Archive for the ‘Etiquette’ Category

Service of Where Have All the Manners Gone?

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

You don’t have to go to etiquette school to avoid behaving boorishly. A tad of empathy often helps. Here are some examples that I suspect happen too often.

You’re sitting in the lobby of your hotel with friends and relatives the day after a family and close friends event. You order drinks for your wife and yourself and some relatives also sitting in a wide circle, but you skip a couple in this group. Adding insult to injury, next, as you guzzle, you discuss the quality and aroma of the whiskey chosen. I think that’s rude.

You’re at a workshop where lunch is served. The waiter puts a basket of bread on the table. Some of the others take two pieces so the basket is empty when it gets to you. Taking two of anything before everyone has been served is rude.

A trade magazine publisher who became a dear friend told me, years ago, about a business meeting he had with an advertiser. It was in the client’s office. The client was munching away on his chicken salad sandwich and could easily have asked his secretary to order something for the publisher, but he didn’t. He wasn’t offered a glass of water. Eating in front of others like this is rude. I remember once hiding a burger in my desk drawer when an editor popped into my office unannounced. Waiting to finish lunch until the person left wasn’t written in a manners guide. It just felt right.

Is selfish/clueless behavior acceptable today or are these instances anomalies? Do you have examples?

Service of the Golden Rule Ignored

Monday, November 13th, 2023

Golden Rule

I often wonder if people think about the ramifications of their actions. Empathy needs to be taught and it seems to have been left out as a priority for too many.

Please stay silent, dear audience

I attended an amateur production of a musical in a small theater filled largely with the actors’ friends. I was on the verge of screaming “STOP PLEASE” if I heard another earsplitting “WHOOOOOOOOOO!” in the middle of a song or after an uttered inconsequential phrase or when a minor actor appeared on stage. Did these people think that they were at a sports event? If it happened once or twice, OK. But it was constant. Grumble.

In addition to the usual request to turn off phones and unwrap candies before the start of the production, I wish the audience was also asked to leave the hollered WHOOOOOOs and shrieks in a stadium or at least to wait for the end of a song though better yet—don’t do it at all. Energetic and enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation at the end says it all.

Do you need to pull away so soon?

Even if I’m not hoping to catch a bus, it drives me nuts when the driver pulls away from the stop just a few feet, only to brake for a red light. [See the photo below for placement of bus stop and traffic light.] I’ve written about this before and have notified the MTA as well. Because they are no longer at the bus stop, even though a few feet away, most drivers won’t open the door for a passenger pleading to get in. Aren’t the drivers supposed to transport as many passengers as possible?

A friend caught up with a bus on a weekend and asked the driver to please wait a moment for her colleague who is disabled and can’t run. The driver responded that there was a bus right behind [which any New Yorker knows is subject to interpretation as “right behind” might be eight minutes away]. The driver closed the door on her face. She yelled through the closed door, “she’s here!” The driver hesitated before reopening the door. Her friend thanked him and slowly slipped her MetroCard in the fare slot. Off flew the driver—using his gas pedal to show his anger and impatience. Her friend, unsteady on her feet, almost fell.

Empathy, compassion and etiquette would eliminate these irritations don’t you think? Can you share other instances of Golden Rule trashed?

From a bus stop like this one the driver can see the traffic light and should not pull away if the light is red.

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 Chutzpah II

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

A picture by Edward Hopper at the Whitney Museum

It’s been eight years since the first post with this title so I’d best translate chutzpah for those still unfamiliar with the word. According to the Urban Dictionary it means “Unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. Audacity; nerve.” There have been plenty of examples since then that appeared under different titles.

A Vuillard at MoMA

Here’s an example. Mrs. Beck illustrated chutzpah in the recent “Surviving Siegfried” episode of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. First, she chiseled the price of neutering her cat Georgina to way below market value and next she created more work than expected for the time-pressed vet. She handed the James Herriot character and his bride Helen an empty box. She told them to find and pick up her rambunctious feline who was roaming in the garden. Then she scampered inside her house. When the vet returned the cat—who had badly scratched several in the household—Mrs. Beck grabbed the carrier–a nice one while she’d started with a ratty cardboard box–and skipped out of paying the reduced fee saying she would at the checkup in a week’s time.

However, the instance in this charming series didn’t inspire this post. A friend’s irritation about a pushy couple at a Manhattan museum did. She wrote that “People who join your private group and latch on when it’s meant to be intimate and exclusive,” is what got her. The tour of the landmark Hopper exhibit at the Whitney Museum was organized by a university alumni association. She wrote that a couple slipped into their group of eight which was deliberately small as “crowds get unwieldy.” She continued: “eventually the woman asked our guide if she and her companion could join.” The stranger admitted she wasn’t a graduate of the university. “I thought our guide said ‘no’ but in the end, she let them stay.” My friend added that the guide’s voice wasn’t loud so to hear her you had to stand near which made adding two more to the group even more uncomfortable.

Impatient, entitled and pushy New Yorkers cross the line all the time—literally and figuratively– but human nature being what it is, residents were also doing it in a lovely town in the Yorkshire Dales in the shadow of WWII and long before. Some feel that they are above the informal rules of etiquette that are made to help people live together in peace. I wonder how they acquire that approach.

Don’t you think that the trick is for the rule-followers to learn how not to be disturbed by the obnoxious ones while figuring out how to stop them from taking advantage and overstepping? Any ideas?

A picture from the Tudor exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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 Theater and Concert Etiquette

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

National Youth Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall June 13, 2022

I first wrote about theater etiquette in 2014 where I shared a friend’s experiences seated near audience scofflaws at a few Broadway shows. In one she suffered through the noise created by a woman behind her. First, her raincoat that she sat on crinkled every time she fidgeted, which was often. Next, there was the sound of her opening candy wrappers and finally her loud whisper to her companion asking what time it was that drove my friend to say “shush.” At another show, a woman next to her mother texted throughout the performance, tap, tap, tapping away with the light on her phone an added distraction.

The set of “And Then There Were None” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown, NYC

A year later I mentioned that Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missing a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days” at Lincoln Center because, said LuPone afterwards, the lit screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She is known for such reactions to audience members who irritate her. This May, during a Q and A after a performance of “Company,” she called out a member of the audience whose mask had slipped below her nose.

This week I attended “Songs of Renewal” at Carnegie Hall to hear choruses and choirs–voice and clarinet–and chamber singers. In seats in front of me was a child about 9 who could not sit still and her parents. On and off went her sweater. She was on her mother’s lap and then in her seat and then back again on mom, squirming, facing backwards, then forwards. Her parents were oblivious to how her performance impacted those nearby. I was thrilled when they left before the end [which many did. It was late for a school night]. A few rows ahead of us young people in their late teens took some freed up seats. Although masks were required, they were oblivious. Two of four began to make out as though they were at home alone. One never pulled up her mask after that.

In contrast, the next night I saw a spot-on performance by the St. Bart’s Players in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown. In a diminutive space holding 50, the audience was perfectly behaved. My host mentioned that although many had friends in the topnotch cast, they didn’t break the rhythm of the performance by applauding at each entrance.

I recall a New York Times restaurant review many years ago by Mimi Sheraton. The food and service were perfect but the fight by customers at the next table reduced the grade she gave the place. Theaters don’t give etiquette or personality tests to audience members–though both Carnegie Hall and The Robert Moss Theater checked for vaccinations and required masks. At the latter, in addition to turning off our phones, we were asked not to open noisy candy wrappers. I just checked out the Ricola lozenges that Carnegie Hall has made available for decades to avert coughing jags. The wrapper is silent when you open it.

Do you have pet peeves about audience behavior when attending a concert, musical or play?

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 Dog Owner Etiquette at Outdoor Restaurants

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

Image by ttwan from Pixabay

My friend grew up with beagles and loves dogs. She takes photos of all sorts she meets on her travels and posts them on social media. So when one lunged and barked at her at the outdoor section of a restaurant where she was having lunch with her family she was all at once shaken, scared and later angry. “I thought I was going to be bitten. I’ve never had a big dog jump on me and bark like that. She wasn’t wagging her tail.”

This is what happened: She was returning to her outdoor table when she passed the dog and said “hello.” That’s when the canine reacted. The owner, who was seated at a table, pulled the dog off of her and responded, “I know,” when my friend said “I didn’t touch her.”

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

“The woman never apologized or asked how I was. When we left the restaurant I dropped by her table and told her she should have done and only then did she say she was sorry, although she claimed to have said so earlier.” In addition my friend told the woman that if the dog can’t behave she doesn’t belong in restaurants.

She overheard the dog owner tell another restaurant patron that the dog was a rescue and becomes aggressive if anyone comes near.

In a previous post, “Service of Will Your Pooch–or Parrot–Pass the Scrutiny of a Co-Op Board?, I mentioned that when we bought a co-op apartment decades ago a board member interviewed a tenant of the building we lived in about our dog’s behavior. Today I see docile pooches on the street with muzzles and assume the precaution is required by a landlord, condo or co-op board. Some buildings make dogs use service elevators to avoid potentially nasty confrontations with other tenants in passenger elevators.

Restaurants have spent a great deal to create attractive outdoor spaces. They are not shutting down as NYC increasingly sheds its pandemic restrictions that caused them to crop up in the first place. In fact Governor Cuomo just extended for a year permission for restaurant outdoor dining structures that take up parking, sidewalk and driving spaces in the city. Do you think that there should be protocol for pet owners who bring their canines to outdoor restaurants as clearly some take no precautions to safeguard other patrons even when they know their pet has aggression issues?

Service of Pet Peeves III

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

I wrote the first two Pet Peeve posts in 2010 and 2011, summarized below as my feelings about them are unchanged. And although they’re not earmarked as such, many posts over years focus on irritating situations that fall in the peeve category, such as the recent ones about bait and switch sales tactics and euphemisms like “food insecurity” for hunger.

NOW

Hard to believe I have so many new ones.

I recently paid by credit card for bread in a bakery and dinner from a takeout-only Chinese place. In both instances an automatic tip request popped up on the tablet’s screen. Why should I give a tip to someone for putting a loaf of bread in a bag? I gave a tip for the Chinese takeout, even though I picked up my order, but friends who tip generously said they wouldn’t.

I don’t answer when surveys ask me what my income is and don’t believe that they should ask.

TV news producers: Stop showing close-ups of injecting vaccines into arms. For the squeamish who aren’t planning to get the vaccine it’s a turnoff and deterrent.

Train your vicious dog or give it away particularly if you live in an apartment house.

Respond to personal texts within 24 hours–especially if the sender infrequently reaches out and/or if they pose an important question.

If I never hear from you for months and we are personal acquaintances send me something more than a link to an article.

If I consistently “like” your Facebook postings, every once a quarter please “like” one of mine.

THEN

I’m surprised at how many of the oldie peeves are pandemic-proof. The exception might be how miffed I feel when my hands are full and someone near a door doesn’t hold it open. These days some might be afraid of getting too close. Another that irritated me 10 years ago was someone borrowing my pen and not returning it. I wouldn’t want it back now.

Otherwise, here are many of the oldie but still valid:

You call at a scheduled time and are told “Call me in 20 minutes.” The person who changes the time should make the second call.

Repetition of misinformation so it becomes true to some.

Drivers who don’t use their signal lights. It’s as handy a communication tool for pedestrians crossing city streets and avenues as it is for drivers.

Waste by government and corporations.

Buzzwords and jargon.

Tell me privately something that impacts me–don’t first announce it in public and if you want to give away something of mine, don’t ask me if it is OK in front of the potential recipient so I feel forced to say “yes.”

Don’t:

  • roll your eyes if I ask a question
  • offer to do something you know you won’t do
  • pull out on me causing me to slam on my brakes

Lack of traffic lights or signs at dangerous intersections drive me nuts.

Have your peeves stayed the same over years? Any new ones? Do people close to you know your peeves or do you keep them close to the vest?

Service of Apology V

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I first addressed the subject of apology in 2010 when I covered one by the editor of a student newspaper for publishing an inappropriate cartoon and subsequently when a high school sports coach apologized for a tantrum and later by Whole Foods for overcharging. Then there was a post about those who didn’t or don’t apologize: Donald Trump, Quentin Tarantino and a department store customer service staffer.

I have the opposite problem: I apologize too much. One friend attributes it to my sex, age and maybe upbringing. In his experience women apologize more than men, especially older women. “I’m sorry” pops out of my mouth as automatically as “God bless you” and “thank you.” I need to snap a rubber band on my wrist to stop me. Just today I almost collided with a man coming around a blind corner on the street. Me: “Sorry.” He: silence. Culpability: equal.

I cannot pinpoint the date at which businesses big and small and the people who work for them stopped apologizing–maybe 30 years ago? No apology, never my fault traveled from C-suites to NYC delis at that time. I was once yelled at when I told the cashier I’d not ordered OJ and she insisted that I had while holding out her hand for the additional money. I’d been going there every morning for months and had never ordered juice. Reminding her didn’t elicit an apology.

There is dissent among lawyers as to whether or not to apologize if you’re in an accident. To some it might imply culpability that will be reflected in a crushing settlement. Some insurance lawyers  negotiating settlements find that an apology has impact: the injured person often agrees to a lower settlement. A friend was crossing a Manhattan street with the light when a taxi ran into him. One of the first things he told me was that the driver never once apologized. His lawyer is still negotiating the settlement. If I remember the no apology he also does–as well as the pain in his hip.

Has a stranger apologized to you lately? A business associate or colleague? A friend, family member, spouse or companion? Under what circumstances, if any, do you apologize?

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