The need to weigh in upon modern day niceties was thrust upon me this week in a public bathroom, and so I apologize for any indelicacy in this little diatribe. However, I have come to believe that the Person in Charge of Updating Etiquette has a.) gone on an extended vacation, b.) retired completely (probably exhausted), or, worse yet, c.) up and expired.
In her/his absence, and in the face of excruciating necessity, I have agreed, for a time, to step in.
Yesterday, you see, I had reason to visit a College restroom mid-morning. The restroom is off a service corridor and, although it is what we referred to in my long-ago camping days as a ‘two-holer’, there is seldom anyone else on site. So I was surprised to hearing talking as I pushed open the outer door.
There was only one voice talking, and it was coming from a closed stall. Here is what it said:
“Oooooooh, kids can be so naughty! Did it break?”
“Really??? What did Bootie say?”
“Oooooh. Hang on.”
Sound of phone being plunked down on toilet paper dispenser, followed by flushing.
“Okay, I’m here! Tell me what he said!”
It sounded like, duties over, she was settling in for a nice sit-down chat. In my best crabby old teacher voice, I inquired, “Are you on the PHONE in the BATHROOM?”
There was a vacuumous silence–like the air had just been sucked out of the room. Then a little voice whispered, “I gotta go,” and the young woman burst out of the stall, red-faced.
“It was my SISTER,” she explained.
I let my glasses fall to the end of my nose and gave her my best disapproving mom look. She washed her hands–“Disinfect that phone, too, honey,” I wanted to, but did not, say—and left in a quick flurry, leaving me to perform my ablutions in peace-filled privacy.
This is not the first time I’ve listened to a phone conversation in the stall next door. So here is rule number one—and I don’t care if it’s your sister, your mister, or your sainted mom on the other end:
1. DO NOT TALK ON YOUR PHONE WHILE IN THE REST ROOM.
First, it’s very rude to the person to whom you are speaking.
Second, it’s decidedly unsanitary.
And third, there are those of us who neither care to hear your conversation nor to be part of your broadcast background noise.
No more, okay? Thank you.
And while we’re talking cell phones, let me add rule number two:
2. DO NOT IGNORE THE PERSON WITH WHOM YOU ARE PURPORTEDLY SPENDING TIME IN A PUBLIC PLACE IN ORDER TO TALK WITH SOMEONE ELSE ON YOUR PHONE.
Not too long ago, we took my youngest son out for a special lunch. The waiter seated two young women at the next table. One was plain and a little chubby, but she was all smiles–going out for this lunch must have been a treat. Her buddy was a gorgeous hair flipper. No sooner had they sat down than Flipper’s phone rang. She plucked it out of her bag, looked at the number, and said to Smiley, “It’s Dougie!!!”
Flipper proceeded to talk with Doug, cooing and giggling, while their orders were taken and then for the entire meal. Smiley’s smile froze and then gradually started to melt. At our table, we determinedly carried on a polite conversation and studiously avoided inflicting the compassion we were all feeling upon Smiley. The food was fine, but the all-too-audible phone conversation made the whole lunch uncomfortable.
When we left, Flipper was still talking and Smiley wasn’t even pretending to smile anymore.
And, oh! Writing of eating out reminds me of an event that did NOT happen this week. As a result, please allow me to add rule number three. This one has two parts:
3A. IF AN INVITATION REQUESTS A RESPONSE, PLEASE RESPOND. If you don’t want to go, politely let your inviter know you will not attend; you don’t need to explain or make excuses. The host/ess is planning food or making reservations. S/he needs a pretty accurate number of attendees. It is rude not to respond at all, but you should, of course, feel entirely free to politely decline.
3B. IF, HOWEVER, YOU ACCEPT THE INVITATION, GO TO THE EVENT. This week’s non-event did not happen because nine of the eleven (guess who was number ten?) people who accepted the invitation to get together at a restaurant after work called the inviter at the last minute and said, “Oh gosh. Can’t come after all.” Reservations had to be un-made, and the last minute calls hurt and disappointed the would-be host. They kind of sounded like either “I got a better offer,” or “I really don’t feel like going, after all.”
So–if you’ve said you’d go, unless there is a true emergency–a sick kid, your own 102 degree temp, a burst pipe—move your butt and go. Chances are you’ll enjoy it when you get there; you wouldn’t have accepted in the first place if you didn’t think you would.
And finally (for today), let me add just one more…the necessity to close the loop with a thank you. If you receive a gift of any kind, please follow this rule:
4. EXTEND YOUR THANKS IN THE MEDIUM IN WHICH YOU RECEIVED THE GIFT. So, if your giver is there with you as you receive and open the package, an enthusiastic thank you on the spot is required. (It is always nice, but not absolutely necessary, to follow this up with written thanks.)
If you receive an e-gift, an email message is an appropriate acknowledgement. And if a gift arrives in the mail, you should send your written thanks back the same way.
It is perfectly dandy to use ‘boughten’ thank you cards, but it is wonderful to mention the gift and how much you like it—if, of course, you do. (If not, you can say something like, “Thank you for the antique button holer! You make me feel so good when you remember my birthday.” Thanks, but no untruths, extended.)
If the gift is monetary-ish, you might mention how you’ll use it. Ie, “Thank you for the I-Tunes gift card! I can’t wait to download Joe Purdy’s ‘Not Today’!” –or–“Thanks for the gift of money! I used it, with some money I’d been saving, to buy myself the tablet I’ve been wanting. Every time I use that tablet, I’ll think of you.”
We called these, back in the frozen olden days, “bread-and-butter” notes. The mercenary thought was that, if you sent one, you’d be much more likely to be a repeat receiver. And that may well be true. But the real intent is to close the loop, letting the giver know how thrilled you are to have been thought of kindly and lovingly. Extending the thanks actually adds to your enjoyment.
Okay. That’s it for today…Cranky Granny’s feeling much better. And hoping that the Person Who Keeps Etiquette Up To Date will soon be back to work. If that’s the case, I’ll never have to post like this again.
But I’m not making any promises.