What's wrong with this?

New Yorkers are usually portrayed as these salty-mouthed, side-eye giving, fast walking, quick talking bozos who won’t really go out of their way for anyone if there isn’t anything in it for them.  NOT TRUE, I say in my most indignant voice (this voice actually sounds a lot like my impersonation of Carol Channing but I cannot help that.)  Again, I say NOT TRUE!

But then, I’ve begun questioning my set of rules of etiquette.  I’m not one to care about elbows on the table or a cleverly placed burp by a child (although I do not have the same appreciation for burps by adults, or dogs.)  But I think I mostly adhere to the rules of the day.  But I found myself giving the salty-mouthed side eye middle finger (in my imagination, of course.  I’m not a fighter) to a few people over the past few days and wonder if I have anyone doing the same to me.

So I’m posing a few questions – some situations I’m guilty (?) of perpetrating, others which I’ve observed.  Break me off some knowledge, please:

  1. Is it ok to refill a water bottle from an establishment’s bottled water dispenser?  Or only from water fountains?
  2. On mass transit, what’s the protocol for giving a seat up to a child?  At what age do they seem old enough to not be offered your seat?
  3. What about the pregnant ladies of the world?  Do you always have to offer a seat to them?  (That rotten bunch….)
  4. If you offer your seat to a pregnant lady, and she thanks you but then gives it to her 6-year-old son (ummm…..yeh….totally hypothetical), is that ok?
  5. How acceptable is it to ask people to scoot over, then mash your big huge honking oversized keister in a place that it obviously doesn’t fit?
  6. Mothers and strollers and stairs: should you always offer to help them up/down?
  7. Children and their electronic devices – ok for restaurants?  What if they leave the sound on?
  8. When you greet someone – a handshake?  A kiss on the cheek?  A double kiss? (I must say I’ve  planted more accidental kisses on the mouth with the double kiss so I just cannot go there.  Or if I do, just know I probably want to kiss you on the mouth.)

I can’t wait to see what the consensus is.  Please leave your etiquette questions in the comments, too!  I love to give my opinion!  I shouldn’t be yelling now so I’ll nix the exclamation points.  See?  I’m an etiquette queen!  Ooops….

14 thoughts on “Deadiquette

  1. I live in Minnesota, where ‘Minnesota Nice’ has been long portrayed as a means of conveying how friendly and helpful everyone is here, but really, what I see is that it’s more of a euphemism for ‘Passive-Aggresive Assholes’.

    From what I see, etiquette and polite helpful people have just disappeared. It seems especially evident in young people, which makes me so sad about the state of our world. I’ve seen more examples of boneheads everywhere- the market, the coffee shop, the gas station….. god, you name it. People shove past others without saying “Excuse me”; they talk over others, they interrupt, they berate when they don’t get their way (and really, the sense of entitlement sometimes depicted in their manners is truly abhorrent) And don’t even get me started on what I see parents doing around their children. There seems to be no discipline, no structure, no teaching of manners or proper behavior. Kids mouth off to their parents, ignore them, and tell them to ‘Shut up’. And the parents do nothing.

    I’m no saint, really; there are times that it takes all the reserve I have not to lose my temper with the slowpoke, the chronic complainer, the chastising idiot in the line in front of me, the Mom who can’t control her whiny little twit. But I also know that by complaining or joining in the madness, I am not making it any better. I lend a hand when I can, open doors or hold them for others, smile and say ‘Thank You’ and I actually mean it. I think common decency and personal responsibility has fallen so far off in our society, but I refuse to play a part in making our world any worse than it already is.

  2. 1. If it’s very hot outside, say Moscow style hot, Yes. Otherwise no.
    2. Giving up seats to children? Here in Holland children up to 4 years old travel for free, and therefore are kindly but firmly requested to give their seat up to an elderly, disabled or pregnant passenger. They are considered to be small enough to be taken on your lap. (not that anyone does anymore…)
    3. Yes, (not that anyone does anymore…)
    4. Not really. I didn’t offer my seat to him, but to his pregnant mother.
    5. Not very…
    6. Well, not always, depends on wether I’m going to miss my train or not. Mostly yes.
    7. With sound of ok, keep’s ‘m calm and behaved. Sound on: No way.
    8. Ah, now there’s a grey area!!

  3. 1. water fountain for sure.
    2. When they are taller than me, they can stand (only 5’2″). I usually like to give it to little kids so that they are somewhat contained.
    3. I am careful on this one—I want to make darn sure she is pregnant so I don’t offend her.
    4. I gave my seat to her, and like a gift, it is up to her what to do. Perhaps it is easier for her if her child is seated—not for me to judge.
    5. If the person has showered, I am fine touching bodies.
    6. I offer, but I also choose to not be offended if she says no, even if she is rude about it.
    7. Family style restaurant—let her rip. Nice restaurant please turn off sound and give the child earphones.
    8. If someone I know or being introduced to a friend of a friend, I am one of those obnoxious “raised in the South” huggers. Well known friend also received a peck on one cheek. Handshake offered in all other occasions.

    As for are we getting ruder, you need only read old letters to editors to realize that every generation thinks the generation following them is rude and has lost etiquette. Life is too freaking short to be too judgemental, I try to accept people where they are and be as polite as possible.

  4. Etiquette is dead, which makes chivalry all the more spectacular. I usually kiss only one check of the well-friended women I know or respect, but for you I will remember to do two.

    I also give up my public transportation seat to just about anyone. Not because it is courteous, but because I am a manly man and manly men have the strength to stand on any occasion.

  5. I agree there are more and more rude people these days and I think its all because there are to many parents trying to be their kids friend or to be the “cool” parent which is not what a parents job is. They are to teach their kids how to act, socialize, and basically be a kind, conscious, respectful HUMAN being. With that said I have taught my boy to hold doors open for people and ladies first, to say please, thank you (or no thank you) don’t interrupt (which is my biggest pet peeve true story actually stopped talking to someone entirely because they couldn’t ever have a convo without interrupting) but to answer your “hypothetical” questions here it goes:
    1)I would say to ask for permission first (and maybe purchase something like gum) otherwise use the drinking fountain.
    2) if the kid is small enough to be with a parent then that is the parents responsibility to deem weather or not their kid needs to sit and then they make the sacrifice i wouldn’t expect someone to do it for my kid.
    3) I would say it depends on how far along she looks and if she is carrying stuff little bump and just a purse then no 6 months or so and groceries then yup
    4) here i agree with Kim especially if she is struggling with items and her kid
    5) no I like my personal space thank you very much
    6) hmm this one I’m inclined to say what the hell is she doing using the stairs if she has a stroller
    7) ok for restaurant but sound off and keep the kid in check since i know they can get into the games and start talking back to them (games not parents)
    8)it depends some people will give you clues as to how to greet them they will start to raise their hand for a shake or lean in for a hug (only if family tho’ stranger danger)
    otherwise a simple wave of the hand is how I roll. (again personal space)

    Oh and I hate when people burp and dont say excuse me or something like that its just rude and a burp is really a mouth fart know one wants to hear or smell those do they.
    oh and a question on how you feel about kids on leashes i think its not only lazy on the parents part but kinda demeaning the kid I mean if you cant pay attention to your kid so you put him on a leash then you should not have had him and just adopted a dog.

  6. Ooh, this is fun.
    1) Eek. Water fountain please. The bottle has been to your mouth, the lip of a cup with a cover and straw presumably have not.
    2) I assume any kid over 4 or 5 has more energy than a grown person and can stand unless there is obvious distress.
    3) Yes, massively pregnant ladies (no offense!) always get a seat.
    4) Um, sure but I’d say refer to #2 and tell the person your intentions.
    5) OK for 5-10 minutes, not for an opera.
    6) Yes, offer to help moms whenever you can.
    7) NO!! Ugh. It’s eating and socializing time. If completely desperate perhaps under the table top without sound.
    8) Handshake please. In the Midwest there are cold and flu germs and lots of people who do not like physical contact, no kissing unless someone has changed your diaper or rocked your world. Though, just once, I’d love to have a suave, handsome man grandly kiss my hand!

    My question…Can you/how do you remind an acquaintance (fellow sport mom you covered for two months ago!) that they owe you $20? I’m thinking I might kiss it goodbye. Any ideas?

  7. By remaining standing on all but the emptiest of subway cars I am able to avoid the awkwardness of questions 2-5. As an added benefit, I get to have that smug sense of superiority that others find so charming.

  8. …and am i a bad parent for laughing when my 4 year old daughter when she says, ‘ewwww, who farted?’

  9. Kate – I have had the same experience regarding people’s sense of entitlement. It is mind blowing how adults can act like spoiled bratty kids when they don’t get their way. It’s universal I guess. I always walk away feeling very embarassed for them.

    Janneke – I’ve actually never seen a child give up their seat. Now that would be something. Yay for Holland!

    Kim – totally agree regarding the judgemental piece. Case in point – my sister just gave up her kidney to her son. From the outside, she doesn’t look like she deserves a seat on the subway more than me (obviously pregnant). So even though she was only 1 week out of surgery, she felt like she had no claim to seats offered to me. I guess it’s important to remember that we can’t always see what’s going on, or why I might insist my healthy looking sister sit down before I do.

    Pete – a kiss on the check or cheek would be lovely coming from the likes of you. It’s hard to find a manly man like you these days. With the strength to stand on any occasion? Seriously impressive.

    Star – great question!! Kids on leashes – not for me. That’s not to say it’s not for someone else. I have to just guess that the parent has tried other tactics and possibly the leash ended up being the answer to a problem I don’t know about. All I know is that if I tried to leash my son, I’d probably get bitten.

    Jilrubia – oh man I’ve been in that same spot with the money issue. I always assume they’ve forgotton, that they’re not trying to get away with a $20 grab. Then I wonder about myself – how would I like to be reminded if it were reversed? I wouldn’t want the person to always think about that $20 I owe them each time I saw them – so I would WANT to be reminded. I’d just say a direct approach is best something along the lines of, “I spaced this out, but was just reminded of it – when you get a chance could you get that 20 back to me from a while back?” There will probably be some embarassment on their part, but really – it’s ok to ask for money owed. And likely they’ll appreciate having the chance to bring things even.

    Robey – your superiority is truly charming. Especially because you come by it naturally.

    Toby – laughing as a parent is bad form. The business of raising kids is very, very serious. As a rule, I’d suggest trying not to laugh at all, and when you feel the urge, try to discipline them instead.

  10. @ Star,

    I have learned my lesson regarding kids and leashes. I used to think of the situation in terms similar to the ones you used.

    But Jodi is right, it is important and kind to assume there are issues you can’t see that the leash fixes. My wife is one of those people who look perfectly fine – healthy and functional. What is not apparent is that the condition of her back leaves her relatively incapable of saving my overly-energetic and curious three-year-old from some kinds of physical emergency. If my daughter headed off the sidewalk into the street, my wife might not be able to grab her. If my daughter runs around the end of an isle in a store, my wife can’t chase her.

    So, my wife can either be a complete basket case in public (causing herself and my daughter emotional damage), or stay inside the house all the time, or use a leash. She goes for the peace of mind and safety of the leash and gets the benefits of not being a distraught recluse. I am grateful for this decision.

    Some more perspective from the other side:
    The leash is on a backpack that my daughter loves to wear, and the leash is named “snakey.” And when I let my daughter hold it herself (being more physically capable and confident than my wife), she behaves very well and is proud of herself. So, the reality is, it is the opposite of demeaning for my daughter.
    My wife doesn’t care what others are thinking – she knows that what she is doing is best for everyone. Even observers who might be judging her. Such observers could instead thank her that they won’t witness a kid get hit by a car as they are walking down the sidewalk.

    Perspective is important.
    Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a gift.

  11. 1.Water fountain only. Those dispensers come with small cups for a reason – that’s the cue to not overindulge.
    2.Eh, kids are resiliant and they fit on laps. I say keep your seat.
    3.Always offer a seat to a pregnant lady. Unless she’s wearing a NY Yankees shirt, according to my husband. *sigh*
    4.Only okay if the kid is ill or suffering from exhaustion.
    5.Not acceptable.
    6.Only if by helping it’s making the situation easier.
    7.Okay for kids to have SILENT electronic devices in restaurants, but only while waiting for a table.
    8.Handshake or hugs, depending on the person’s familiarity.

  12. I think the offering of seats to people should be done more often than it is – if anyone looks like they need a seat for any reason (even if they look like they’re otherwise in great shape, but may seem ill or in pain that day), and if you can stand, give it up. I say this because, as a woman early in pregnancy, I don’t look pregnant yet, but man do I sure feel ill and exhausted most of the day, nearly every day. But I still have to get around. And standing, especially on public transport, when I already have little energy and feel perpetually carsick, well, that’s damn hard. So I think I really appreciate now that a person doesn’t need to be old or hugely pregnant or using a cane in order to need a seat – we just need to be a bit more observant and, if we see someone come onto a train or bus who just looks exhausted, hunched over, pukey, or in pain, why not get up – you can always pretend you just want to stand or need to get off soon, so as to not offend anyone. And think of standing during the ride as a core and stability exercise workout. 🙂

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