Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this bonus episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about unloading emotional baggage on your friends, removing offensive taxidermy, texting at the theatre, commenting on people's body size, getting out of conversations at Whole Foods, eating loudly at the office, taking up too much space at a café, and much more. Please subscribe!
QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS:
THINGS MENTIONED DURING THE SHOW
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO...
Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton
Theme Music: Rob Paravonian
Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.
Nick: We're in New York today, and we have so many great questions from you guys-
Leah: So many great questions!
Nick: -that we're going to put them all together for a bonus episode!
Leah: I'm so excited!
Nick: So, our first question - real topical. Basically, it's a long question-
Leah: It's a two parts.
Nick: The thrust of it is about unloading on people your emotional baggage.
Nick: And either doing this in person, to friends, or to text messages on friends, or just posting on Facebook, in general, and whether or not you're responsible to respond to this.
Leah: Right. This person started out with the people that post online chronically and then it was a personal - in their life - situation.
Nick: Right. So, I guess the first question is, is that rude to do it? Is it rude just to unload and dump? Then, is it rude to not accept this?
Nick: What say you?
Leah: I say it's different for the online-
Leah: -because some people, their online presence is just sort of putting up crises. Did you notice that?
Leah: They're just like, "This happened today, and the ..." You know what I mean?
Leah: If that's what you want to ... It's your business.
Nick: If that's your brand, yeah.
Leah: I feel like whatever people do on their page is their business.
Leah: Like, don't come on to my page ...
Leah: Then, it's like a, "Oh, hey ... I wasn't ..."
Nick: You're in my house now.
Leah: Yeah. Now we kind of need to ... I don't go comment on somebody that I disagree with on their page.
Nick: Okay. That's a good rule.
Leah: You know what I mean?
Leah: It's like that's their place to do it.
Leah: If they came over to my page and then disagreed with me, I'd be like, "No, no, no, no, no ..."
Nick: And this applies to Instagram, or anywhere.
Leah: Any of them. I think, with social media, if somebody wants to just keep putting up stuff, I don't think you're obligated to be like, "Is everything okay?" if this is a pattern.
Nick: Right. You don't have to take the bait.
Leah: Also, you might not want to spend your life on Facebook checking on everybody.
Nick: True. It's exhausting.
Leah: So, I think that's absolutely fine to be like, "I don't go online anymore and check in." If somebody needs you, they can message you.
Nick: And now, somebody's messaged you and has unloaded. What do we do with that?
Leah: Well, this person- specific to this person is saying that this person unloads on them on the regular.
Leah: So, I think that's different than a person who is in your life, and they just need to unload; because if someone needs to unload, their your friend, they need to unload.
Nick: Yeah, and that's what being friends is about.
Nick: That person's- you can do that.
Leah: But if you have a person who's constantly unloading, I think that it's fair to say - because the person who wrote in brought up that they were dealing with a lot of things - to say ... Again, not make it bigger than ... It doesn't have to be angry or anything; just be like, "I'm really going through a lot right now, and I feel like you keep bringing up stuff without checking with me, and I don't have the bandwidth."
Nick: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think ... Thinking about this through the lens of etiquette, it is rude to sort of take things that aren't yours. So, taking someone's time or emotional bandwidth without permission is rude. So, I think that's kind of the rule here, that if you want to dump on someone, it's nice to ask permission first, you know?
Leah: Yes! I always text my friends-
Nick: "Is now a good time?"
Leah: -"Hey, can I just dump real quick?" Sometimes, you just want to get it out.
Leah: Because, sometimes, people are right in the middle of like a thing, and then you get like eight messages of, obviously, not a crisis. If it's a crisis, I'm there.
Leah: But sometimes, it's just like they want to let you know the world is horrible, and you're like, "I can't right now."
Nick: Right. "I want to support you. Now's not a good time."
Leah: I'll even text people, "Hey, can I talk garbage for a second?" Then I wait until they say, "Now's a good time."
Nick: Yeah, and then we go.
Leah: Yeah, and then you unleash!
Nick: Yeah. Also, I think if you ask for permission, and you do not receive permission, you should not take this personally. Don't be offended by somebody declining to be like, "I don't really have time to listen to you right now."
Leah: Yeah, they're probably in the middle of something.
Nick: Right, but, yeah, this is a problem. This is definitely a problem.
Leah: The person who wrote in, it was happening in their own home-
Nick: Yeah, the roommate.
Leah: -so there was no place that they could get away from it, which I think is even more specific to this. This person should definitely feel comfortable setting a boundary.
Nick: Yeah, and it is about boundary setting and sticking to boundary settings because good etiquette does not require you to put up with this. Good etiquette doesn't require you to just be a pushover and just accept this happened to you-
Leah: Because that person is being rude. You're not being rude.
Leah: What happens is that people then feel like they're being rude when they put up a boundary, but the person who's forced you to put up the boundary is the person being rude.
Nick: Correct, yes ... Setting boundaries is not rude.
Nick: You can set boundaries and be polite. This is totally compatible.
Leah: Yeah. Absolutely.
Nick: Yeah. Put that on a pillow.
Leah: Put that on a ... That's a very long pillow, but I actually would love to have that pillow.
Nick: Speaking of home decor, our next question-
Leah: I love this question!
Nick: I mean Miss Manners-
Leah: I love it so much!
Nick: -has never dealt with this. "I love taxidermy, and I have a friend who finds it offensive. Should I take it down anytime they come over?" Wow ...
Leah: I don't- I feel like I always go first, and I don't want to be rude, so if you want to go for it ... This one's so exciting; I just wanted to jump in.
Nick: Well, I guess my first question is like, is it easy to take down a moose head? How easy is it to take down the taxidermy?
Leah: But, also, it's your house!
Nick: Yeah! Yeah, true ... True.
Leah: Why would you take it down?
Nick: Well, in general, we want to invite guests into our home, and we want them to be comfortable. This is why we offer them a place to sit. This is why we offer them a beverage or refreshments. Like, "Welcome to my home. Make yourself comfortable. I want you to have a nice time." So, if there is a deer-antler-head thing in your face and that makes you uncomfortable, what do we do with that?
Leah: Then we don't go to my house.
Nick: Yeah ... I think the solution is don't have people over at your house.
Leah: I think the person who wrote this in wants permission to have their house the way they want it.
Leah: That's what I think is happening. I always like to double-read, and I want them to not- to believe that they're not being rude by not changing their home.
Nick: Yes, I don't think you're obligated to change your decor for this other person, correct.
Leah: But I feel like you could be like, "Hey, so-and-so doesn't like taxidermy; let's go to a coffee shop."
Leah: If there's ... You know what I mean?
Nick: If they're bothered by it.
Leah: If they're bothered by it. Then, everybody gets what they want. I don't think you should have to change your home. Also, sometimes, people's decor is a part of them.
Nick: Yeah, 'I'm a taxidermy kind of guy.'
Leah: Yeah. If taxidermy is a part of who you are, why should you have to change it for your friend?
Nick: Yeah, you shouldn't have to change who you are. True.
Leah: You're not bringing it to your friends. That would be aggressive.
Leah: If you were bringing your taxidermy to your friend's house, and you're like, "Deal with it."
Leah: Yeah [laughing] It's your home! And I'm saying this as a person who- I own no taxidermy. I'm not coming in as a taxidermy supporter.
Leah: I am just coming in as a your-home supporter and something you love.
Nick: Yeah. You have no dog in this fight.
Leah: I have no dog in this fight-
Nick: You have no stuffed dog in this fight.
Leah: I have no stuffed dog in this fight, and I don't ... I don't support dogs fighting.
Nick: Right. Also that. So, yeah, I guess if we're really bothered by it, we should just change venues.
Leah: Yeah, change venues; but you shouldn't have to change your home.
Nick: No. Our next question is about a texter at the theater.
Leah: Oh ...
Nick: So, our writer writes: "I recently attended a performance of Miss Saigon with my daughter, in the Bay Area - my hometown ..." I wonder if this is at the Orpheum. Probably ... "It was a great performance, but a person in the row in front of me was on her phone throughout the entire first act."
Nick: "She was checking texts, looking at apps. The ushers were nowhere to be found ..." Which ... Come on ... Come on, Orpheum! He didn't want to cause a scene, so he waited until intermission to say something to the girl. He first said, "Oh, are you enjoying the show?" Then, he mentioned, "Oh, can you stay off your phone next act?" She mumbled something in the general direction and then, walked away. She didn't do anything in the second act, but one of her other friends did. So, our question writer wants to know, did he handle this correctly? What would be a better way to handle this in the future?
Leah: I think - I even wrote a note here - that this letter writer handled it so politely; waited until intermission; was like, "Hey, are you liking the ...?" You know what I mean? Whereas, you could have thrown something at the back of their head. It's a theater, and they have their phone on!
Leah: And are texting!
Nick: Yeah. Also, if you were close enough to this person to see that they were texting and checking apps, you were close enough to tap them on the shoulder.
Leah: So, you were definitely more than polite. I say this is a person who would never say anything because ... Lucky thing I have my significant other, who just yells at people. So, it's a nice balance-
Nick: It's good to subcontract, yeah.
Leah: I think you can feel comfortable to tap them on the shoulder and be like, [whispering] "Can you turn your phone down?"
Nick: Right. Yeah, I think a shoulder tap, and then a glare, or like a 'phone down' signal - totally appropriate. Also, what I would have done - at intermission, I would have found an usher, and been like, "FYI, there was some texting going on. Just would you keep an eye on row J in the next act?" Because I don't want to have to police this-
Nick: -and this is what they're there for, so let them do that.
Leah: I think that would be my first choice was to involve an usher because that way, you don't have bad blood.
Nick: Right. Yeah. You want to maintain good blood [crosstalk]
Leah: -good blood with the people in front of you.
Nick: Yes. So, I think what you did let, letter writer, totally acceptable; very polite; maybe a little too polite.
Leah: You are an incredibly kind and polite person.
Nick: Yeah. I think we could dial it up a little bit. Our next question is about trees ... Just follow along, guys, out there.
Leah: You're going to have to read the whole question. It's complicated.
Nick: Yeah. Follow along. Stick with me. "My mom has a beautiful ornamental cherry blossom tree. One day, a neighbor, who we'll call Lisa, mentioned that she loved my mom's tree, but, of course, would never plant one because that would be rude. My mom told her to plant anyway, and she said, "I don't have any rights to an ornamental cherry tree." Lisa tells another neighbor - we'll call him Chad - that she's going to go plant this tree and how excited she was. Chad doesn't say anything and just nods along. But then, the next day, Chad sneaks off and buys two ornamental cherry trees and plants them the same day. Lisa is now mad because she feels like she can't plant these trees anymore." So, the question is, is lawn etiquette a thing? If a neighbor plants a plant not common to the area, do I need to get permission to plant the same plant? Was Chad wrong? What say you?
Leah: I say this is deep. This is deep as the ground we put the cherry tree in-
Nick: I don't know. Is this about trees? It feels like this is-
Leah: I love how we read into all the other questions.
Nick: I don't know if this is about trees.
Leah: 'Is this about trees' is the first question.
Nick: Yeah. It could be a metaphor for something else.
Leah: Is there a neighbor issue? If this- let's [crosstalk]
Nick: Tree is about husband? Is tree really-
Leah: If this is just about trees ...
Nick: Okay, take it at face value.
Leah: Face value.
Nick: So, I guess, for me, the idea that everyone has cherry blossom trees in their lawn sounds totally nice. Really into that.
Leah: I can't tell if her mom- if her mom genuinely was like, "Everybody plant trees," if she didn't feel like it was that everybody was copying her, then I think Lisa should absolutely feel comfortable.
Nick: But Lisa doesn't want to copy Chad now.
Leah: But Chad copied Lisa, who copied her mom.
Nick: But the neighbors don't know that. They just see that Chad has the trees now. So, if Lisa gets trees, then she'll be the second person to get trees after Chad, so people will think that Lisa's the copycat.
Leah: Okay, so the main part of that sentence that my therapist would flag is 'people would think ...'
Nick: Oh ... Yeah, yeah.
Leah: What people think or don't think is not in our control.
Nick: But etiquette is involved with that.
Leah: I know, but you really can't control ... They might have thought that anyway.
Nick: True. Yeah.
Leah: They might not have noticed that he put up the trees.
Nick: Yeah, I think you'd notice.
Leah: Or they would think that, "Oh, we're all doing this. What a lovely thing! Now I can put up trees!"
Nick: Yeah, we- yes, let's celebrate Hanami this year.
Leah: We have no idea where they're coming from, with regards to trees.
Nick: That's true. We don't know their tree-origin stories.
Leah: Yes. So, without that information, I think you should just plant whatever tree makes you feel the best.
Leah: And we should also know, moving forward, that Chad is a little bit in it for himself-
Leah: -we now pocket that information for later-
Nick: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Leah: -and we don't tell him what trees we're planting-
Nick: Definitely not-
Leah: -if it's important for us to plant first.
Nick: Also, it feels like we're bothered by Chad's supposed shadiness - pun intended.
Leah: Very great. Very great pun.
Nick: The fact that it was explicit in the letter that Chad didn't say anything, and nodded along, and then bought the trees. Chad had an opportunity to express his interest in trees to Lisa and chose not to do it.
Nick: Which suggests that Chad knew he was doing a bad thing somehow.
Nick: By not disclosing his interest in ornamental cherry trees.
Nick: So, there is a potential crime in there. Not sure what it is, though.
Leah: You could always say something to Chad, like, "What's up, Chad? You gonna do the thing that I said I was gonna do today? Ha-ha-ha ..."
Nick: Okay. I'm not sure if that's an etiquette-approved response, but ...
Leah: I don't know if that's etiquette-approved, but I feel like that way, you get it out of your system.
Nick: Yeah. Definitely, there's some pent-up resentment here-
Leah: Towards Chad.
Nick: -which is going to last until somebody sells their house.
Leah: I want to know how the mom feels.
Nick: I think the mom, if we take this letter writer at face value, is like, "Plant the trees."
Nick: Lisa's the one that has the concern.
Nick: But mom's daughter is the one who wrote this letter.
Leah: Right. So-
Nick: So, somehow the mom's daughter has a horse in this race.
Leah: I feel like maybe mom's daughter wants to give Chad a talking to.
Nick: Yes. Yes, a stern lecture-
Leah: Because we don't know if Lisa- how Lisa feels at all.
Nick: Well, we feel that Lisa's annoyed. Lisa is annoyed by this.
Leah: So, I think that Lisa should plant her trees.
Nick: Lisa should definitely go forward and plant the trees. In fact, she should plant so many trees that it makes Chad's two trees feel insignificant.
Leah: I think maybe you want to get nicer, bigger trees than Chad.
Nick: Or you cut Chad's trees down in the middle of the night.
Leah: Okay, that's ... [laughing] We've really gone off the etiquette rails. I know-
Nick: Yeah. Plant those trees.
Leah: Plant those trees.
Nick: Yeah, and I love cherry blossom trees. I think that's nice.
Leah: Then, everybody withhold information from Chad.
Nick: Yes. Chad is no longer invited to anything ever. Actually, you know what you do? You have a traditional Japanese cherry blossom celebration called Hanami, and you don't invite Chad.
Leah: I mean, that sounds amazing.
Nick: That'll show him.
Leah: That will show him.
Nick: No Hanami for Chad.
Leah: No Hanami for Chad. I also like that this person who wrote in is caring about her mom and her mom's neighbor.
Leah: She's invested in everybody's feelings-
Leah: -which I, as a person who is invested in everybody's feelings, completely appreciate.
Nick: Yes. I mean, there's a line between being invested in people's feelings and being up in their business.
Leah: Um, but I do think that that is why we have to not worry ... Lisa has to not worry about what the neighbors think because it's so many people removed that you want the cherry trees, get the cherry trees.
Leah: Everybody knows that Chad steals ideas. We always think-
Nick: True. This is not the first time.
Leah: Yeah, we always think, "Oh, everybody else thinks that, and they'll think it's me ..." No, if Chad did this to you, Chad's done it to everybody.
Leah: Chad has somebody else's towels, and somebody else's tables, and everybody in the whole neighborhood knows this about Chad.
Nick: Chad is the worst.
Leah: Everybody, this is how it works.
Nick: Okay, there's your answer. Our next question: "I am a very petite person. I often find myself in situations where people comment about my weight and size in a generally positive manner, but then immediately followed up with a self-depreciating remark about themselves; or they ask how I've gotten so skinny, which is hard to answer because it's just my body type. I really struggle with these interactions because I don't understand what the proper response is. I don't want the other person to feel bad, but I definitely don't want to lie to them, and I also don't want to feel like I have to just defend my weight but also theirs. I usually end up just smiling awkwardly and making some vague humming noise that I let them decipher, but I would like a more definitive way to respond so that both parties don't end up feeling weird or sad about their bodies by the end of it." What do you think?
Leah: Well, I am so glad this person wrote in, and I think this is a very complicated and layered question, and we could do so much around this; the top of it being we should never comment on other people's bodies.
Leah: And to keep it specific to her, I feel like what I'm getting from the question is people are commenting and then, she feels obligated to make them feel better about themselves.
Nick: Yes, so that-
Leah: That's what my takeaway from this question is.
Nick: Yeah, that people are commenting because they want you to validate something they're insecure about in themselves.
Leah: Right. My takeaway is that she's thin and doesn't have to work hard at being thin. Then, if people are being like, "Oh, I wish I looked like that, then she feels like she has to be like, "Oh, you look great, too," but she doesn't want to have to put down herself.
Leah: That was my take away because I feel like we could go off on other things around this, but that's what I feel the actual question is.
Nick: That is the pith, yes. Yes, this is the pith.
Leah: So, I think that you aren't obligated. The person has put you in an uncomfortable position by putting themselves down, so then you have to say something nice about them when you weren't even talking about your body. So, maybe the fastest way is to change the subject.
Nick: Well, you could do that, but I think you still need to kind of address what was just said to you.
Leah: Oh, no, you could just be like, "Thanks, I was just born this way. How about those Steelers?"
Nick: Yeah. I don't think we want to belabor the issue. I mean, I think it comes down to the idea of compliments.
Nick: So, we think of this as you are complimenting my size, which you should not do.
Nick: But you've done it, so the correct response to a compliment is just to say thank you.
Leah: Yeah, and then-
Nick: And move on.
Leah: Then, she's saying they're asking how she- what her routine is-
Leah: -which just seems inappropriate.
Nick: Yeah. That's a weird follow-up, yeah. I think you want to demure; be like, "Oh, it's just how ... Just genetics."
Nick: Yeah, and then changing the subject is good, yeah.
Leah: Yeah because I feel like this person doesn't- my vibe is that they don't want to be in this conversation.
Nick: Right. Yeah, I think that they find this uncomfortable.
Leah: Right. If somebody put on you that they are not happy with their body, it's not your responsibility.
Nick: No. Miss Manners has an interesting response to this question about size. I think I'm paraphrasing, but her suggestion for what you should say is something along the lines of like, "Oh, I'm not as small as you think."
Leah: I love that. That's great.
Nick: Which is a curious response. The idea is you say that, and it gives you just enough time to make a getaway.
Nick: So, that would be the Miss Manners-approved response.
Leah: That's a really fun one.
Nick: But, yeah, I don't think ... You don't want to explain. You don't want to justify. You don't want to get in a conversation about this.
Leah: Right. Especially if it's making you uncomfortable.
Leah: I really dislike how people comment on other people's bodies and make it a thing that that person then has to make them feel better about themselves.
Nick: Oftentimes, these are fishing for compliments.
Nick: Like, "I want you to say something nice about my body."
Leah: Also, it's like you don't know ... Maybe your dream was to be skinny, but you don't know if that person's comfortable with themself.
Nick: Oh, yeah. No, to ... Because people have body issues, and height issues, and just insecurities, in general, any of these comments-
Leah: Are just wrong!
Nick: You don't know somebody's history with this thing.
Nick: Especially if it's about an immutable trait. Like, I have been my height for a very long time, so I have many years of hearing comments about my height; a lot in the bank on that. So, it's like if you make a comment, it's sorta like I got a lot of history to draw on of other people who have said similar things.
Nick: Which is not helpful. So, I am very happy with my height. You know, flying coach is no problem. I can sit cross-legged in a chair, no problem. But it is- you don't know where someone's coming from. Even if you're close friends with somebody, it's just a line you don't cross.
Leah: Yeah, and everybody's sensitive about themselves. Just don't bring it up.
Nick: Yeah. Yeah, the general is - don't do it.
Leah: One time, we were buying a mattress-
Leah: Sleepy's ...
Leah: My significant other has a slimmer build than me.
Leah: The person selling us the mattress was like, "Hey, we have a great mattress idea for you since you are so much heavier than him ..."
Nick: [Gasping] I assume we did not purchase a mattress that day.
Leah: We did not purchase a mattress!
Nick: Um, I mean, for a commission-based sales person-
Leah: Can you imagine?
Leah: They're being so helpful to let us know that they could accommodate-
Nick: They could accommodate-
Leah: -both body types. Thank you so much for letting us know that you can accommodate both body types!
Nick: Wow. "Your sleep number has many zeroes ..."
Leah: [Laughing] I couldn't even ... I was also ... You know, when you're so [inaudible] ... I just started laughing wildly.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, what do you say? Did they realize what they said was not appropriate?
Leah: Oh yeah, and then, they dug in deeper.
Nick: Oh! Always good to double down.
Leah: They just dug in- they just dug in real deep.
Nick: Mm-hmm. Well ...
Leah: The guy said, "Oh, no, no! I love big women!"
Leah: [Laughing] I can't even!
Nick: I mean-
Leah: I can't even!
Nick: Um, I guess that's flattering.
Leah: I was like ... I was like, "Am I a farm?" You know what I mean? You're like, wow ...
Nick: Ugh ... Well, sorry you didn't buy a mattress that day.
Leah: Wow. Oh, and then my significant other had to step in and be like, "Bro, I mean ..."
Nick: Yeah, no [crosstalk]
Leah: Then, I don't want anybody ... You know, it was a whole thing. So, we just don't comment on people's bodies!
Nick: We don't comment on bodies!
Leah: Even if we think we have the perfect bed for them.
Nick: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Leah: I just wanted to bring up that I feel like people could work in your body ... You don't even see it coming!
Nick: Yeah, that came out of nowhere. Yeah.
Leah: You're like, "Oh, I was here to spend money ..."
Nick: Yeah, and now-
Leah: "-and now I'm downloading the Weight Watchers app."
Nick: Yeah. So, I think general rule is please don't comment on people's bodies.
Nick: Ever. I don't think there's any exceptions to this rule.
Leah: And if people comment on your body, feel free to make your humming noise, but make it a little more aggressive.
Nick: Mm-hmm. Aggressive humming!
Leah: They started it!
Nick: Can I hear some aggressive humming?
Leah: [Aggressive humming] Unnnnnnnhhhhh! No, that was a ... No, "Hmmmmmmmm?"
Nick: "Mmmmmmmmmmm ...."
Leah: "Ohhhhhhhhhh." You could just do a- I think this is fun. This one I think our letter writer should do, and I'm going to start doing it, too-
Leah: Now that we've done all the noises, "Zzzzhhhhhhhhyuh ..."
Leah: Just to be like, "Zzzhhhawwww, I can't believe you said that!"
Leah: But with just enough [emphatic sound]
Nick: The face Leah's making is sort of like a clenched-teeth, wide-mouth-
Leah: [Clenched-teeth, wide-mouth noise]
Leah: Like when you bring the shoulders up to be like, "Ooooh! Can't believe you said that!"
Nick: It's sort of a recoil in horror look.
Nick: Something sort of a little creepy and like ... Yeah, like if you touched something slimy and weren't expecting it.
Leah: Yeah. Ewwwwww!
Nick: Uhhhhhhhgh! Yeah. That is the correct etiquette response for all comments of your body.
Leah: That way you don't get sucked into it.
Nick: Our next question came to us via text, live, as it was happening. So, this is very exciting! I'm going to summarize the text here, but basically, "I don't know how to politely tell the checkout guy at Whole Foods that I'm kind of in a hurry, and I can't talk for 20 minutes. I'm late picking up my other kids because this guy is being so chatty, and I cannot speed him along. He didn't even realize that I brought my own bags, obvi ..." She wrote "obvi ..." "Then, he wanted to repack them from the paper bags into the bag that I brought, and this is really annoying. Now he's telling me Hurricane Harvey stories. So, I'm really in a pickle." Oh, I guess this is in Texas. "I cannot figure out a polite way to tell him that I just don't want to hear this hurricane tale. I mean, I expect banter at Trader Joe's, but not Whole Foods!"
Leah: I expect banter at Trader Joe's, but not Whole Foods ... I must have happened just after because if she was texting, I feel like that's a very clear way to tell people.
Nick: Well, I mean, clearly, he was not taking the hints that she was in a hurry. Also, this is quite a lot of text, so this was quite a long delay.
Leah: I was really excited about this question because I have- I'm very close friends with people that work night shifts in my area because I come home late from-
Leah: -and all the delis and pharmacies that are ... I know everybody.
Leah: I feel like I know them more than I know most people. But sometimes, I just- I'm exhausted. I want to come in and go out, and we'll start up a conversation ... I don't want to be rude, but I want to be like, "Bros ... I can't."
Nick: They're just like, "Oh, it's 3:00 a.m.; I need human contact."
Leah: Yeah. They're like, "Let's talk!" I don't want to be rude in any way, but I just want to be like, "I just can't tonight ..."
Leah: But I feel so rude.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think the solution here is to feign surprise at the time. Like, "Oh! I didn't realize the time. Oh, I'm so sorry to rush you. I didn't realize the time. I have got to run and get my kids." Also, when you have kids [crosstalk] that is the ultimate-
Leah: Yeah, when you have kids involved, you have to get your kids.
Nick: I mean, I pretend that I have kids for excuses all the time. I don't have kids.
Leah: You know what? I don't know about that, but since you have kids, I feel like your kids can't pick themselves up.
Nick: Right! So, I would say your out, here, would be to look at your watch and be like, "I did not realize the time," and apologize for rushing him.
Leah: Yeah. "So sorry to rush you, but I have to get my kids."
Nick: Mm-hmm. That's perfect. Done.
Nick: Done. So-
Leah: So, what do I do [laughing] if I come home late at night?
Nick: [inaudible] my kids ...
Leah: "I'm so tired! How about I see you guys tomorrow?"
Nick: I mean, I think you can just say, "I've got to run. I didn't realize the time." I don't think we have to explain it.
Leah: "I didn't realize the time ..." Of course, I realized the time. I'm out at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning, buying pharmacy candy.
Leah: I ... Because it's shaped like Christmas bells ...
Nick: Yeah, I don't think you have to give an excuse for why you're in a rush; just that you are in a rush. I think if you apologize for rushing them, then I think we're good.
Leah: [Whispering] Yeah, I just always feel so rude ...
Nick: Our next question is perhaps one of the most intractable etiquette problems in the office. Our letter writer asks: :Is there a polite way to ask someone not to eat so loudly? In my office, there's a woman who seems to eat all day long; constantly snacking. We're talking apples, chips, soups, crackers, popcorn - no foods that would be quiet - everything is in a loud, crinkly bag." So, what do we do about the loud office eater?
Leah: This seems like a Nick question.
Nick: Well, this is one of the number-one complaints in offices; this is like probably top three complaints that people have about their colleagues. I think it does go to show that the whole open office plan, open office concept, where we just have open desks, is a total failure. They have done studies. It reduces productivity. It lowers morale. We should not have open offices. This is bad for business.
Leah: Oh, I do not like the idea of open offices.
Leah: Also, I think we all agreed the school should start later. These seem to be facts that nobody is paying attention to!
Nick: So, I think our solution here is to change the way the office is designed and build walls. I guess there's two ways we could approach this.
Leah: If we can't build the walls-
Nick: You can change your behavior, or you can try and change their behavior. So, I think let's start with our behavior. You can get noise-cancelling headphones. I think this is your best bet.
Leah: I want to say, up top, obviously this- it's unbelievable that this person is not aware that they're a loud eater in an office. I'm always ... When there's people around me, I am so like, "Ooops ..." So, kudos to you for putting up with somebody who is not aware of people around them.
Nick: Right. Okay.
Leah: That being said-
Nick: However ...
Leah: It's not that it's your responsibility.
Nick: It is-
Leah: -but since you're in this situation-
Nick: Right ... Here are some ideas.
Leah: Here are some ideas.
Nick: I think you can get noise-cancelling headphones; I think that is a good solution that other people have used who have this problem.
Nick: Because you are not alone. You are definitely not alone.
Leah: Maybe when the entire office has noise-cancelling headphones around this woman-
Nick: Except Lisa-
Leah: Lisa will realize, "Oh, maybe I'm eating loud."
Nick: Yeah, I'm pretty sure Lisa's not going to take the hint.
Nick: You might even get HR to pay for the headphones. So, I think you can do that. If this was not a snacking problem all day long, and this is just limited to like she's eating lunch at her desk, and it is so loud, you could take your lunch at the same time. You could go for a walk for 20 minutes; you could just exit the scene.
Leah: Yeah, lunch is no big deal. Some people are loud eaters.
Nick: Right, but it's the-
Leah: All-day thing.
Nick: -all-day mastication, I think, is the problem.
Leah: I also don't know if that's what a manager, or HR is there for?
Nick: That is definitely what HR is for.
Leah: To be like, "Hey ..." Because it's clearly affecting this person's ability to focus. "Hey, could we put a tent up around Lisa's office? She eats all day."
Nick: I think you could go to HR, yeah. I mean, I think HR probably has some procedures that handles this sort of thing; this is not a new [crosstalk]
Leah: Yeah, I'm saying that because I don't- I have no idea.
Nick: You can also try and decide does Lisa take criticism well? Can we say anything to Lisa?
Leah: I'm gonna tell you now, she doesn't.
Leah: Because, otherwise, she would be a person who is aware of her eating.
Leah: So, the question is ...
Nick: How do we get her fired?
Leah: What? [crosstalk] How do you feel about burning your bridge with Lisa?
Leah: Because you can just go up to her ... You're within your bounds to say, "Hey, of course, during lunch, but during the rest of the day ..." and you can make it not about her loud eating, but more about the products of which she chooses; the bag crinkling and the ... "We're open office, and I'm trying to focus on ... I'm doing work over here." Then assume that Lisa says gonna hate you for the rest of your life.
Nick: Yeah, okay. That's a good option.
Leah: But that may be worth it.
Nick: Yeah, except is Lisa going to actually make a difference and is this going to make changes? Hard to say.
Leah: Well, if you've asked and Lisa doesn't do it, then, I mean, the gauntlet is thrown down. You know what I mean?
Leah: Then, you've brought to attention that not doing appropriate food-eating hours, you're making noise. You try to bring it up respectfully just to her face. Then, after that, I say this as a person who would never do this, I would buy a rainforest CD and stick it into my desk [crosstalk]
Nick: Right. Get one of those therapist-office white-noise machines.
Leah: Yep because I ... But I think that you're within your rights.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, if she doesn't make an effort, then not only is she oblivious, but then she's rude.
Leah: Yeah. Maybe she has a thing where she has to eat all day. I totally understand that, but she doesn't have to eat loud foods.
Nick: Yeah. This is one of the hardest office etiquette problems that exists. This is a known etiquette problem that has no good solution, and there are just problems out there that we cannot solve.
Leah: Yeah. My last and final- my only ... I don't do well in offices.
Nick: So weird!
Leah: I know ... Unbelievable. A man would circle the desks and drag his feet, and I could hear it through the whole office; just drag his feet when he walked.
Leah: I know he didn't have like a- there was no physical need. He just was not working and thought that if he walked slow enough, everybody else would do ... But it was very loud-
Nick: Like a shuffle.
Leah: Like a shuffle [crosstalk] and it would just throw me off. I'm, of course, never going to say, "Could you pick up your feet or not do that so loudly?"
Nick: "Can you walk like a normal person?"
Leah: Then, he would also comment when he walked by ... It was unbelievable.
Nick: There's a lot going on in this office.
Leah: But I never said anything because it seemed like I would be making a bigger issue. I just put on earphones.
Nick: Yeah. Noise-cancelling headphones, I think, solve a lot of office angst.
Leah: But, I mean, I'm still talking about it years later. So, would it have been better to just be like, "Could you not do that?"
Nick: We'll never know. We'll never know.
Leah: Maybe this person can try it out. Walk over to Lisa's desk: "Lisa, with the chip bags? Come on!"
Nick: Yeah, it's got to stop. So, our next question comes from a coffee shop. "I had coffee with two girlfriends over the weekend at a cafe that was fairly busy. We had to wrangle a chair from someone using it as a backpack stand so that all three of us could crowd around a teeny-tiny little table. There were not one, but two people sitting alone in a four person booth during this very busy time. One of those was immediately across from us at our tiny little table. The person across from us was not only sitting in the large booth alone, but also had his legs and feet up on the seat of the booth. We all found this to be very rude, and it was busy, and he was putting his feet up on the seat where other people put their butts." Let me say that again ... "We all found this to be pretty rude, and we all found this to be very rude because it was busy, and he was putting his feet up. Anyway, would love your thoughts on is this actually rude, and do you say anything to these people?" So, we know you won't say anything to these people-
Leah: I absolutely won't.
Nick: -you just won't say anything to people.
Leah: But, I mean, obviously, it's rude.
Nick: It is definitely rude, yeah.
Leah: But they got there first.
Nick: Well ...
Leah: So, if he wants to have that table, he can have the table.
Leah: To be so aggressive as to throw your feet up in a place where people are busy, it seems cavalier.
Nick: There. It's cavalier! Yeah, I think there's two things happening. One, the feet up, I think, is just a separate crime that we can just address separately, which is you should not put your feet up on furniture, if it's not your furniture.
Nick: So, if you're alone in your own home, and you want to put your feet on something? Great. Anywhere else? Yeah, we don't do that.
Nick: We keep the feet below the knees.
Leah: Below the knees.
Nick: Is that the rule? That feels like ... Yeah, it's probably correct.
Leah: I think that sounds like a great rule.
Nick: We're gonna go with that.
Leah: Below the knees.
Nick: Below the knees. Yeah, there should be no knee extension.
Leah: Unless you have a cast and then, we'll all forgive you.
Nick: No problem.
Leah: We don't have- we have nothing to forgive. We understand.
Nick: Yes! No problem. But, yeah, if you're on a train, and you're in the train seats that are, you know, across from each other, or you're on an airplane, or you're in a booth like this, we don't put our feet up. It's not a thing we do.
Nick: That is rude. Now, the letter writer is sort of suggesting that this person in the booth should have volunteered to give up the booth. At no point did our letter writer ask, "Oh, would you mind? Can we switch tables?" That's not in the letter here. So, our letter writer is sort of annoyed that the booth person was selfish enough to take up an entire booth during a busy time and then sort of implies that maybe they should have offered, since that person could clearly see these people crowding around a tiny little table. I don't know if the booth person was obligated to give up their table.
Leah: I don't think they're obligated.
Nick: I mean, it is provocative, at a busy cafe, to take up that much space.
Leah: It's provocative, and I wouldn't do it.
Nick: I think it's up to the cafe to decide whether or not that's okay or not; and it'd be up to the cafe to be like, "Hey, buddy, we see you're at a big table, and there's only one of you. Are you expecting more? If not, could we maybe find you another spot?"
Nick: That would be fine, but I think for another patron ... I don't think it's ... But I think if this patron wanted that table, I think they could have gone up to him and asked, like, "Oh, would you mind if we switched while I have drinks?" I think that would've been okay. Then, it'd be up to him to decline or not.
Leah: If that person got there and got the table, they got there and got the table.
Nick: Yeah. First-
Leah: I wouldn't do that.
Nick: First come, first served.
Leah: If it's busy, and I was at a thing, I'd be like, "Oh, do you guys want to switch?" But he's not obligated to be a person who cares about other people.
Nick: Ooooh! I guess that's true.
Leah: Unfortunately, that's the world we live in.
Nick: We do live in that world, yeah. Yeah, it would be nice if he was mindful and saw, like, "Oh, there's people who might actually enjoy this table, and I'll use their table."
Nick: "Maybe we'll switch back when they're done." [Crosstalk]
Leah: Yeah, it would be mindful, and nice, but I feel like that's not a lot of-
Nick: We don't live in a world-
Leah: -people's default. It would be nice if they offered.
Nick: Yeah. Correct.
Leah: And as a person who wouldn't sit alone at a four-person table in a busy ... I assume that, from his point of view, he feels like he was there first.
Nick: Which he was.
Leah: So, unfortunately-
Nick: Things are not fair.
Leah: It's the same with trains. You know what I mean? People who are- sometimes, it's just unbelievable to see somebody who's taking up so much space when other people are shoved into a small space, and you're like, why would that person do that?
Leah: And so, they're just selfish, but I don't think that, as far as society goes, they have to give it up.
Nick: Yes. Yes. Society does not require them to give up their seats in this instance; however-
Leah: You would hope that a person would be aware that they don't need that much space.
Nick: Yeah, well, we would hope that.
Nick: We can dream. We can dream.
Nick: And we can dream that you'll send in more questions.
Leah: Oh, we love these questions so much!
Nick: Please send them in. You can leave us a voicemail, which would be our preference. You can leave that at (267) CALL-RBW or you can text us, and if I'm at my phone, I'm happy to respond in real time. If you're at Whole Foods and there's something going on, let me know.
Leah: Also, if you do have a thing where you say you often hum something, if you could give us a soundbite on that?
Nick: Yeah ... We can't really sort of-
Leah: I can't decipher what the hum is ...
Nick: Yeah, we need to hear the hum. So, please do that.
Nick: And thank you, Leah.
Leah: Thank you, Nick.
Nick: And thanks to you out there. We'll see you next time!
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