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:

Cab Upstreaming

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.

You’re welcome.


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.

Line Proximity

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.

Giant Heads

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.

Subway Starers

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.

Photograph by Kristian Schuller

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  • Carolina

    Oh my word. I so understand the frustration with Giant Heads. I love curly hair, but this was not the most fun thing to sit behind.

    • Nives

      It could’ve been fun if she turned out to be Grace Coddington.

      • LOL. I stumbled on this article at work and I’m laughing like a fool. LO-freaking-L!!!!!

        • sarah

          that is so not GC’s colour. sorry just had to say.

    • As a short woman, I know your pain. I always end up right behind a head of hair like this, or a 7-foot tall guy who, unfortunately, cannot help being a giant. 🙂

      • Thamsa

        I feel you, I am only 5’1″. I’ve always found myself at concerts where tall people seemed to like to flock to the very front. I know everyone wants front-line action to take good pictures or whatever other reason you need to be at the front, but at some point they have to realize as a tall person, they either have to step aside or step back :/

        • Patricia

          I firmly believe that the front rows should be reserved for people 5’3″ and shorter. (Thus, making me the tallest of the short and totally winning.)

  • Carolina

    Also, sorry for posting that picture twice!

  • Jamie’s Mom


  • sam_the_cat

    If you are going to cab upstream someone, I think two blocks up is a reasonable distance.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I agree!

  • I live in Texas so yes the hair is a must I’m 5″1 and yes rude ass people say thank you when the door is held

  • Aubrey Green

    I LOVED this so much!

  • Madeline D.

    that is all. thank you.

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Kat

    Hahahaaa so funny! Funny but true unfortunately. The door section is my favourite and I can’t agree more.



  • Julia

    One of the worst is people charging into the subway or elevator without letting people off first! I’m not proud to say I have bulldozed a couple out of sheer annoyance.

  • Melissa

    The line proximity thing!!!! I HATE that! Getting closer to me in line is not going to get you any closer to the front of anything except the list of people who annoy me. At the grocery store the cart can sometimes be used to create something sort of like personal space but I have been smacked in the calves/achilles tendons by overeager line movers with carts lots of times.
    The sneezing thing doesn’t bother me because I sneeze several times at once when I sneeze and several times a day have sneezing “fits”. So most people who know me are over saying Bless you.

  • Oh Amelia, what a perfect list. The disastrous state our society has evolved to when it comes to manners is sad, and it feel like this list could be never ending. For me, today, it was with the lack of in-car thank you waves.

    Though this isn’t such a problem for many New Yorkers, any drivers who understand the karmic power of letting someone in with a courteous little wave, deserve a WAVE BACK. It’s not like we needed to be nice and give up our spot ahead of you and all the other cars. A thank you is always appreciated, and being in a car doesn’t exclude that!

  • Christine

    “Saving” someone’s spot in line at Costco; this should not be allowed as a rule. As if the lines aren’t long enough, you realize when the person with the cart shows up that the line you’re in just got 20% longer. Can’t handle it.

  • Poe

    Word. What I keep seeing here on the West Coast are people who hold the elevator door TOO LONG for people who really should wait for the next one – then it’s rude for everyone who is stuck waiting!
    My personal gripe lately are people who show up to dinners/parties empty handed or don’t RSVP and then am offended when you remove them from the invite list on Facebook so you can better manage your event/food/alcohol – it’s enough for me to quit hosting events all together!

  • Zumi

    Omg! I love this! Especially the one about the line proximity, people think that the closer they are the faster they will get in front of the line, and lets just talk about people who stare for so long, I just hate that! Greetings from Panama!

  • unicornhunting

    I can only imagine the deluge of peeves that are going to come flooding in!! Love all of yours and would like to add one more–how come no one says ‘excuse me’ when they are trying get by you. Sometimes I deliberately just stand there without budging until the words are forced from their mouth. Like the holding the door scenario, it’s somehow become a given that I’ll move automatically, like it’s your human right to expect that I’ll get out of your way! errgghhhh!

  • Erica Rae Deutsch

    this is awesome. the cab upstreaming part is so spot on that i was laughing out loud when reading it. i’ve used the term “upstream” when also referring to people who are walking in front of me and have no qualms about blowing smoke right in my gd face. i don’t have anything against smokers, to each his/her own, but, DAMN, have the common courtesy to check for a person’s face before you blow your smoke! (drops mic)

  • lavieenliz

    the sneezing one!!

  • Brooke W

    When I sneeze and don’t get a “Bless you” I resentfully look around the room as if they forgot my birthday

  • Love this post!

  • elizabethann1

    OMG I have been sneezing a bit more lately—not sick, it’s called allergies—and people on the subway have literally been TURNING away from me instead of saying a little Bless You or something. Like I have the plague! Germaphobes.

  • Funny thing is, I’m one of the people that have a staring problem. I don’t realize I’m doing it until someone points it out. If I’m not engaged in anything and just thinking to myself, I just zone in on something. Freaks people out when I stare at them eating. I can use this as an excuse to start collecting boxes of sunglasses, right?

  • Ana Sofia

    Oh my god, I laughed so hard with the hair part. I will now be careful enough with my big CURLY hair. Thank god I frequently blow dry it straight. hahah

  • bitchcorner

    We are crying. This speaks to us in so many ways. THANK YOU.


  • bumblejeaniepie

    AH! I have a peeve. When someone says “thank you” the response should be “you’re welcome” or at least an “it’s no problem,” or at the VERY least, a smile and nod, which is usually for when the person thanking you was mid-conversation but had the graciousness to interrupt said conversation to thank you! It should NOT be “Yeah!” or even “sure!” That kind of “sure!” sounds very “like, totally, fir shir!” to me. Get out of here.

    • Michelle

      This. My mother in-law does this all the time, as does my husband. “Thank you mother in-law”. “Sure” is the snappy response. This sounds so rude to me! I don’t know if this is a cultural thing (my husband is from Southern California), but in Australia would come across as very rude.

      • Anon

        I think it’s short for “Sure thing!” or “I’m happy to do it.” Still rude?

  • This is hilarbots (do people still say this? have they ever said that?). Well I still dig it…

  • Sharon

    The doors thing gets me! I would be happy to let the wooden board smack the next persons’ face if I don’t get at least a smile or a nod of appreciation …

  • pinkschmink

    I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to remain totally straight-faced reading this. Because it’s funny in its uncompromising truth, but if I laugh am I indicating that I do not take it seriously?! What’s the etiquette Amelia?! HELP ME.

    (Also, people who walk along busy streets like, oh I dunno, Oxford Street, London, four abreast at the pace of geriatric sloths and seem to KNOW that you are trying to politely find a way past them and so weave about all over the place. And then so I end up practically making out with the back of their head as other people pile into me, and act like it’s MY fault. I mean, not that this has happened to me a lot or anything.)

  • coffeetoo

    Pet peeves?! why, have I got a list for you!

    People picking food out of their teeth with their fingernails.
    So gross! It’s not just at food-establishments. Sometimes you catch people on the subway, in the office, doing some deep-molar excavations out in public. Ick!

    Picking one’s ears and then – brace yourself – looking at your fingers to examine what came out.
    Admittedly, the times I see this happen it appears the people are a little unaware. But come on! No one wants to shake hands/touch you after that display!

    For the pet-peeves above, for some reason I imagine Tim Gunn’s voice reprimanding these people – I mean doesn’t that just fit?

    Social pet peeves:

    People who preface comments about themselves with “I’m kind of weird”/”I’m a little crazy”

    It just comes off as a desparate attempt to sound original – just stop! It’s not weird you like Beethoven AND rap or to dip your french fries in your milkshake. Craving to eat dirt? Ok maybe a little weird, but even so, if there’s enough of you to have a word for it, you’re not original.

    And then this: people who stop walking (to check on something, adjust something) right at the exit points of pedestrian traffic. Examples:

    1. at the top of an escalator. Do not stop! keep going! others will plow into you!
    2. at the top of stairs in a busy public setting (think: train station)
    3. right at the platform after having just exited a train. Again, people are walking behind you!

    I wish there was a dedicated website to cover these @-holes who decided to stop walking at the worst possible time.

    Ok, that’s all for now. I’ll round back should I get fired up again. Thanks, Amelia! :p

  • Ranim

    couples canoodling in the movie theatre in the seat in front of me. They come in close for a kiss or a snuggle, disengage, then reconnect heads later; I bob and weave for the duration of the experience. Not only are they impairing my enjoyment of the film, they are THROWING THEIR LOVE IN MY FACE.

  • Karla Amado

    hahaha thanks I had a great laugh since I can relate!

  • but what to say if someone coughs?

    serious point of stress for me

  • sophie


  • Thank you for this. I always thought I was alone in the whole “don’t linger in the doorway” thing. I don’t know why, but the noncommittal nature of it bothers me.

    My only major pet peeve right now is when I stand outside the elevator, pushing the button to keep the door open (I do this pretty often for the many students we have here in motorized wheelchairs), and everyone piles in…but won’t leave ME room to go in.

    The last time this happened to me, I held the door open and demanded one person get out, and refused to close the door until they did. The girl who did walk out grumbled about how she “only wanted to go up one damn floor, GOD!” Yes…the girl who cock-blocked me from using the elevator was only going up ONE…FLOOR. I thanked her for doing it, and suggested maybe next time taking the stairs if you’re only going up one floor.

    I hope to GOD I don’t have her in a future class. She’s gonna hate me from day one. 😉

  • ngozi

    lol! too funny

  • alexia

    Line proximity is the worse… I hate it so much, it just disgusts me to the highest point, I feel like the person is trying to annoy me on purpose! And when you ask politely for a little space, they are offended (which kind of proves that people sometimes do it on purpose, because they are not surprised but ready to attack!).

    • Michelle

      If someone is too close when I’m paying for something in line I will ask them for some more space. Usually they are just oblivious! This is another pet peeve for me too.

    • Guest

      In Texas, when I was in a queue with a Vietnamese woman who was on my back, I complained to airport police. No touching. Please. Way too close for comfort.

  • I hope the woman who was carrying eight cups (seriously, eight) of coffee out of Starbucks and who didn’t even look at me as I held open the door reads this. If not for me, she’d still be inside, several days later (or so I like to imagine.) Also, people who stand in front of the doors on the El (Chicago-ese for subway) even when there’s plenty of room to stand or sit elsewhere, then roll their eyes at you when you ask them to move out of the way so you can get out. Ugh. People.

  • I remember at college during psychology class professor explaining personal space, social space, intimate space and etc. and that personal space is approximately as far as our arms can reach and that nobody knows why but obviously in Arab world they perceive their personal space as much smaller. Of course somebody in the audience yelled: Maybe they have shorter arms. And since then when I am standing in the queue and somebody’s trying to be my backpack I silently repeat to myself (so I don’t explode with anger and/or frustration): Remember – shorter arms, shorter arms, shorter arms…

  • Bloom a glow

    I truly enjoy you writing. This was so much fun!

  • Gene

    Once upon a time I was at an outdoor concert with several of my equally short friends and there were three super tall guys in front of us. The one guy might as well have been a wall. Then they realized we couldn’t see a thing and insisted they stand behind us. It was glorious.

  • Lily

    Actually in France, good manners would be NOT to say anything when someone sneezes because it shows you noticed them and they bothered you. Good manners would be to sneeze as quietly and discretely as possible and be ashamed if someone comments.

  • Catherine

    I hate the door thing. I have taken to just shouting, incredibly aggressively, at their back -‘YOU’RE WELCOMMMMME’. Doesn’t change anything but it makes me feel better (and look like an insane person).

  • Luarnaiz

    I laughed at 8 30 in the morning. And I love you for making me laugh at 8:30 in the morning.

  • charmystique

    All of these pet peeves and more!!! Cab drivers who decide to take those transportation thieves are even worse. I do love those who drive straight past the wannabe transport thieves and slide to a halt in front of me though. They deserve to keep the change.


  • ef

    Good article but I don’t get the sneezing one; why would you expect everyone to believe superstitions you believe? just idk

  • Mundana

    Serious question: Isn’t sneezing a normal bodily function that science-believers shouldn’t be afraid of (other than germs, bacteria and viruses flying at high speed)? I’m with you on the rest, but I’m not into being blessed from a religion I don’t believe in on the occasion of something I’m not worried about. Just me?

  • Patricia

    I had a giant head in front of me on Wednesday at the Richard Rogers Theatre during If/Then and it really bothered me. I sucked it up though and peered around it for the entire performance. Edina Menzel was great! Could of done without the big head, though.

  • Kristen

    THIS IS PERFECT!!!! Esp. the line proximity one! I’ll inch forward to put more space between me and the person behind me but then they just step forward and start breathing down my back. NOT FUN

  • Aisha S

    Hahahaha. Those subway starers are contagious, they are spreading their disease to the rest of us!

  • Stella

    Somehow the word booger strikes me as the worst possible word to utter or type….you can do better. Otherwise good points.

  • Meaghan

    This makes me laugh. I live in Toronto and I think its fairly rude for a Canadian city…but hello New York City. God bless you, I love that city but when I am polite people actually look at me as if I have 3 heads. Literally. So I stop and slowly feel myself turning into an asshole, until I return back to Toronto and reintroduced back to manners and I think to myself “hey this is the most polite place on the planet, Ill stop being as asshole now”

  • Dee

    How about the subway sneaky sneak who tries to cut in front of you to get onto train even though you’ve been waiting for 10 minutes and they just rolled up. Since this is a safe environment, I feel comfortable to share that in those scenarios, I’ve actively blocked said person by putting my hand up against the train doors so they couldn’t scoot by… and I felt great about it. GREAT!

  • Noemi

    Line proximity… so true!! I can’t stand when people stay so close to you.

  • nowayjosejose

    Can anyone explain the sneezing thing or the lingering in doorways one? Why does a bodily function demand a reaction from anyone else? Why doesn’t a cough or a fart? What makes a sneeze so special?
    And aside from the letting the heat out of the house, what’s up with the doorway? Usually I can get a sense of the underlying ideology (used in its linguistically relevant definition) but I just don’t get this one.

  • So necessary! I would add an air travel clause: do not show feet or armpits. We are all neither here nor there and although some are ok, better make it a flat out rule for the greater good.

  • Clara

    This is the most important thing I’ve read all week. Thank you, Amelia Post-Diamond, you are a goddess.

  • No thank you or even a smile for door is really tacky. I have a mile long list and the only one of yours that didn’t make mine is the cab thing since you know, Uber. The smoking – where people smoking on the streets will hold out the cigarette hand away from their body – towards yours. Why? If you love it so much, stick it near your body.

    Sorry for the weekend rant guys. 🙁

  • Ligia Nicoleta Nistor

    The best ending phrase to an article