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Etiquette, Bitch.


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As I become increasingly fed up with the lack of decency and and the proliferation of self-centeredness in the world, I have found myself becoming New York’s own common courtesy enforcer.

Or as I like to think of it, The Etiquette Bitch.

I feel a little like the Bernie Goetz of thoughtfulness, although without the gun. And the whole [cuckoo! cuckoo!] thing.

It started innocently enough with my growing annoyance at litterers. Occasionally I’d approach the culprit and smile sweetly, “I think you dropped this,” gesturing towards the candy wrapper on the subway track or ATM receipt on the sidewalk. Nate hated this, fearing I’d–or more likely he’d–get stabbed one day. He’s probably right. It might not be worth it to die over litter.

Recently on the subway, a middle-aged gentleman hobbled on with crutches and no one stopped to offer him a seat. Standing myself, I leaned over the healthiest, youngest looking seat mates and asked if someone might offer him one. Three people looked the other way, but the teenage girl with the nose ring obliged me. The guy on crutches didn’t so much as offer me a smile in return.

I started to wonder why I bothered, or whether I did the right thing. I figure well, a guy on crutches deserves to sit down. Even if he is a jerk on crutches.

But this past Monday, I was walking with Thalia to the playground when a couple in a brand new SUV pulled over and parked. Right in the middle of two choice parking spots Move up!” I called to him. He ignored me.

“Move up!”

Nothing. I pushed Thalia’s stroller right up to the driver-side door. He rolled the window down tentatively while his wife wondered what this crazy woman with the toddler could be asking for.

“I’m sure you didn’t realize,” I smiled, “but you’re taking up two spaces. If you pull up, then someone else can park behind you. There’s not a whole lot of parking in this neighborhood.” He pulled up about two feet.

“All the way forward!” I gestured. Annoyed and I think a little befuddled, he inched forward a bit more then turned off the ignition still with a good five feet between his front bumper and the car in front of him. At that point I gave up. At least the neighborhood Mini Cooper would have a parking space.

“What happened mommy?” Thalia asked as we turned the corner headed towards the playground. “What did that man do?”

“Well sweetie, some people just aren’t that good at sharing.”

“So you are telling him to share?”

Suddenly I felt completely stupid. Who am I to tell him anything? It’s not like he’s going to walk away thinking hm, I think I WILL park more considerately next time! It’s not like the litterers will think twice before tossing that used MetroCard on the sidewalk or the seat-hoggers will be any more considerate. Mostly, they’ll just walk away muttering something nasty about me.

At minimum though, I was hoping Thalia learned a little something. Well, something more than the fact that her mom is a self-righteous Etiquette Bitch with a low threshold of tolerance for inconsiderate asses.

As we got close to the playground, a jogger stopped me.

“Hey, did you just actually tell that guy back there to move his car?”

“Um…yeah. Yeah I did. You saw that?”

“Well that is just awesome!” she laughed as she headed up the brownstone steps to her front door. “I can’t wait to tell my husband. He’s always doing stuff like that.”

“Really? That’s great!”

“Oh yeah.” she said. “Aaaalways. He’s going to be so glad he’s not alone.”

[Junk Food Mr. Rude tee via 80stees.com]

78 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

Backpacking Dad June 25, 2008 at 11:14 pm

I was boarding a plane to fly from Philadelphia to San Jose about 8 years ago and as we were standing in line to board some ass-hat unwrapped his candy bar and popped the top off his water bottle and just dropped them to the floor. He was standing right next to a trash can. I picked them up, tapped him on the shoulder, and said “I think you dropped these” and handed them over.He took them, then when he thought I wasn’t looking he dropped them to the floor <>again<>. Then he boarded the plane.I actually picked them up, kept them throughout the flight, and caught up with him in San Jose:“I said, ‘<>I think you dropped these.<>‘.”Ass hat.


Christina June 25, 2008 at 11:16 pm

My biggest pet peeve – people who litter! Good for you for saying something!


Mom101 June 25, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Backpacking dad, I love you.


Kirsten June 25, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Good for you. You probably taught your daughter a good lesson. As Strawberry Shortcake would say, “Manners Matter.”When I was six months pregnant I gave up my seat on the bus to a much more pregnant woman who also had a toddler. None of the men hiding behind their newspapers even noticed.


Michelle June 26, 2008 at 12:08 am

Not to keep posting my posts in response to your posts, but I feel your vigilante vibe. These “ass hats” (such the appropriate word) are the ones who should be questioning themselves, not us.http://preggersinlalaland.blogspot.com/search?q=%22just+doing+my+part%22


Motherhood Uncensored June 26, 2008 at 12:14 am

What idiot drives in SUV in Brooklyn? They must have been from Jersey.


Christina June 26, 2008 at 12:16 am

Oh, I love it. And I think we need more people to call out bad behavior. I’ve never believed that morality should be taught in school, but I’m starting to think basic human decency lessons should be mandatory. Here in the midwest, people think that because we have plenty of open space, it’s OK to take up two parking spaces. More than once I’ve stopped someone as they pulled in and said, “Oh, you missed the lines! I’d be happy to help guide you if you can’t see them from there!”Being the etiquette bitch is even more fun when spoken in an upbeat, chipper voice.


Johnna June 26, 2008 at 12:31 am

I just read a Dear Abbey article about the exact same thing. I wish there was an easy solution too. But I think you are doing the right thing. If for no other reason than the impact it will make on your own kids. To grow up to be little etiquette bitches in their own right!


Backpacking Dad June 26, 2008 at 12:35 am

Easy tiger ;}


awickedstepmom June 26, 2008 at 12:45 am

I try to teach my girls that kindness isn’t something that just happens in fairy tales and that to do the right thing is more important than anything else. I am glad that I am not alone. We always open door for people or offer up our seats to others who need them more. I am glad that has not been lost on everyone.


TheMama June 26, 2008 at 1:03 am

I try to do the nice things myself, but when confronted with someone else’s pig-headedness, I am unvariably non-confrontational.You are my hero.


jonniker June 26, 2008 at 2:37 am

Ha HAAA. This is a much better approach than the one I’ve sadly employed, which is the passive aggressive note on the double-spaced car that reads, invariably, “Hey! You’re a dickhead!”


kittenpie June 26, 2008 at 3:04 am

It’s exactly this kind of thing that, by the time I left NYC, had me itching to say to someone, “You know what? You’re not the only person in the city. In fact, THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT A CITY!”


mothergoosemouse June 26, 2008 at 3:25 am

You reminded me of how Kyle and I once spent an afternoon when we first moved to NJ. We took our paper towels and Windex and a big garbage bag and cleaned up our local NJ Transit bus stop shelter. I actually dug cigarette butts out of the cracks in the sidewalk.Sure, it looked like crap again on Monday morning as we waited for the bus into the city. But we still felt good about what we’d done – just as I bet you felt too!


margalit June 26, 2008 at 3:25 am

My pet peeve? People who park in handicap spaces. Spaces that I have a permit to park in, but can’t because the asshats in SUVs always take the spaces. I had cards made that say:“Thank you for taking up an handicap space. Because of your inconsiderate behavior, I am unable to shop in any of the stores around here, thus negatively affecting the economy. Oh, and I called the tow truck company. I hope you enjoy your ticket and the surcharge for having your car towed. Was it worth it?”I left two of them tonight on the cars that totally blocked the handicapped space by parking halfway in front of and halfway behind the space. In my teeny car I squeezed inbetween them, left my cards, and had a great laugh when I got back from the bookstore and saw them both with double tickets. My car? Nary a ticket. I have a PERMIT to park there. If you don’t, stay the hell out of my space!


Karen Sugarpants June 26, 2008 at 3:33 am

I find adults are good about litter here – it’s the kids that drop juice boxes and wrappers on my lawn that I’d like to throttle (I’m in suburbia). I’ve given up after living 6 years in this situation – I just go out every couple of days and FILL a grocery bag. Sad huh? We even tried calling the school and they had a “clean up the neighbourhood day,” but it wore off.I think the Entitlement doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or something.


SUEB0B June 26, 2008 at 4:52 am

Miss Manners says “The first rule of etiquette is that adults do not correct the behavior of other adults,” but I can’t help myself sometimes.


Sunny June 26, 2008 at 5:15 am

a friend of my mom was asked politely by a stranger if she minded if he smoked, and she responded kindly, “Do you mind if I fart?”


carrie June 26, 2008 at 7:05 am

I totally need one of those t-shirts.


Marinka June 26, 2008 at 10:58 am

I am constantly shocked by people who just throw their garbage on the street. It makes me absolutely insane. Of course their purses probably don’t hold their weight in tiny pieces of paper, gum wrappers and other litter-able material that mine do, but at least *I* have manners! Great post.


Jennifer June 26, 2008 at 11:35 am

My grandma does that ALL THE TIME. With everyone and everything. Sometimes she goes a little over the top.I rarely have the nerve to say something, but always give up my seat.


Michelle June 26, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I’m so in awe of your guts. And I love Backpacking Dad’s story. Before I got pregnant, I thought people would offer seats, but not so much. And honestly, I had an easy pregnancy and turned down seats when I was feeling well(I thought that I was buying good vibes for later, when I needed a seat). When I was about 8 months pregnant, I got up to give my seat to an elderly gentleman when no one else was moving (he did thank me very nicely). I thought about announcing to the entire train car that a pregnant woman, not any of the seemingly healthy, non-pregnant people within arms distance, was the one to give up her seat to another person and that I thought it was total crap that they were just sitting there. But then I thought that it might embarass the guy that I gave my seat to and used him as my excuse to chicken out….


Kelly June 26, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Usually, I just roll my eyes. I wish I had the guts for something more confrontational.


RuthWells June 26, 2008 at 1:56 pm

You rock.


Laura June 26, 2008 at 1:58 pm

A couple of months ago, my daughter and I were walking into Whole Foods and the woman in front of us dropped a wad of bills, but didn’t notice it. I picked it up – all 100 dollar bills, at least 5 of them. And we chased her down, as she strolled ahead of us, talking on her cell phone the entire time. I tried to interrupt her to return the money. She ignored me in favor of her phone call. Then, when I finally got her attention, I handed her the cash and said, “You dropped this.” “Okay,” she said and returned to her phone conversation. Okay? If someone returned that amount of cash to me I think I would have cried!


Liz June 26, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I love that you do these things. And though you think it doesn’t make a difference, the next time they’re tossing litter or parking their SUV, they’ll probably remember that “lady that scolded them”. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll think better of their actions.


Nancy June 26, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I always do those things too — I’m the ultimate rule follower. Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a police officer.


Josette at Halushki June 26, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Thank you.You have a pair of brass ones, my friend, and the world needs more like you.


Tess Moody June 26, 2008 at 3:12 pm

My son helps me stay litter free. He wont even let us throw gum out the window…http://www.sixfeetundersite.blogspot.com


Jen Boggs June 26, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Bitch on, everyone! The effort and being seen as Miss Manners is a small price to pay for increased civility in the world (though maybe not so much the stabbing).We’re all on this rocket ship called earth together. Why not be kind to, generous with and respectful of one another– and get off the effing phone in the movie theater! I just spent $15 to get in here– and so did you!And Christina, you’re so right. People don’t know what to do with an Etiquette Bitch that is exceedingly polite and smiling. They’re often CONFUSED into doing the right thing.


Don Mills Diva June 26, 2008 at 3:30 pm

I love that you did that! Keep on keeping on!


Vicki June 26, 2008 at 3:44 pm

I am totally the person who will go stand in front of someone in the movie theater and make them shut up so people can enjoy their movie. I also make people pick up their litter. Stop picking their nose by offering a tisse. Give up their seats to the elderly/pregnant/disabled. Thank people who do nice things for them. Hold open doors. I just try to be nice in general and never EVER turn on my cellphone in a theater or restaurant. If the hubby or I are going out to eat, I give the babysitter the number to the restaurant in case they need us rather than have them call my phone.


Cynthia June 26, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Good for you!! I can’t help myself either. I live in New Orleans, and we need every little bit of help we can muster to clean up the city still. And as I’m sitting on my front stoop a few months ago, an SUV full of twenty-something women drives by and out of the front passenger side window comes a bag full of McDonald’s trash. Used ketchup packets, leftover fries, pickles, dirty napkins. And then a few feet down the road, four empty drink cups. So I got in my car and pulled into the gas station around the corner from my house behind them, stood in line behind the woman who got out of the guilty seat, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “That was not cool of you to throw your trash out the window back there. My neighborhood may look like a big pile of trash right now, but people actually live there. Who were you expecting to pick up your trash for you?”She was mortified, speechless, and then said, “Sorry. My bad.”


ChefSara June 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

I agree with you! People who are inconsiderate and rude need to know their actions affect others. Even if it doesn’t affect their future behavior, they still need to know that not only are they being a jerk, but we all know it and someone will call them out for it…In one Trader Joe’s grocery trip, I had someone on a cell phone push her cart into my 7.5 month preggo belly. Just a few minutes later, as my 2-3 items in a hand basket and I are waddling to the check out, I’m almost there, and a young fig dude with a huge cart full of stuff zips right in front of me. While not against the rules, certainly against human decency!! I’m hugely pregnant and only have a few items, but it’s still more important for you to zip ahead of me in line with your massive cart full of stuff!!And don’t even get my started on idiot drivers…let’s just say I’m a big fan of the horn!


Lora June 26, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Good for you! I do stuff like the all.the.time. I find that I’m becoming quite the manners nazi as I get older. To the point that the other day, my son (who’s 6) and I were in a parking lot and he bent down to pick up some litter and I heard him mutter “people are disgusting”. Hmmm…I wonder where he got that from?


Mom101 June 26, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Tess, with all due respect – why in the world would you throw gum, of all things, out the window?


Alexis June 26, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Have you seen the commercial where a guy collects all the litter that an idiot throws out of his car window? After weeks of gathering, the first guy builds a tree out of all the garbage, and puts it on the idiot’s car with a note that says, “I think you dropped this.” I love it.My personal pet peeve is people who drive in the emergency lane on the highway when there’s traffic–you know they think that the rest of us are chumps for waiting patiently. There is a special place in Hell reserved for them.


MetroDad June 26, 2008 at 10:31 pm

I was once like you, my young Jedi friend but then I came to the darkside. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a total etiquette Nazi. However, I’ve lost faith in humanity and man’s ability to change. If I had seen that SUV, I would have waited until he left, stuck a nail in his tire, and written him a note detailing his rudeness. When me don’t give up seats for pregnant women, I don’t ask them kindly to get up. I yell at them and verbally abuse them until they are completely shamed. When people speak loudly on their cell phone in inappropriate places, I walk right up to them and start yelling into my pretend phone, “WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! SOME RUDE BITCH IS TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE!” Works every time. Can you tell I’m a little angry these days? Must be the humidity.


kevin black June 27, 2008 at 1:18 am

I park in the pregnant woman’s spot at the grocery store. I’m not ashamed to say it. Pregnancy is not a disability. One time a woman bitched at me. Get this — she was parked in the fire lane at the time. Which of us was the scofflaw?


Jennifer S June 27, 2008 at 2:00 am

I do stuff like this, too. But you and Backpacking Dad are my new heroes.


Mom101 June 27, 2008 at 3:45 am

Oh Kevin, you know I love you but about this time three years ago, one week late with my pregnancy in the brutal humidity of summer, ankles swollen to the size of minivans, I saw one of those pregnancy spots and actually wept. Give the poor non-disabled preggos a break. You scofflaw, you.


the mama bird diaries June 27, 2008 at 4:48 am

I think it’s great.I hate when people throw their cigarettes on the ground (hey, that’s litter and it’s polluting our water system). So when I saw a woman throw a cigarette out of her car on Bleeker Street, I said, “You know, that’s litter. You really shouldn’t throw that out your window.” She mutter an apology and said, “Can you give me directions to the Holland tunnel?”I said I would as long as she stopped throwing her cigarettes out the window. She agreed.


Daisy June 27, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Good for you! And great that the jogger stopped to thank you, too. I suspect that the SUV driver just wasn’t that good at parking his outrageously-sized vehicle, and didn’t know how to maneuver it into one space.


sandy shoes June 27, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I’m with metrodad… People suck, and I just can’t be nice about this kind of thing anymore. But I always thank people who are. So, thanks :) .


Stephgomom June 27, 2008 at 5:17 pm

My issue is with the SampleSnackers at the grocery store. They stop for the samples and block the entire aisle with their carts while they slowly chew chew chew their little treats. When you try to get by, and say “excuse me” they look at you with pure evil in their eyes, that you would dare ask anything of them. When I have my 5er with me, I loudly exclaim, “that’s why it’s important to have manners, so that people won’t tell stories about you on websites”.


Mima June 27, 2008 at 6:22 pm

I’m just a coward who wished that she had the courage to be able to face people down like that. Good on you. I’m a blue badge holder, and I do occasionally stick flyers on people’s windscreens if they are parked in a blue badge bay and don’t have a badge, but that is as far as my confidence will take me.


Debbie June 27, 2008 at 8:15 pm

that’s hilarious.i’m in the same boat. and it scares the piss outta my husband. he’s always like, dude, you are SO gonna get punched in the nose one of these days.and he’s probably right, but i can’t help myself.(i’m also that girl, the one who tells people about offending pieces of broccoli and toilet paper on shoes and tags that stick out inappropriately.)(yay.)


Wild Wild West Drive June 27, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Some punk kids dropped some trash in our treelawn last night. Glancing out my daughters window while getting her ready for bed, my husband witnessed it. He opened the window and hollered, “Hey guys, you dropped something!” They looked at him incredulously and continued on. I had to physically stand in front of the door to keep him from going to give them back their trash. Good for you. If nothing else, it shows your kids what is cool and what is not, and will hopefully help who she hangs out with later, i.e. not litterers or parking space hogs (another peeve of mine)


Leah June 27, 2008 at 8:28 pm

My boyfriend does the same thing, and I’m terrified it’s going to get him shot. But of course I also completely admire him for doing something I wish I had the guts to do instead of just grumbling about the state of the world under my breath.


Mocha June 27, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I’m so fed up with rudeness that I’m becoming a police officer in my daily life while out and about. It’s pathetic. Normally, my family thinks I’m going to get stabbed over chastising children in public but that’s the educator in me who corrects kids all the time. But the one that gets me (and I’m sorry if it’s been said) is people failing to say “<>Excuse me<>” when they’re trying to get around me. They just stand there. Yesterday, Mason and I were getting some summer shorts and there was a woman behind him and she assumed I would ask him to move. When he started to move, I pushed him back in place and mouthed “No. Wait.”She never said it. She moved a different direction. Served her right. If she doesn’t want to say it, she has to change direction. That was my point anyway.


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