Etiquette for the Modern Human, Part I
Leandra wrote an email as I tried to read this aloud to her. Rude.
Once, when I was seven, my friend Jamie’s mom came by my house to pick up her daughter from a playdate. My own mom was either busy with our large pet bird or gardening in the backyard, but for whatever reason, when the doorbell rang, I opened the door.
“Hello,” I said. “Jamie’s upstairs.”
“Great,” she responded. “Did you girls have fun?”
I considered her question but before I could speak, I found myself frustrated that she was neither fully inside my home nor completely outside. She was just lingering in the doorframe like an errant booger.
“Sorry,” I began, “Are you going to come in or out? You’re letting the heat escape.”
She later told my mother that I had been extremely rude, but to this day I stand by the fact that while perhaps, yes, my delivery was off, it was she who lacked any sense of porch etiquette.
I’ve been a stickler about etiquette my whole life. One of my favorite books growing up was the American Girl Library’s “Manner Guide for Girls,” which is a weird ass thing to have read recreationally but that’s neither here nor now.
What is here and now? A few recent annoyances that I need to get off my chest:
Stealing cabs is like talking shit: I’d rather you do it in front of my face. Don’t act like you “didn’t see me waiting there” or pretend that you “happened” to run fast-as-fuck up the street to cock-block the taxi aiming directly toward me. OWN the fact that you’re a transportation thief; false innocence is unbecoming.
It seems like while many of us have been taught not to defecate in public or cough on someone’s face, apparently no one has been told that you ABSOLUTELY MUST SAY “THANK YOU” WHEN SOMEONE ELSE HOLDS THE DOOR FOR YOU.
Holding the door is a courtesy. At this point I do it out of reflex, but when one, two, three, four people have walked through the door without so much as a NOD of graciousness, I go insane. I was not hired by the entire St. Patrick’s Day Parade as an inanimate door stop for their coffee break at Starbucks. I do not just stand in doorways for fun. (See: porch etiquette.) Rather, I’m a functioning member of polite society who, going forward, may very well just let the door hit you where Zeus once split you.
Similar to the “thank you,” it seems humans have become incapable of acknowledging a sneeze. If someone is sneezing, understand that her heart is seizing up, her eyes are shut, and she’s at her most physically vulnerable for at least a second. Leandra once told me, and I quote, that “according to old Jewish rhetoric, people used to sneeze and that’s how they died. Then Abraham was like, ‘Yo, G-master Wiz, think you can provide a better marker?’ And so cancer was born.”
A sneeze is paralyzing, and when someone comes out of it alive, the least you could do is bless her soul back into her body.
As far as I’m concerned, people are informally allowed a two-foot radius of empty space that strangers should not cross. Why does no one follow this? Sometimes, when I’m standing in line, the eager person behind me moves forward so quickly, before I know it, I’m wearing said person as a backpack.
If you are aware that your head is unusually large or that your hair, god bless you, is Texas-to-heaven high, then maybe don’t choose the seat directly in front of those of us who are 5’3″. Not everyone does it on purpose but some people do. So don’t.
This is the last for this post though not the last on my list, but subway starers are the worst. Everyone knows that if you have a staring problem, you should wear sunglasses. It is an abomination to let your gigantic eyeballs set focus on whatever is impairing your pupil’s ability to move.
Here’s why: if you’re staring at me, I get self-conscious. But worse than that is if I catch you staring at something, pushing me to have to look. Then the person next to me does it too, and now you’ve gone and started a whole group activity of us staring at some poor unsuspecting soul who probably knows they have taco dip all over their pants but was hoping no one would notice. Now 50 of us have noticed — and that, Jamie’s mom, is rude.