your dinner list happened to friend and colleague David Reich. One of his guests sat down and put a loaded gun next to his plate. David quietly asked him to remove the gun.

I had a friend who’d ask what I was serving for a party and would remark, “I don’t care for that, can you make something else?” Irritating.

The first time I invite someone for dinner I ask if they are allergic to or despise anything. There’s no reason to serve a strawberry dessert or a mushroom soufflé if you know that one of your guests will break out in hives or faint simply by sharing a room with the offending food.

Have friends or relatives tried to impose their druthers on you, expecting you to change your tradition or menu when they are your guests? Did they win? Can you share examples?

Service of “I’ll Pay,” No “You’ll Pay”—Who’ll Pay?

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

 

Tinder is a popular app where singles meet, [it boasts a million subscribers], and it—and websites like it–has changed the dating landscape as people tend to have many more first dates than before. Khadeeja Safdar wrote about the new dynamic in “Who Pays on the First Date? No One Knows Anymore, and It’s Really Awkward–First dates multiply in era of Tinder, and those tabs add up. Some women are wary the fake ‘reach’ for the wallet won’t be turned down.”

The title and subtitle of this Wall Street Journal article tell the story.

Safdar described some of the prickly endings timed around restaurant check arrival time.

  • Before the check came the date excused himself to visit the WC and said, “I’ll wait for you outside.”
  • A woman ordered two entrees, ate the pasta and asked the waiter to wrap up the grilled fish. When she was in the ladies’ room her date, a well healed physician who had planned to pay for dinner, asked for separate checks because he “didn’t like feeling used.”
  • Having met for drinks, the woman asked her date if they were planning to order food. The response: “Don’t you have food at home?”
  • When a college student got home from dinner initiated by her date who chose the restaurant, he sent her an “invoice via the mobile-payment app Vennio for her portion of the meal.” She didn’t pay and blocked him.
  • One date proposed splitting a burger and fries, cut the burger unevenly, taking the far larger half. When the check came, the woman “performed the ritual reach for her credit card, and he agreed to let her pay half without any hesitation. ‘Even the waitress looked at him, like, are you serious?’”
  • The date who forgot his wallet’s an oldie but still happens.

 “The rules aren’t complicated, according to etiquette experts,” wrote Safdar. “‘If you invite, you pay,’ said Diane Gottsman, author of ‘Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.’ ‘But the reality is that the other person may not know the rules or realize it’s a date.’”

This is what I think: To avoid uncomfortable moments establish who pays for what before the date takes place. Who wants to pay for one or two meals with a stranger the cost of which is five times your restaurant budget for the quarter when the other person chose the preposterously pricey venue? On the other hand, if you can afford to watch the scene play out and if you have a strong stomach for discomfort, the way a person acts in this situation tells a lot about them and whether or not you’ll want to see them ever again.

Can you share examples such as those above or ones that turned out nicely? What do you think the answer is for a seamless first date? Does age have anything to do with the outcome?

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