Hope in a Stroller — An Etiquette Lesson

My 8 1/2 month old son is definitely finding his voice!  Yesterday, as we were waiting to get off the train, he let out a screech of delight, which he has decided to do pretty frequently these days. As soon as he released the ear piercing scream, I immediately said in a very firm tone “No sir.  We don’t yell on the train.”  He quieted down.  The two women sitting next to us smiled, and said that many adults don’t know that there’s no yelling on the train (a jab at a young woman sitting behind us who was speaking way too loudly).  I assured them that Miles would not be the type of adult who would behave like that, and that in fact, he would not be the type of child who would behave like that!  We all laughed, and one of the women joked that there might be hope for America yet!  Hope in a stroller.

The interaction got me thinking.  How many of us have let common courtesy slide in our day to day lives?  How many of us walk through a door without looking behind us to see if there’s someone for whom we should hold the door?  How many of us are rude to people in the service industry when the service isn’t quite perfect or fast enough?  Who besides me yells profanities at anyone driving in a way that makes their trip even a second longer than they think it should be?

There are certain rules of etiquette that most of us probably know about, but disregard when caught up in our own little worlds everyday.  The utter disregard for these things is probably much more apparent in New York City than in places with fewer people, so I’m a bit hyper-sensitive about them.  For instance:

Umbrella etiquette:  When walking on the sidewalk on a rainy day, if someone is coming at you with an umbrella at the same height as yours, it is proper to raise your umbrella up so that your umbrellas do not collide.  It is also critically important to raise your umbrella above the average person’s face level if you happen to be short!  This way, no one loses an eye!

Sidewalk etiquette:  This one is mostly for the tourists.  Please please please do not walk side by side as a family of 5!  When you do that, no one can get by you in either direction.  If someone is walking directly toward you and there is nowhere for them to go, step in line behind the person next to you and let others pass by!

Elevator etiquette:  If people were waiting for an elevator when you got there, let them get on first when it arrives!  Do  not rush past them to get your prized spot on the elevator.  We all need to get upstairs.  Wait your turn.  And please step out of the way when someone needs to get off the elevator.  Oh, and please don’t make eye contact on the elevator.  It just makes everyone feel uncomfortable.  Stare at the elevator news or at the floor numbers ticking away like everyone else.

Personal space etiquette:  If you do not need to be touching me, don’t.  This rule applies on the subway, the bus, the train, the elevator and pretty much anywhere else.  If I don’t know you and there is enough space for you to not touch me, please be cognizant of your physical boundaries and keep yourself and all of your items contained to your own personal space.

Cell phone etiquette:  This is a biggie!  No one needs to hear 1/2 of a conversation at the highest volume you can project from your mouth, especially in places that are usually fairly quiet, like nice restaurants, trains, or movie theaters.  I think it is an extremely arrogant move to assume that your conversation is (or you yourself are) so important that everyone else should be listening to whatever you’re saying to the mysterious person on the other end of your conversation.  We get it.  Someone called you.  You must be important.  Now please keep it down.

Cover your mouth etiquette:  This is a no brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many people disregard this rule!  Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough!  I was actually sneezed on in Port Authority Bus Terminal when I was about 6 months pregnant and it infuriated me!  And while you’re at it, please wash your hands after using the facilities too.

Cover the rest:  As the weather gets warmer here, the super mini skirts and tiny little tank tops come out.  So do the virtually sheer wife-beater and mesh tanks that men wear.  Guess what, we don’t all want to see your hoochie.  We don’t all want to see your big fat beer belly.  Please cover all of the vital parts and leave at least a little something to the imagination.

Common courtesy, folks.  Take a look around you.  You are not the only person here.  Have a little consideration for the rest of the people in the world, and be aware of what you’re doing! And while you’re at it, how about actually being nice to people?  That waiter that you’re snarling at?  She’s someone’s daughter, wife, or mother.  She’s probably doing the best she can to get by.  And the person in the car who you’re yelling at?  Maybe he or she has a sleeping baby in the back seat and they’re simply trying to keep the car moving at a steady pace so the baby won’t wake up.  It is usually the case that we are unaware of the true circumstances of others.  Step outside yourself once in a while and realize that there may be more to the picture than what you’re seeing.

Have an etiquette related pet peeve that comes to mind?  Post a comment and tell us about it!  I’m sure there are tons that I didn’t include here!

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