The Manners Manifesto
January 7, 2008 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The Manners Manifesto For example: "(11) Talk to people at the check-out. You don't have to say much. God, even something inane like, "Busy in here, today, isn't it?" or "Not as busy as usual in here, today, is it?" might put us on the road to peace in the Middle East. Carrying on grumping around and spreading those grump vibes certainly isn't going to help."
posted by feelinglistless (143 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am good on 10 out of 12. Don't give out money on the street, and my child can and does swear as much as I can.

Other than that, I am an alright guy.
posted by Danf at 3:27 PM on January 7, 2008


Please don't talk to me at the checkout.
posted by item at 3:29 PM on January 7, 2008 [34 favorites]


I like this guy. He seems to realize that tiny little bits of respect and sociability can go a long way towards making life better for both you and the people around you (as long as they're offered sincerely and not condescendingly). In the course of my workday, I deal with everybody from smelly homeless guys to silk-suited rich people and I've noticed that a simple 'how 'bout this cold?' or whatever can go a long way toward pleasantness. It just says 'I'm human, you're human, let's be human together for a few minutes and we'll both be happier.'
posted by jonmc at 3:32 PM on January 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


If you need to write a manifesto to get people to say 'please' and 'thank you', we're all fucked, politeness-wise, anyway.
posted by pompomtom at 3:37 PM on January 7, 2008


pompomtom: there's more to manners and politeness than formality.
posted by jonmc at 3:38 PM on January 7, 2008


Fuck letting people cut in. Those of us that follow the rules queue up for the exit/onramp/etc. Total douchebags go to the front and cut in. I'll let people cut in in other circumstances but they better give me the hand wave or I'll follow them home and punch them in the mouth.

(just got home from work, still dealing with the fuckwads on 183)

Also, I dropped off bags of stuff at a charity shop this morning and it was clearly market it was A OK to leave stuff there after hours. But that is was not cool at all to take stuff that other people left and they at the shop consider that theft.

Saying please, thank you and excuse me is how I was raised. And it pisses me off when people do not extend the same to me. Especially douchebags too busy in blackberry coma to pay attention.
posted by birdherder at 3:40 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Please don't talk to me, period.
posted by nevercalm at 3:40 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was coming here to say, "Please don't talk to me at the checkout." Those exact words. But item was in line ahead of me, so I'll have to come up with something else.

Please don't talk to me at the checkout, fucker.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:41 PM on January 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


I do all but number 7. Fuck 'em.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:41 PM on January 7, 2008


Why is it that people can't be quiet without being considered grumpy? We're not all extroverts who feel we have to talk all the time in order to ascertain that we're still alive, you know.
posted by clevershark at 3:42 PM on January 7, 2008 [18 favorites]


I acknowledge folks at the checkout, but it would be pretty painful to actually chat...it just sort of crosses a line of privacy, their's more than mine. Better to just smile and say hello, and please and thank you.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:43 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Got 9 out of 12...I smoke...therefor I litter (mea culpa - cough). I swear in front of kids- because dammit, I forget. And I have sworn at a few helpline people (they deserved it, and I'm NOT sorry).

Please don't talk to me at the checkout, fucker.

Please get a grip, jerk - is it going to kill you to be civil?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:46 PM on January 7, 2008


"Why is it that people can't be quiet without being considered grumpy?"

No shit. Shut up and leave me alone, fuckers.

Whoops. Looks like I am grumpy after all.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:46 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Assholes of the world, shape up! You have nothing to lose but your scowls!
posted by Bromius at 3:46 PM on January 7, 2008


Wow, I really blew number 7 when they came pounding on my door (and I mean fucking violently pounding) yesterday morning/afternoon rousing me from a wicked hangover. I ran them off my property and instructed them to add me to their "DO NOT CALL" list, a bit of Jehova's Witness jargon I learned from my boyfriend (a former Jehova's Witness) They map out neighborhoods like war zones, and that's a category they put you under when someone's a maniac. They also have a H.B.H. category, for those who never answer their door, i.e., 'home but hiding.' For those folks they WILL return.

But all in all this is a great list of common sense pointers.

Thanks.
posted by zenpop at 3:47 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


What do you non-talkers do when the cashier at the supermarket says, "How are you folks doin' today?" Do you just stare at your shoes and ignore her? Is it so hard to say, "Oh pretty good but I wish it wasn't so rainy" or the like?
posted by octothorpe at 3:48 PM on January 7, 2008


My best example of the making a connection thing happened to me in Paris. As I wrote in my diary back in the day:

I’m sitting in the café at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. On the table before me are an espresso and pain du chocolate, and they are all I can smell. Around me people are talking in a din of different languages. A Japanese girl is seated on the table almost but not quite opposite to me. She has brought an espresso as well. We smile at each other, and we share a few words: ‘You alright’ Yes.’ ‘Japanese?’ ‘English?’ But its obvious that is the limit my Japanese and her English so we sit in silence.

I'm reading the English version of the guide book; hers is all in Japanese. Different versions of the same book. I put my book down and start to eat the pastry. I can tell she is intrigued by it, so I pull off a chunk, making sure there is some chocolate and offer it to her. The girl takes it gladly and smiles giddily after eating. She tries to say thank you but can’t, so I just tell her she’s welcome. When she’s finished that piece I give her some more. We sit in silence just looking at each other, until our coffees are gone. We shake hands and go our own ways.

Like all big cities, Paris can be one of the loneliest places in the world. I’m a paradoxical human being. I like going to places alone, because it means I can see everything at my own pace and only see the things I want to see. But I also want to be able to share the experience. When I was in Paris, having these amazing experiences, I sometimes did feel like I was in an alien place were no one understood who I was. After the first day, whenever I heard an British accent I almost ran to it, just to discourse, a kind of relief in the ability to communicate meaningfully even for a few brief moments.

This moment wasn’t about language, but it was about interaction. For such a romantic city, there were a lot of single people touring alone. In a way it felt like we were some kind of cultural subgroup. The trouble was we couldn’t talk to each other, either through fear or because of language. When the Japanese girl sat opposite I knew I wanted to talk to her, tell her about all the amazing things which had happened to me that day, about bumping into Whistler’s Mother, about the Mona Lisa. But I was able to tell her about this one small thing by sharing it with her. It was nice just to live in a moment with someone and it not be about service or money …
posted by feelinglistless at 3:49 PM on January 7, 2008 [50 favorites]


feelinglistless was better than the fpp.

(I give money to buskers but not to mimes.)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:53 PM on January 7, 2008


i don't talk to strangers in public because i'm too polite to interrupt the voices in my head
posted by pyramid termite at 3:54 PM on January 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


What do you non-talkers do when the cashier at the supermarket says, "How are you folks doin' today?" Do you just stare at your shoes and ignore her? Is it so hard to say, "Oh pretty good but I wish it wasn't so rainy" or the like?

I say, "If you'd shut the fuck up and do your job, already, or if you could actually manage to swipe a barcode and hold a conversation at the same time, I could have been out of here five minutes ago."

Okay - I only say it in my head. But I say it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:54 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Assholes of the world, shape up! You have nothing to lose but your scowls!

"A Smile is a Frown Upside Down" Okay. Yeah -- well, fuck you.

What's next?

A fuckin' Up With People Concert?
posted by ericb at 3:56 PM on January 7, 2008


What do you non-talkers do when the cashier at the supermarket says, "How are you folks doin' today?"

Fuck head -- they're dead! What's it to you?
posted by ericb at 3:58 PM on January 7, 2008


This is going about as well as expected.

Have a nice day. :)
posted by pointilist at 3:58 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Shut up and leave me alone, fuckers.
posted by octothorpe at 3:59 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't go out drinking regularly, and the tips that I leave are modest ($1 per drink, across the board), so it surprised me to find that bartenders comp me a drink (or two) on a large percentage of my nights out. On New Year's Eve, I finally asked a bartender why it was that she'd declined payment on a couple of my drinks. Turns out, it's because I said "please", "thank you" and "when you have a chance" when I ordered my first few rounds. Up until that point, I'd just assumed that the reason that you'd say those things is because that's the way that you'd want to be treated (and because, for the love of Gawd, you don't want to piss of the person who controls what goes into your food).

I worked retail and food service for over a decade before I got my current office job, and I find it remarkable how many customers came into the stores, treated the employees like absolute shit, and then gave the aforementioned employees ample opportunities to fuck with them. Why people think that it's a good idea to tweak someone's nose and then ask them to handle their food (or their credit card information) is totally beyond me.

If I don't like the treatment that I receive from a business, I remain polite while I'm in the store and then go home and write a letter conveying my displeasure to the parent company. Raising a scene in the store benefits no one and makes you look like an ass. A well-composed letter has, in my experience, usually caused the company to rectify the problem, with the added bonus that many companies throw in as a form of compensation.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:59 PM on January 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Never swear at people on the other end of helplines. They are just doing their job. If they cannot help you, ask to speak to their supervisor.

Actually, those are the best calls. We record those. Endless lines of polite people with mundane problems or password resets on the phone all day is soul-grindingly boring.

Hearing some poor fucker scream himself into a stroke over something usually meaningless is highly entertaining. Usually it's the blow-hards who are absolutely ignorant and terrified of technology that scream the best.

So, yeah. That's a reason to not swear or scream on a help line. Because not only will you be mocked by people more angry and bitter than you - but we will critique and score the quality, quantity and aesthetics of your swearing. And likely you will be found lacking.

Aim for the stars! Extra points can be earned by length of diatribe, polysyllabic swearing, sheer volume, use of arcane insults and the audible, violent smashing of electronics. (Use the secret automatic 100x multiplier if you disconnect or break your phone in your tantrum!)
posted by loquacious at 3:59 PM on January 7, 2008 [20 favorites]


feeling, i do stuff like that everytime i travel--and others do it too, i find. We're way more open to others on vacation--and to possible adventures/experiences that may result from contact, esp if we're traveling by ourselves. I find it much easier to talk to strangers overall when i'm away as opposed to being home.

It's a good list, but i disagree about leaving bags of clothes and stuff--i've done it at spots where i know homeless people are, and also in front of thrift stores, knowing that whoever walks by can have it if they want.
posted by amberglow at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2008



I try to do this as much as possible as I believe that healthy relational interactions are critical to mental health. Often all you have to do is smile and make eye contact and say thank you. If you start doing this regularly, the transactional relationships you have with people in your neighborhood start (the news guy, the coffee shop people, etc.) to become more human and then your neighborhood can become more of a community rather than a collection of strangers.

It's also really nasty to take out your frustrations on minimum wage people who are just trying to make a living and who are almost certainly not responsible for the policies that annoy you.

If you empathize, it begins to make the world kinder, basically. Of course, when I have PMS, it's really, really, really hard to practice this, but I do try.
posted by Maias at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'll let people cut in in other circumstances but they better give me the hand wave or I'll follow them home and punch them in the mouth.

no, no, no no! DON'T WAVE, DRIVE! There's nothing worse than that douchebag who sits there grinning and waving at you, apparently unable to engage a moving hand and a gas petal simultaneously. I'm letting you in; MOVE YOUR ASS.
posted by peep at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Leaving bags of stuff outside charity shops when they're closed? Come on!

Telling me the exactly how I should and shouldn't give my stuff to charity is a bit like criticizing the technique of a young woman from the bar who was nice enough to come home and give me a blowjob.

It's a fucking blowjob. Be thankful for it, and move on.
posted by flarbuse at 4:02 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Telling me the exactly how I should and shouldn't give my stuff to charity is a bit like criticizing the technique of a young woman from the bar who was nice enough to come home and give me a blowjob.

It's a fucking blowjob. Be thankful for it, and move on.


Just so long as I don't have to talk to her...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:07 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"There's nothing worse than that douchebag who sits there grinning and waving at you, apparently unable to engage a moving hand and a gas petal simultaneously."

Unless it's someone who doesn't know the difference between a petal and a pedal.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:07 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Please get a grip, jerk - is it going to kill you to be civil?

Just imagine, please, how it feels for the checkout person.

Guy in front of you: "Sure is busy today, huh?"
Checkout person: "Yeah, boy it sure is!"
...
You: "Sure is busy today, huh?"
Checkout person: "Yeah, boy it sure is."
...
Person behind you: "Sure is busy today, huh?"
Checkout person: "KILL ME."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:08 PM on January 7, 2008 [15 favorites]


Suppose I should fess up that I'm mostly just doing schtick, here. I'm actually nauseatingly polite out in the world. But I probably still don't want to talk to you in the checkout line.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:10 PM on January 7, 2008


they have to keep knocking at all the other doors, which must be shit.

No, they don't. Similarly, spammers don't "have to" send out spam, and telemarketers don't "have to" call people and try to sell things. Find a legitimate avenue for your product/message, and people will be perfectly civil to you.
posted by almostmanda at 4:11 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


What do you non-talkers do when the cashier at the supermarket says, "How are you folks doin' today?"

We're quiet, not deaf or mute.
posted by clevershark at 4:11 PM on January 7, 2008


Talking to people who you share no connection with is not good manners.
posted by grouse at 4:11 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


#9 is my personal grumpy old man issue. Nothing bugs me more than people carelessly tossing their GOSH DARN (normally I'd swear here, but in keeping with the spirit of the post I'll refrain) litter in the street/park/playground/public garden/highway embankment.

I just do not get this mentality. Are you too lazy to carry your Tim Hortons cup a couple hundred feet to the next trash can? Doesn't litter blowing all over the place - where you live, no less - depress you? It's one thing to put your garbage on the curb each week and not think about where it goes after that, and another to not care about having trash actually strewn up and down your street.

Just typing all of this makes me angry, because I know that the minute I leave work tonight I'll walk home surrounded by evidence that most people JUST DO NOT GIVE A FLYING FIG about even their personal environment, to the point where they think nothing of dropping whatever they just finished using in the street, to be blown by the four winds to God knows where. If I was king of the world I'd forcibly relocate all of these people to landfills.

/ off to take my meds
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:12 PM on January 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


Is he suggesting that we chat with the people in the queue, or with the cashiers? I think there's a big difference.
posted by grouse at 4:12 PM on January 7, 2008


He means everybody, grouse. He's obviously a chatter. Probably talks to bloke in the pisser, too, the wanker.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:15 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am a big believer in being polite and engaging waiting staff and people at checkouts. I'll smile, I'll say 'hi' or make a stupid pun/comment to maybe make them laugh. Makes the day go faster for everyone, a bit of humour does.

But engage them in a conversation? Nope. I fucking hate pointless small talk. If I was in there regularly, then yes. In passing with someone I'll never see again? No way. What can you possibly ask or talk about in the time it takes to perform a transaction that will be anything other than banal shit. Who on earth wants a day trying to keep a pointless stream of banal shit up with super-over-friendly customers.

Make their job easier by being nice is great. But making them have to talk to you is, in my opinion, making it harder unless you actually have something to talk about, which (with your average stranger) you don't.
posted by Brockles at 4:17 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I drive ~40 min each way to work in suburban Chicago and I cannot understand why people can't be civil in traffic. Letting someone in isn't going to add anything appreciable to my commute. I'm not in that much of a hurry to get to my cubicle. And while I might be tired and ready to crash on my couch, I'm not in enough of a hurry to get home that I can't be civilized. Then again, I truly believe in karma.
posted by desjardins at 4:21 PM on January 7, 2008


Talking to people who you share no connection with is not good manners.

Then how do you make a connection with them? Believe me, I don't believe in burdening people with idiotic chit-chat, especially if they don't want to be spoken to (and believe me, it's obvious from word one whether I've made a mistake striking up a conversation). That's the point of being polite, being open to communicating with your fellow human, but not forcing them into communication if they don't want it. If you hate humanity so much, that someone commenting on the weather at the store sends you into a rage, then you might want to consider having your groceries delivered and save all of us from having to deal with your crappy outlook.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:22 PM on January 7, 2008


With regards to checkout conversation, I abhor it as much as the next introvert. However, I'd rather be asked "how's it going?" then met with cold, stony silence. Having worked retail, I can tell you that MOST customers will ramble on at length if prodded, so you introverts are probably a relief.
posted by desjardins at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2008


Letting cars in: If everyone is bing fair, then yes. If someone has shot to the front of the queue trying to be smart, they can go fuck themselves*.

7: No way. I think someone telling you, or trying to, what to believe is the height of rudeness. It doesn't deserve politeness.

And I think anyone is justified at getting irate with someone that isn't doing their job. If they're being a dick at the same time, then I think swearing is probably justified, but you have, by doing so, instantly lost. End of.



*Every bit as much as I expect to be told to go fuck myself when, er, I jump to the front of teh queue. At least I'm not a hypocrite. Kind of.
posted by Brockles at 4:24 PM on January 7, 2008


Yeah, I don't get aggressive driving either. Perhaps the guy who absolutely get there 10 seconds before me is driving a POS car with no radio or heater and that's about a month from completely falling apart, but I'm quite happy to sit back and let someone go in front of me if they're not being complete assholes about it.
posted by clevershark at 4:24 PM on January 7, 2008


Perhaps the guy who absolutely has to get there 10 seconds before me, that is.
posted by clevershark at 4:26 PM on January 7, 2008


Is he suggesting that we chat with the people in the queue, or with the cashiers?

I took it to mean other shoppers, who I think you should completely let alone. Unless you would like to share a snark over how rude the shopper ahead both of you is being to the cashier, which is pretty much the extent of my checkout camaraderie.

However, what I came to say is that the worst drivers in the world are those who come to a complete stop to try to let you in despite the fact that a) the traffic is not all that bad and I can probably get in myself, thank you; and b) no one in any of the other three lanes that I will have to cross is thinking at all of letting me in. The overly polite drivers then sit waving madly at me to go, get mad when I give them an are you are completely clueless or what look, and then gun it, endangering the car ahead of them. Do what is best for TRAFFIC AS A WHOLE, not what you think is a kindness to me or a glowy heartwarming feeling for you.

That is all.
posted by frobozz at 4:27 PM on January 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Then how do you make a connection with them?

Well, either you are introduced, or you meet at some sort of social event.

Funny thing is, The Light Fantastic, I usually enjoy talking to strangers, I just try not to inflict myself upon them in environments such as supermarket checkouts. If the guy in the queue started chatting to me, though, I'd probably be happy enough to talk back. It's ironic that you have aimed so much misdirected invective at me in the name of "manners."
posted by grouse at 4:29 PM on January 7, 2008


Just the littering one would be enough for me.

It has become the rage to litter.

Getting the plastic wrappers or bits of wrapper from cigarette packs off before leaving a convenience store so as to be able to drop it on the ground outside the door is part of the global competition to most casually communicate (not aloofness) ignorance. (Ditto dropping it from the window of a moving car.

Last month, driving a drunk asshole home, after he had ate and consumed three McDonald's meat sandwiches, fries, and a shake, he gathered all the left-over material together and before I realized what he was doing just tossed it out the window onto the highway! I nearly had a coronary! When I said for him to not to "ever do that again," he argued! His position? That "he was giving people jobs!" Thus began a two-hour drive/argument/revealing display of ignorance, and of the darkness of some souls.

Give a hoot, don't pollute? The crying man who looked native?* Don't be a litterbug?

When did everyone just forget this stuff? I thought NOT LITTERING was basic! Well, I am glad to see I'm not the only who noticed.

Being practicedly ignorant is one thing ("What? You talking to me?"), littering is intentionally hurtful of everyone and disdainful of everyone. It's act of self-worth #-1.

*He wasn't. But he was a decent human being.
posted by humannaire at 4:30 PM on January 7, 2008


I don't give money to the homeless. A large percentage of the chronically homeless are mentally ill and/or chemically dependent, and are just looking to raise enough money for drugs or alcohol. I owe them an opportunity, not a drink.

Additionally, I have a feeling that a lot of people who give money to panhandlers feel that they have done their duty to the homeless, and, as a result, don't give to shelters and whatnot, where the money might do some real good.

I don't think this issue should be framed as "polite/not polite." The plight of the homeless is far too serious and complicated to be included in a list of suggestions for good manners.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:30 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, I had left for the airport around, hmm.. 7am. And I was in college at the time, when 7am was about five hours earlier than my normal wake-up time. I had to sit in the airport for a while, and then I got onto the plane.

And then The Oyster Man sat next to me.

He was a man whose job involved analyzing oysters. He loved his job. He decided he had to tell me all about the oysters. And then he had to tell me about his life, in the 60s, when he was a hippy. He told me about how he used to have a loft-type apartment, and the owner let him do whatever he want, so they filled the whole place with cotton, and said, "We were living like hamsters!" He had to tell me about his major in college, which was something like "scatalogical studies," and he had to tell me, several times, about how he had chosen that major just because it was about poop. He had to explain to me all the many ways that the earth is like a lizard. He had to express his deep, deep undying love for the movie, Starship Troopers.

It was a five hour flight. He had to tell me a lot of things, and all of this when I was extremely tired and only wanted to get some rest.... And when, with every syllable, he spit a little bit onto my arm.

And that's why I will never support talking to strangers when they have no means of escape.
posted by Ms. Saint at 4:48 PM on January 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Chatting with the checkout help does make our shift go faster and a heckuvalot more enjoyably, but please, limit your smalltalk to something closed-ended I can smile and agree with. If I want to keep talking to you, and if you look like you want to keep talking, I'll make it happen, but for the love God, don't try to engage me in deep philosophical debate or try to get my number when there's a lineup behind you. If you slow me down I will make sure your coffee is cold and Butter-Pecan flavoured.

Since we're being polite and all.
posted by knystress at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2008


Quite obviously, the author lives in London. In the rest of the country, most of these things are standard.

I owe them an opportunity, not a drink.

I don't owe them a drink, but I'm happy to contribute to their drink fund. I especially love to use the money I've withheld as tips from bad mannered people in service industries for this purpose.

The thing about letting people cut in is phrased wrongly. It doesn't mean allowing a rude driver to behave poorly, it means allowing a driver who is waiting to get out onto a packed road to get into the stream of traffic. Again, it's completely standard. Except if you're driving in London.

I do swear when kids are about though. If they don't like it, they can fuck right off.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:59 PM on January 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have a better one for the check out-- you don't have to talk to me, but will you please get off the cell phone? The cell phone erases the checkout person. It is breath-stoppingly rude. The phone is in your g-d pocket, so guess what: you. can. call. the. person. back.

re homeless people and what they spend their money on. Once you give it to them, it's their money (yes I give money to beggers). Telling them to spend it in a way that you approve of infantilizes them. They're grown ups. They can spend their money as they please. (You'll notice in other posts that I have much the same opinions on charitable giving to not for profits, with some caveats)

But generally, yeah. Rudeness bad. Civility good.

nice post. Thank you. (smiles)
posted by nax at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a Canadian, so I suppose I'm predisposed to being overly polite, but I find that the simple act of "faking" politeness does wonders to my disposition. No matter how shitty my day is going, if I force a smile and say "please" and "thank you", eventually I find that life is going a little better for me. It's cheaper than therapy or Prozac :)

But if I may whine about something for a moment. Perhaps it's a midwest thing (I live in Ohio now), but why do so many people think "uh huh" is an appropriate response to "thank you"?
To me, it just sounds more rude than saying nothing at all.

Maybe a little less annoying, but annoying nonetheless, is when I say "thank you" and the other person responds "no problem".

But I guess the point is that we shouldn't be polite just to expect the same in return - we should do it for ourselves. Doesn't cost a thing.
posted by newfers at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heh, I do all of these things, except moderate my swearing, which is an unconscious black flood from my mouth at all times. My girlfriend, having a more "professional" job, has learned to say "Crumbs!" instead of "fucking bullshit, man, that's some motherfucking bullshit," when the diner only has mixed fruit jelly.
posted by klangklangston at 5:03 PM on January 7, 2008 [14 favorites]


Just so long as I don't have to talk to her...

Except to say "please" and "thank you"
posted by nax at 5:06 PM on January 7, 2008


My girlfriend, having a more "professional" job, has learned to say "Crumbs!" instead of "fucking bullshit, man, that's some motherfucking bullshit," when the diner only has mixed fruit jelly.

That's cute. She's a keeper, dude.
posted by jonmc at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


People referring to a situation they merely dislike (such as a shop lacking their favorite flavor of jelly) as "bullshit" is, indeed, bullshit.
posted by grouse at 5:14 PM on January 7, 2008


I find this list a little lacking, is how polite I am. So let's do a little adding-on.

13. Don't be needlessly demanding of servicepeople. It's easy to make a waitress' day and easy to ruin it.
14. Bring gifts or contributions. Don't show up empty-handed to a party.
15. Give your friends and family regular reminders that you love them. Wage peace local-style!
16. Share. Anytime you're consuming something, offer part to whomever is present.
17. Make yourself useful. Offer help.

(For example, just before Thanksgiving, I was in the new MegaSafeway, and there were lots and lots of women looking for special occasion ingredients, but having trouble finding them in the new, mosey-intensive, warm-lighting WholeFoodsy store. Tense, crowded, children running everywhere, tempers fraying. Neglecting to pipe up with help in that situation would have been simply impolite. Telling someone, unsolicited, overhearing their exasperation, where I found the pine nuts or the Karo syrup was the least I could do, and probably saved a kid from getting snapped at.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:16 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I smoke...therefor I litter

Smoking forces you to litter? I smoke, but avoid throwing my butts on the ground. It's not that hard.

I don't think anything infuriates me as much as seeing someone litter.
posted by Bort at 5:22 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like this guy too. Pretty good list, and I'm pretty good on 1-12. AV's 13-17 are nice, too.

Re: #9, TLF, smokers don't have to litter. It doesn't help your cause of smoking in public places if you're going to throw butts (some still lit) everywhere. I have seen considerate smokers occasionally, who put out and discard their cigarettes appropriately, so I know it is possible.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:30 PM on January 7, 2008


"Here's a tip for all the assholes out there... if you go into a store and decide to be a total dick to the clerk, pay with cash."

Give us this day our img tag.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2008


I have no fucking idea what happened to that link, but the correct link is here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2008


On giving money to the homeless: I do this without qualm. If they get enough to buy drink, they'll spend the leftovers on food.

I agree with Dr Johnson:

"Why should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence? It is surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not ashamed to shew even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:40 PM on January 7, 2008 [9 favorites]


I talk to checkout people (and retail people in general) all the time and as a result, I have, on average, three or four authentically fascinating conversations per week. I'm amazed at the stories strangers tell me simply because I was friendly with them. My family members are entertained by the stuff I have to tell them about what I've learned from talking to people in stores.

Seriously, it's damn near a hobby if you do it right.
posted by Cranky Media Guy at 5:41 PM on January 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Yeah, littering is pretty much "fuck you, world."

The worst are people who don't know how to acknowledge, or don't acknowledge, a polite deed or phrase. People who barge through held-open doors without saying thanks, clerks or waitresses who ignore or say "whatever" when you say thank you...it's all a bit depressing.
posted by maxwelton at 5:43 PM on January 7, 2008


Buying the Big Issue is a good idea, but when the sellers are stationed every few blocks, it becomes yet another random donation. Seems to me the biggest cause of homelessness right now is runaway house and rental pricing inflation. You want to do something for the homeless? Give money to tenant advocacy groups to lobby for rental price restraint.

Whether or not to give the hobo $5? You not giving it to him won't hurt him much. You giving it to him won't help him much. Give it if you can spare it, don't if you can't. It's a bigger problem than you, or he, can be expected to solve.

A quote from Greg Giraldo, from the Lazyboy track Underwear Goes Inside the Pants:
"There are homeless people everywhere. This homeless guy asked me for money the other day. I was about to give it to him and then I thought he was going to use it on drugs or alcohol. And then I thought, that's what I'm going to use it on. Why am I judging this poor bastard? People love to judge homeless guys. Like if you give them money they're just going to waste it. Well, he lives in a box, what do you want him to do? Save it up and buy a wall unit? Take a little run to the store for a throw rug and a CD rack? He's homeless!

"I walked behind this guy the other day. A homeless guy asked him for money. He looks right at the homeless guy and says, 'why don't you go get a job, you bum?' People always say that to homeless guys like it is so easy. This homeless guy was wearing his underwear outside his pants. Outside his pants. I'm guessing his resume isn't all up to date. I'm predicting some problems during the interview process. I'm pretty sure even McDonalds has a 'underwear goes inside the pants' policy. Not that they enforce it really strictly, but technically I'm sure it is on the books."

Ms. Saint And then The Oyster Man sat next to me.

The Oyster Man is not doing the right thing, he is doing the opposite wrong thing. I think "be more friendly" is good advice, but being friendly means not bothering people, with either stony glares or annoying chatter.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:52 PM on January 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


"I worked retail and food service for over a decade before I got my current office job, and I find it remarkable how many customers came into the stores, treated the employees like absolute shit, and then gave the aforementioned employees ample opportunities to fuck with them"

I saw another article somewhere about how the phrase "The customer is always right" has been one of the worst things (yes, I know, there are many worse things.. that's why I said "one of") to happen to America in a while.

After working several different call center jobs and delivering pizzas, I am inclined to agree.
posted by drstein at 5:53 PM on January 7, 2008


I talk to checkout people (and retail people in general) all the time and as a result, I have, on average, three or four authentically fascinating conversations per week. I'm amazed at the stories strangers tell me simply because I was friendly with them.

As a person who currently (and for a big chunk of his previous life) works in retail, I can assure you that it's the same for us. Where do you think I get half the stories I post online. (The other half I get in bars).
posted by jonmc at 5:56 PM on January 7, 2008


I'll say 'hi' or make a stupid pun/comment to maybe make them laugh.

As someone who works retail, I will tell you that as long as you don't make that fucking, "No pricetag?!? I guess it's FREE!" joke, we're cool.
posted by piratebowling at 5:58 PM on January 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Leaving bags of stuff outside charity shops when they're closed?

I usually put my old stuff in those Goodwill or Salvation Army "dumpsters" you see by grocery stores and such, but I haven't found one since I moved to Burbank, so I actually had to go to the Goodwill location. Gasp!

I didn't quite know what to do, so I asked an older man who looked a little like a very grouchy Scatman Crothers, "Do I just... leave this out here or... I'm not sure what to do."

He said, "I'll take it," and took my bag with shaky hands. Then he gave me the biggest smile and said, "Well, thank you, dear!" and I felt like my measly couple of blouses and a pair of shoes were the most awesome donation ever.

So, yeah, go drop your stuff off in person if you can.
posted by katillathehun at 6:06 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


They also have a H.B.H. category, for those who never answer their door, i.e., 'home but hiding.' For those folks they WILL return.

And that's perfectly okay by me, because as long as they're pounding on my door and being ignored, they're not hassling anyone. If I could figure out how to encourage them to stand outside my door all day, I'd be game with that. Let them waste their time on earth.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


drstein: I saw another article somewhere about how the phrase "The customer is always right" has been one of the worst things (yes, I know, there are many worse things.. that's why I said "one of") to happen to America in a while.

Is this it?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:13 PM on January 7, 2008


Don't be polite, America, or you'll become Canadian. And we all know how awful being in Canada is.

If someone steps on your foot in Canada, you apologize. For, I guess, having your foot in the place they wanted to put their foot.

It's absurd, but at least we don't have anything near the violence problem the USA has.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:19 PM on January 7, 2008


I'm wondering is a couple on internet politeness might have been good idea.
posted by sfts2 at 6:28 PM on January 7, 2008


Dumb fuck above cant spell if. What a friggin' moron.
posted by sfts2 at 6:29 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, my brother and I (originally from the South, now living in New York and Montreal) realized that we always ask, at restaurants, "May I have ___" or "Could I get____", not "I'll have ____." I'm not really sure if this is polite or not- is implying that they might not have something, or might not give it to me, sort of degrading the waitstaff? Should we stop?

[NOT WAITSTAFFIST]
posted by 235w103 at 7:00 PM on January 7, 2008


And then The Oyster Man sat next to me.

I kinda had that happen to me, on a transatlantic flight. She wasn't an Oyster Man, though, and it's been enough years that I don't remember what she talked to me about - but she talked about it all the way from Paris to Newark. Or JFK. I forget. She was a couple of years older than I was, and nice, if boring (to me). When we got to Newark (or JFK), we went through customs together, and then, before we split up to catch our different connecting flights, she asked me if I wanted to get a bite to eat. I had a nickel and a ten-centime piece in my pocket, and she knew that. She bought me the most delicious Burger King meal I've ever had, and gave me $5 "just in case" money, and I never saw her again.

---

A friend in college worked at the teeny airport near our college town. He took flying lessons, and also worked there as a baggage handler/check-in clerk. One day a woman came in to catch a flight to Boston, and from there to some island in the Caribbean (this was February, in New Hampshire). My friend started to check her in and warned her that because of the weather, her flight would probably be delayed (and she would therefore probably miss her downstream flights). She flipped out - called him names, questioned his masculinity, etc. Finally, her flight got called, and Will told me that practically up to the moment she got on the plane, she was yelling at him.

So he tagged her bags for Bangkok.

The lesson for me in this story was: when entering a customer/server dynamic, and you are the customer, think carefully about who has power, and act accordingly (if you're not a naturally nice person, anyway).
posted by rtha at 7:30 PM on January 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


we always ask, at restaurants, "May I have ___" or "Could I get____", not "I'll have ____."

I go with "I would like ___ " as a happy medium. (Thinking about it, it would feel weird to me to go with "I'll have," but I've honestly never noticed what other people do.)
posted by frobozz at 7:34 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend started to check her in and warned her that because of the weather, her flight would probably be delayed (and she would therefore probably miss her downstream flights). She flipped out - called him names, questioned his masculinity, etc.

You know, I understand when people yell and insult someone who has caused them problems. It's an asshole thing to do, and I don't do it myself, but I understand.

What I don't understand is people who yell at people who are in no way responsible for their problems. How does that ever help? Assholes.
posted by grouse at 7:36 PM on January 7, 2008


I'll see Derek Batey's "be nice to each other" and raise Bill & Ted's "be excellent to each other."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:45 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Y'know, there are some days where it doesn't bother me, but the majority of time, last-minute mergers piss me THE FUCK OFF. You assholes. You know where the lane ends. I know where the lane ends. Why the fuck do you think I'm over here already?

I'm perfectly fine letting people in, but jesus, in Minneapolis there are at least two or three cars a day who go 50 in the exit only lane and start blinking at the last second. FUCK THEM. It's not being nice to let those people in, it's being a jackass to the 100 people behind you who got over when they should have.
posted by graventy at 8:07 PM on January 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


So he tagged her bags for Bangkok.

CNN: Revenge of the Ticket Agents - "Be nice to your ticket agent. Otherwise you could end up like Barbara Arbani."
posted by ericb at 8:09 PM on January 7, 2008


Got 9 out of 12...I smoke...therefor I litter

Oh, yeah...smokers. The world is not your ashtray.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:13 PM on January 7, 2008


I'm surprised no one covered talking on cell phones while being helped at the register. I understand that you are on a professional level much higher than me, that you make more money than me, that you're several degrees more successful than I am, but please don't act like I'm inconveniencing you while I'm taking your order.
posted by gc at 8:24 PM on January 7, 2008


Wow, I got 8.5 (I smile only sometimes). That's pretty good, since I consider myself a misanthrope. A polite misanthrope, though!
posted by wastelands at 8:42 PM on January 7, 2008


Y'all are going to call me some kind of Pollyanna for this.

But it breaks my heart into little pieces that all this stuff isn't already everyday common sense. It really, really does.

It just doesn't take that much energy to be nice, to be thoughtful. It floors me that it is so expected that People Today are not-nice, and thoughtless, that some tosser thought, "Cheerio, this will make a brilliant blog post, and I will give it a precious name and it will become a meme and people will scratch their heads like I've said something profound and special when really I've just typed up and made a neat numbered list out of the MOTHERFUCKING OBVIOUS."

Maybe this is something that really needs to be said a lot in London? If so, then forgive my provincial naiveté.

But really, the fact that people need to be told how to be decent to other human beings... that's the continuing crisis. Forget global warming.
posted by pineapple at 8:50 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, my brother and I (originally from the South, now living in New York and Montreal) realized that we always ask, at restaurants, "May I have ___" or "Could I get____", not "I'll have ____." I'm not really sure if this is polite or not

You're answering the waiter's question (May i take your order? What can i get you? What would you like? etc) with another question (and your question is not What's good? or What's the special?, or Does blablabla have nuts/pork/etc?, etc), so it's more incorrect rather than impolite or rude. It's passive too, in a situation where you are definitely in charge. I always go with "I think i'll have the ..." or "I'll have the ..." or "I'd like the...", unless i have questions before i actually order.
posted by amberglow at 8:55 PM on January 7, 2008


Y'know, there are some days where it doesn't bother me, but the majority of time, last-minute mergers piss me THE FUCK OFF. You assholes. You know where the lane ends. I know where the lane ends. Why the fuck do you think I'm over here already?

Ah! I know! It makes my blood boil just thinking about it. I'm probably worse off because I get so tied up in knots about it but it is the most annoying thing. We're all waiting patiently in this line here and YOU think you can get in at the last second? Fuck that. I will not let you in but on the off-chance I'm in an extra good mood and I do let you in and you don't give me a hand wave well, then...I'll shake my head in shame. For shame!
posted by liquorice at 8:57 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


A customer and his mother(?) had an issue during the Christmas season. I couldn't fix it for them; there was just no way to circumvent the problem at all. The guy says, "Boy, we've been getting bad customer service at a lot of places lately." I apologized that we could do nothing for them regarding their issue and was soon on my way back to the offices to finish some work I had to do.

I've had bad customer service at a grand total of two places in the hundreds, maybe thousands, of places I've gone shopping in my lifetime. Once at Express, once at K Mart.

Secret of getting good customer service? Be nice to ALL associates. I've gotten various freebies and discounts as a result of being nice. Free rounds at bars, coupons of various sorts at stores. I've given out coupons to customers who've been especially awesome. It's good PR. The happiest customers will certainly tell their friends about their experiences, whereas a cranky customer whose day I only sort of made better will only focus on the shitty part of their visit.

Bottom line: Have you ever tried standing in one place for 4 to 8 hours a few days a week, marauded by sour-faced, snappy trolls who have nothing better to do with their lives than crush the spirits of my associates in the dirt because their lot in life is oh-so-hard? If not, try it. You'll learn to value the customers who give you a smile.
posted by Verdandi at 9:20 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, but what about holding doors for people? I do it all the time, for men and women, since I figure it's common courtesy and also because men make funny surprised faces when a chick holds the door. I get the door dropped in my face constantly.
posted by sugarfish at 9:31 PM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


item writes "Please don't talk to me at the checkout."

That goes double if I'm buying Prep H and a doughnut pillow; or Pepto and cleaning supplies; or a pregnancy test and birth control. Triple if all six. If I had to drive to the pharmacy standing up I don't want to tell you if I'm having a good day.

I swear, self serve checkouts are one of the greatest things in retail since 24 hour supermarkets.

flarbuse writes "Telling me the exactly how I should and shouldn't give my stuff to charity is a bit like criticizing the technique of a young woman from the bar who was nice enough to come home and give me a blowjob.

"It's a fucking blowjob. Be thankful for it, and move on."


Would you feel the same if the woman went Lorena Bobbitt on you afterwords? Problem is that people are about as good at judging whether their cast-off stuff has any value as they are of judging whether their own projects are suitable for a FPP. Charities end up spending effort and money to get rid of the solid waste that people drop off.
posted by Mitheral at 10:32 PM on January 7, 2008


I'm pretty sure rule 3 is actual traffic law in Canada.
posted by tehloki at 10:50 PM on January 7, 2008


five fresh fish And that's perfectly okay by me, because as long as they're pounding on my door and being ignored, they're not hassling anyone. If I could figure out how to encourage them to stand outside my door all day, I'd be game with that. Let them waste their time on earth.

Reminds me of Men At Work's "Who Can It Be Now". :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:05 PM on January 7, 2008


I'm pretty sure rule 3 is actual traffic law in Canada.

It really should be. People in lanes reducing to nothing should be let in. Technically they don't have right of way, under Queensland (Australian) traffic law; but it's common practice here to let in people from the merging lanes, and even change lanes to avoid them if possible.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:07 PM on January 7, 2008


My girlfriend, having a more "professional" job, has learned to say "Crumbs!" instead of "fucking bullshit, man, that's some motherfucking bullshit," when the diner only has mixed fruit jelly.

I went out with a girl like this once. During our lovemaking sessions, I'd tell her to talk nasty to me and it would come out something like this:

"Oh yes, beloved. Insert your respectably sized member into my seldom-used pudenda. You are a most gratifying and attentive practitioner of the erotic arts, and a little more vigour in each stroke would be extremely welcome from my point of view.

Also, you appear to be hitting the back, hitting the sides and working the middle. I believe I've heard about men like you before. I hope that you aren't planning following this act of coitus with an attempt at providing me with a mouth full of semen and a rectum?"

And then later, after we'd finally achieved our climax, I'd hear some small sounds of satisfaction that sounded a bit like:

"Mmmm, that plate of shrimp from Long John Silver really was most excellent cuisine. I wonder how many Michelin stars Mr. Silver has?"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:37 AM on January 8, 2008


Yeah, but aeschenkarnos, the whole lane-pulling-in thing gets badly abused, at least on the 400-series highways in Ontario. When traffic gets backed up, it's pretty common to see folks pulling out right into the narrowing merge lane, scooting ahead, then trying to pretend they're just innocent mergers and not the sociopathic toilet residue they really are.

Litterers should be made to eat what they drop.
posted by scruss at 3:44 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I talk to checkout people (and retail people in general) all the time and as a result, I have, on average, three or four authentically fascinating conversations per week. I'm amazed at the stories strangers tell me simply because I was friendly with them. My family members are entertained by the stuff I have to tell them about what I've learned from talking to people in stores.

Seriously, it's damn near a hobby if you do it right.
posted by Cranky Media Guy at 5:41 PM on January 7 [3 favorites +] [!]


This bears repeating. Yes, it is not for everyone, but I have to say that the poster, Cranky Media Guy, reminds me of my father. My father is the best conversation starter I've ever known let alone could possibly imagine. And he isn't obnoxious or evasive, there is simply something about him that gets people to talk. I can't tell you how many people he's gotten to know well and kept in contact with on international flights, or how many times in my childhood I've waited for him with my mother in a car because he was inside Store X talking to someone he stumbled upon and found himself privy to a long conversation. He met a Swiss man on an airplane who runs a ski resort in the Alps and who told him of his memories during the Nazi occupation and the liberation of American forces; he met a Swedish woman who runs the Swedish program at the University of Washington and still has her contact information. There are a lot more examples but there are just a few.

No, everyone shouldn't try and get information out of strangers. But I think that it isn't as hard as we think, and while my father talks to people because he enjoys it and because he's gifted with an ease of conversation and a marked interest that puts strangers at ease, that doesn't mean there isn't something to be learned by this.

I'm an introvert. I'm a very shy person and while I'm a big talker I'm often not comfortable around people I don't know and stay quiet. But the way in which a lot of posters seemed to have embraced their introversion and transformed it into an aggressive desire to be ignored is just...it's a shame. It's sad. Are we really that low in society? Are we really that sad as human beings? Don't be fake, sure, and don't talk to people because you think you have to. But friendly conversation, genuinely friendly conversation does wonders for the spirit. We seem to have forgotten that.
posted by nonmerci at 4:21 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then how do you make a connection with them?

Well, either you are introduced, or you meet at some sort of social event.


And, sorry grouse, but this is just ridiculous. Interacting with humans shouldn't be defined in this way, and it didn't used to be. This seems to be a new phenomenon--you have to be in some culturally marked environment in order to make friends? Bullshit. Talking to people you meet by chance is often one of the most satisfying ways to build relations--it is absolutely insane to write it off.
posted by nonmerci at 4:23 AM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Interacting with humans shouldn't be defined in this way, and it didn't used to be.

Didn't used to be when? Before the existence of civilization?

Anyway, as I said before, I won't think you're an ass for talking to strangers, and I'd probably be happy to talk back in the checkout line. Just be aware that there's a lot of people who don't want to talk to you (item's comment already has 22 favorites in this small sample). I think it's silly to say that manners demands that you talk to strangers in the checkout line (who may not actually want this) in the same way that it demands that you say please and thank you.

Also, I still think it is ironic that people here are attacking my sense of manners with invective, not that it is severe by MeFi standards.
posted by grouse at 4:47 AM on January 8, 2008


rtha's story reminded me of my own random friendly stranger: I was catching an overnight train back from Italy towards Paris, near the end of both my trip to Europe and my money, sharing a compartment with a mother and daughter and a random businessman. I'd changed my ticket in order to spend a last day with local friends before flying home, and the Italian agent told me I could get my original (French-issued) ticket completely refunded inside France, even marking it with a special stamp. I got to small talking with the businessman about 5am, when we were woken by the conductor, and then we both got off at Dijon to change trains. I went to get my ticket refunded, and the agent said it was impossible to refund* - it was against the rules. Eventually he agreed to give me back 70€, instead of 140€ - that was the money I had to spend for my last week in Europe. It was 6am, I don't do confrontation, and I felt like he'd basically stolen my money - I cried. The other guy was still around, and took me over to the cafe and bought me a coffee and croissant for breakfast, politely chatting as I tried to calm down. I thanked him as best as I could, but I think he deserves an anonymous internet shoutout :)

*I asked at the next station I got to and they said that both the Italian and the Dijonese agents were wrong: both of them could have and should have given me a full refund. STILL BITTERIST.
posted by jacalata at 4:54 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Item's comment has 22 favorites because it's funny, not because it's necessarily agreed with. No, I dislike small talk with little aim but I've worked plenty of retail and can say that a friendly, genuine word from a stranger can mean a lot. For example, I was working a night shift at a pizza place where I was the only person working other than the cook. I was having a really bad night for some reason and sort of spacing out, and a customer said, "How are you?" And not in that gregarious, overbearing sort of way, he said it quietly, like he didn't talk very much in these situations necessarily but like he could tell I was having a bad time. He put a smile on my face and he made my night.

Why should we discourage this kind of thing?

And as for before the start of civilization? I'm pretty sure it's never been considered taboo, at least in 20th century occidental countries, to talk to strangers without being in an explicit social situation (and honestly, you could argue any interaction between two or more people is social by its very nature) or the introduction by an intermediary. Come on.
posted by nonmerci at 5:36 AM on January 8, 2008


#7 reminds me of my old trucker-cum-computer geek buddy, "Pack Mule." He was at his brother's house out in the country with some friends, they'd been doing some yard work and were relaxing by target shooting when the neighbor called to tell him some Jehovah's witnesses were headed their way, so they decided to have a little fun. They grabbed the recycling bag, dumped about 40 empty beer cans and bottles around, and had his sister in law bring the visitors 'round back.. the guys were all lounging in lawn chairs with open bottles of beer sitting by them and all the empties laying around and played along with the visitors til they got to the point in the conversation where they started talking about religion... the guys all grabbed their guns at once and sat up, and one looked at them and said "son, we don't hold with that type of stuff 'round these here parts." The brother nodded and said "we're gonna have to ask you to kindly step off our land now." One of the other guys just turned around and shot a target. The guys broke into a run leaving. The "good old boys" laughed like mad, pleased they managed to fake redneckery so well.
posted by Narual at 6:45 AM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, hey, jacalata, I've got a kindness-of-strangers-on-an-overnight-train-in-Europe story, too!

It was 1988, and my mom and I were visiting Prague. The whole set-up for why we lost our hotel room, couldn't get another, almost slept on the couch of the American consul, and bribed a ticket agent at the train station with a carton of Benson & Hedges is too long to tell here, but the result was us on an overnight train to Paris. We didn't have a sleeper compartment, but the main problem was we had all the Czech kroner we hadn't been able to spend - rules compelled us to change X number of USD per day into kroner, but there was fuck all to buy, and of course it was illegal to take kroner out of the country.

We had a regular compartment to ourselves, for a bit, and we were talking about what to do with the money - hide it? throw it out the window? bribe the guards at the border? - when this guy popped his head in and said, Are you American? We were a rarish breed in those days, touristing behind the Iron Curtain, so we were all pretty friendly. He was a middle-aged Blue Cross functionary from New Jersey who was taking his annual leave to visit family in Brno. We confessed our dilemma about the money, and he agreed that it was less than ideal to be caught with it at the border (it was several hundred kroner, if I remember right). Then his face lit up, and he said, I have an idea! Give it to me! We did, and he vanished up the train for a little bit. He returned with four or five bottles of Russian champagne sparkling wine, which we drank all the way to Paris. Good thing we didn't have a sleeper, since we stayed up all night, drunk and talking, and whistling past the graveyard, as it were, when we crossed the border and our carriage was searched by very young, nervous-looking East German guards, who poked under our seats with their guns and looked askance at the bottles we were drinking out of.

We got to Paris at dawn, and had breakfast at a cafe at the train station (Gare du Nord, I think). Then Henry went on his way, and we went ours, and we had a story, all of us, ever since.
posted by rtha at 6:50 AM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I dislike small talk with little aim

Good, glad we agree on that. I think you are missing my point. It's fine that people talk to complete strangers, although I usually don't do it myself in the context of the next customer in the checkout line (your pizza example is completely different). I only disagree with making people feel like they are being rude when they don't feel like chatting with a stranger, when it is really the stranger who is being intrusive. I disagree with this whether it is done by a manifesto demanding that people talk to strangers or be deemed ill-mannered, or by the rude reaction of the extroverts ("she doesn't want to talk to me? bitch").
posted by grouse at 7:04 AM on January 8, 2008


Yeah, littering is pretty much "fuck you, world."

Not my PLANET, MONKEY-BOY.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:09 AM on January 8, 2008


# Smile. Not all the time. Not at everybody. They'll lock you up.
- Yep, I do that a lot.
# Say please and thank you.
- Yep, I do that a lot.
# Let that car in.
- Yep, I do that a lot.
# Be friendly to strangers.
- Yep, I do that a lot.
# Help old people off or on the bus.
- I don't take the bus any more, but when I did if I noticed someone was having trouble I reasonably often offered a hand. Not always, but enough that it was clear I was a minority in doing so.
# Buy the Big Issue and give some change to the homeless.
- I give change, but I do make a quick determination of apparent need before doing so.
# Be polite to Jehovah's Witnesses.
- Always. The JW's I've known in regular life have often ended up being some of the nicest people around. And the woman who occasionally comes around with her little son is incredibly cute, so it's not difficult. :)
# Never swear at people on the other end of helplines.
- I've been at the other end so I try to be really decent to them. However, I have run across helpdesk staff who were just assholes, and occasionally swore at me first. When that happens I don't hold back, or I speak to their manager and attempt to get them fired.
# Never, ever drop litter.
- I never drop anything I don't think will biodegrade quickly in locations appropriate for it. I think our insistence on large cities without organic life is unhealthy.
# Leaving bags of stuff outside charity shops when they're closed? Come on!
- Done it. I also volunteer for charities (member of the Lions club). Sometime i just don't have time to do more than I currently do.
# Talk to people at the check-out.
- Fairly often, but with little success. I usually chat with the cashier (a great start is "so, how often each shift do you get asked how you are doing?")
# Don't swear when there are kids about.
- I gotta get better at this. My daughter is learning to talk.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:10 AM on January 8, 2008


Fuck letting people cut in. Those of us that follow the rules queue up for the exit/onramp/etc. Total douchebags go to the front and cut in. I'll let people cut in in other circumstances but they better give me the hand wave or I'll follow them home and punch them in the mouth.

Are you me? I go through these exact feelings every afternoon. This, plus the people that insist that the "No left turns from 4:00-6:30" sign doesn't apply to them. Die in a fire, please. (And yes, I'm just referring to the people who drive the turning lane, etc., until the very end. Everyone else, as long as they use the blinker, sure, come on in. Though I still expect a wave.)

And on another note:
My father is the best conversation starter I've ever known let alone could possibly imagine. And he isn't obnoxious or evasive, there is simply something about him that gets people to talk.

I wish I was good at this. I've become a lot better at just talking to people, but I almost _always_ have that awkward, don't-know-how-to-carry-a-conversation type banter...
posted by inigo2 at 7:14 AM on January 8, 2008


It has been taboo, or at least rude, to talk to strangers unless you're in a certain social situation or share something in common (you're at the same school, you're in the same house, you're on the same cruise ship, but being on the same transit doesn't necessarily count).

People used to carry around letters of introduction when moving to new towns for a reason. Check out some old-school Emily Post.
posted by sondrialiac at 7:15 AM on January 8, 2008


Oh, yeah...smokers. The world is not your ashtray.

The fuck it isn't. By tossing my cigarette butt on the street I am extending to the world the very same courtesy it extends to me by chasing me out of every place that has shelter and warmth. Fuck you right back, world!

Seriously though, in Japan you will often see these little "smokers' corners" featuring cigarette machines and a large ashtray made so it doesn't smell like Satan's anus after a weekend's hard biking in the south in the middle of July. It's great! But do we see this in North America? No. The smoke hysteria isn't about saving lives. It's about denormalizing smoking and making smokers outcasts, and if that means forcing them to throw their butts out on the street for everyone to see -- so non-smokers will be manipulated into having a more negative view of smokers -- the anti-smoking lobby has absolutely no problem with that because it furthers their goal.

Yeah, as a matter of fact I do have a bee in my bonnet about this.
posted by clevershark at 7:28 AM on January 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


It's about denormalizing smoking and making smokers outcasts, and if that means forcing them to throw their butts out on the street for everyone to see

The point is, no one forces smokers to dispose of their butts on the street.
posted by agregoli at 7:33 AM on January 8, 2008


Secret of getting good customer service? Be nice to ALL associates. I've gotten various freebies and discounts as a result of being nice.

Sadly, I've seen people rearded for being assholes in a lot of customers service situations. I was in a Starbucks recently (yes, I know, booo, hiss, etc) and there was this guy who was clearly just not wanting to pay for his coffee. He had four drinks in his order, tow of them came up, and he immediately said "If the other two don't come up in the next minute, just cancel them and give me a refund." He wasn't in a rush, he was going to be sitting there with his family, it looked like he just didn't want his kids to get head start on their drinks. Did I mention this place was crazy busy because it was a couple days before Christmas in Manhattan? When I heard him make the coffee ultimatum, I really just wanted to tell him not to be an ass and just suck it up. However, he had clearly terrified the barista, who was frantically trying to make the two eggnog lattes quickly enough so he wouldn't throw a hissy-fit. She was doing fine until she accidentally started to put whip on the second, and her coworker told her it wasn't supposed to have that. So, she scooped off the small amount she had put on acidentally, and handed both drinks to him. "I don't want that now! You just scooped whip cream off! Just give me a refund." He was attempting to storming off as she was frantically trying to hand him a coupon for a free drink. Clearly, the only lesson he learned is that being a loud, obnoxious prick will ensure you get free stuff.
posted by piratebowling at 7:47 AM on January 8, 2008


Clearly, the only lesson he learned is that being a loud, obnoxious prick will ensure you get free stuff.

That's a lesson you learn early on if you grow up in a family where you're not the "problem child". It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
posted by clevershark at 7:58 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


gc:
I'm surprised no one covered talking on cell phones while being helped at the register. I understand that you are on a professional level much higher than me, that you make more money than me, that you're several degrees more successful than I am, but please don't act like I'm inconveniencing you while I'm taking your order.

did too!
posted by nax at 8:05 AM on January 8, 2008


the fact that people need to be told how to be decent to other human beings... that's the continuing crisis. Forget global warming.

Global warming comes in direct line out of the fact that people aren't decent to each other. I want my SUV and screw your environmental catastrophe.
posted by nax at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2008


I am unfailingly polite to everyone, but I don't really want to have a conversation with everyone or get to know everyone, although I like a late night train ride behind the iron curtain as much as the next wino. I feel like politeness is not so much about getting to know people or enjoying human contact (although it certainly is about those things, if you get my drift), but instead it's a way of insulating ourselves from each other, social armor. I like it that way, often, the angrier I am at someone the more polite I will be, such that right before I decide to bash in their skull I am bowing and by your leaving like a freakin' member of Parliament. For me, it's not how close we are (all of us, the great unwashed scrum), but how far apart, just a little please, thank you.

So yes, I always say "Hey, how yiz doon?" to the cashier and hold the door (only sometimes letting it go in someone's face when they don't quicken their pace to get to the held door), help the lady with the stroller down the subway steps, give money to bums (I owe them a drink!), I politely tell all manner of proselytizers and solicitors (one time) that I am not interested, then I tell them to fuck off, briskly, lest I become very angry (because they are incredibly rude to approach me). I swear too much, but if we did not have faults we would never improve and therefore be in a pathetic state of stagnation.

Good Day,
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:15 AM on January 8, 2008


Please don't interpret this as LOLBRITISH, but I found this line, from the end of number 3, to be the most delightfully British thing I've read in quite some time:

"To avoid being called a "cunt" or a "twat" yourself, don't drive into box junctions on amber, and use your indicators."
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:15 AM on January 8, 2008


Oh yes, littering is a flogging offense, I throw my buts in the sewer as much as possible, but I really need to re-quit anyway.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2008


The fuck it isn't. By tossing my cigarette butt on the street I am extending to the world the very same courtesy it extends to me by chasing me out of every place that has shelter and warmth. Fuck you right back, world!

Christ, what an asshole.

> I throw my buts in the sewer as much as possible

You do know that everything you throw in the sewer winds up in the lake or ocean, right?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:29 AM on January 8, 2008


...cigarette butts are the most littered item in America—176 million pounds each year. Most people believe cigarette butts are biodegradable, but this is simply not true. They are made with cellulose acetate tow (plastic) and can take up to 20 years to decompose. The big problem, however, is that these butts don’t just stay still on the ground where they’re thrown.

Water from rain and snowmelt carries anything it can to storm drains—those grated openings found on all of our streets—and then through the stormwater system. But unlike the sewer system that takes our sink and toilet water to a treatment plant, stormwater is never cleaned, instead it’s discharged as is to our rivers, beaches, and bays. That means that what ends up on our streets, including all of those cigarette butts, ends up in our waters. These littered cigarette butts can cause major health problems for small animals, marine life and even small children who mistake them for food.

posted by agregoli at 8:31 AM on January 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


I do, I court a flogging I know, I contain multitudes. I actually was joking about the sewers. I hate a litterer, really I do, makes me hulk out. I'd say at least half of my motivation to not smoke is focused on not being a litterer.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2008


On the lane-merging thing - I used to get apoplectic about those who would would merge only at the end of the lane convergence. Then I got a job with a daily commute that features a disappearing lane on a long curving entrance ramp. Now I notice that we oh-so-polite Portlanders all queue up in the through-lane a half-mile early, backing the entrance ramp up for half a mile while the 'disappearing' lane is empty except for a few brave souls (alternatively, assholes) who undoubtedly earn curses when they finally merge. But... I read somewhere discussing this very point that traffic is most effectively managed when both lanes are in full use and indeed, when merging takes place when necessary, at the necessary place - not a half-mile before. So now the 'effective motorist' in me wants to use the lane, but the polite-motorist is afraid to offend. So I take a surface street route that bypasses the whole stupid ramp.
posted by cairnish at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2008


I find that muttering constantly to myself allows me to avoid almost all the situations on the list.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2008


feelinglistless - I love you, man!

And I'm with pineapple. It's too bad this article needed writing. As an official Old Man, I often find myself going on about peoples' lack of manners (talking in the movie theaters, cell phone abuse, littering, etc.).

Oh, and grouse, you are right - "Talking to people who you share no connection with is not good manners". However, we "share connections" with people all the time; in line at the checkout, dining at the next table, etc. We should just treat each other courteously. Case in point; a little polite banter on the checkout line is OK, but a 15 minute monolgue on the status of your colon, not so much.

And since I've got the soapbox out... I've always thought of Good Manners™ to be defined along the lines of treating people with respect, and do unto others"; not about following some arcane, pointless list of rules and regulations.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:54 AM on January 8, 2008


I'd be ok talking to the checkout people at my local supermarket but it usually doesn't happen because they really only seem to come in two distinct types:

1) tired and miserable and looking like they'd rather have you pretend they're not actually there

2) kids who don't actually have any vocabulary that could be used for human style conversation but are limited to vague grunting that may or may not even have sufficient tonality to determine if it was a question or a statement. (For all I can tell "muh?" usually means "plastic or paper?")
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2008


clevershark writes "if that means forcing them to throw their butts out on the street for everyone to see"

No one is forcing anything. A buck at the nearest dollar store will net any smoker a portable container for their butts that they can empty in any handy solid waste container.
posted by Mitheral at 10:57 AM on January 8, 2008


makes mental note: never throw ciggarette butts down nearby drains ever again.

also, quit smoking.

posted by lunit at 11:23 AM on January 8, 2008


When I worked the check-out, it always made my day about ten times worse when I had to make inane conversation with a random customer. And if we don't curse around children, how ever are they going to expand their vocabulary?
posted by Football Bat at 11:51 AM on January 8, 2008


On bad driving:
Most places, you never know who the asshole drivers will be, but in Beijing you KNOW. It's the Audis, Hondas, Caddies, and other Big Black Sedans. Seriously, if you're ever in town, watch for them and see if I'm not right. And when you're convinced that I am, don't forget your keys. They'll be parked in driveways and the middle of the street, or double & triple parked ON the sidewalk.
posted by saysthis at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2008


On chatting with cashiers:

I just got back from Peet's Coffee, where I went to acquire a pound of coffee for home. Peet's has two lines: one for ordering beans, and one for ordering drinks. The bean line is usually fairly short. Today, the customer in front of me in the bean line was talking with the cashier. And talking. And talking. She had a cup of coffee in front of her, and a bag of beans, and yet, still with the talking. I went from Zen to enraged in about 30 seconds, and as much as I tried to just observe my thoughts without attaching any judgement, or concentrating on any particular one, all I could think was Shut up! Shut the frak up already and take your shit and get the fuck out! Now! (note to self: consider switching to decaf) By the time I got to the front of the line, there were six people in the bean line. And two in the drinks line.

But I got my coffee. And on the drive back to the office, I thought evil thoughts about the cellphone-talking SUV-driving lane-crossing dipshit in front of me.
posted by rtha at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2008


Seriously though, in Japan you will often see these little "smokers' corners" featuring cigarette machines and a large ashtray made so it doesn't smell like Satan's anus after a weekend's hard biking in the south in the middle of July. It's great! But do we see this in North America?

But in Tokyo at least, many people also carry around tiny pocket ashtrays to take their butts away with them too. They're much more non-litterers than we are on the whole, i found.
posted by amberglow at 1:48 PM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a teenager, I used to hate going to stores of any kind for fear that I would be asked to talk to the cashier. Granted, that was a little intense and I can go into stores now, but I hate being forced to say more than, "Thanks." Also, my family taught me that it's impolite to make eye contact with strangers. I since realized that most Americans don't believe that at all, but I still hate doing it.
posted by honeydew at 4:16 PM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


you reminded me, honeydew--i continually commit bad manners overseas in places where you are never supposed to hand money directly to the cashier but are always supposed to put it down on a plate or the counter--it's automatic for me to hand money over directly to a cashier's hand, and it's totally seen as wrong in so many places. I've had them actually take it from my hand, firmly put it on the little plate, and then give me a nasty look (which i then thought was really rude). And then there are the places where you're supposed to order first, get a receipt, then go up to a counter or bar--i never get those right at all. : >

the eye contact thing probably comes off as shy here instead of rude, i think. no biggie.

Manners really are local. From what topics you can talk about in public, to actions that are acceptable, to standards of personal space and privacy, to food-based things, and money-based ones...
posted by amberglow at 4:54 PM on January 8, 2008


amberglow: "there are the places where you're supposed to order first, get a receipt, then go up to a counter or bar--i never get those right at all"

I hate going to places where I don't know the social scripts (for ex, a restaurant where I don't know if I should seat myself or wait to be seated, go to the counter to pay or wait for the server to take my card) because of the whole ignominy of getting it wrong and being a jerk, even accidentally.

Apparently it's some sort of neurosis? I prefer to think that it's a preoccupation with not being rude by being an inconvenience.
WHEN MANNERS GO TOO FAR
posted by subbes at 5:07 PM on January 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


So what it all comes down to is sensitivty. Be aware of that person at the checkout (from both sides of the counter please.) If they seem receptive, have a loverly superficial "I observe you taking up space in the universe" conversation. If they seem unreceptive, stick to "please" and "thank you."

But in all cases, make eye contact, use the magic words, and get off the phone (yes, I've had clerks on the phone or carrying on a conversation while I'm trying to make my purchases.)
posted by nax at 5:35 PM on January 8, 2008


Amen, nax.
posted by grouse at 5:51 PM on January 8, 2008


I have a better one for the check out-- you don't have to talk to me, but will you please get off the cell phone? The cell phone erases the checkout person. It is breath-stoppingly rude. The phone is in your g-d pocket, so guess what: you. can. call. the. person. back.

Yes, this one really does take my breath away. I think checkout people are well within their rights to refuse service to these assholes.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:16 PM on January 8, 2008


I hate going to places where I don't know the social scripts ...

It's all part of the experience, esp during vacations, i think, as long as you can somehow get what you want and not get thrown out or refused (and playing/being the "dumb tourist" has its surprising advantages too). One thing i've learned in my travels is that everywhere (so far) they understand that a scribbling hand motion means "can i have the check/bill?" so that's something. : >
posted by amberglow at 7:18 PM on January 8, 2008


Wow, feelinglistless, what you wrote was remarkably similar to an experience I had at a cafe during my lonely trip to Paris 2 years ago. Your story freaked me out at first as I was reading it (I was like, "Wait, do I have a sockpuppet? Was I posting drunk again?" WTF?), but then this idea of synchronicity, or possibly a connection continuum soothed me. It's not all that surprising that we have had similar experiences, in the same places even. The relatedness and connections are everywhere in the world, and if we keep our eyes open we'll find them every single dingle day!

I'm soooo going to dig up my Paris journal now and see what I wrote!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2008


iamkimiam: That is weird but lovely. It's good to know there are other people out there who that kind of thing.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:15 AM on January 10, 2008


Who knows? Maybe it was even the same girl, running around and mooching pastries off of unsuspecting English-speaking travelers. Pastry scammer! That'll teach us to be generous!
posted by iamkimiam at 8:06 AM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


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