Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about leaving dirty diapers in restaurants, chatting with cashiers in supermarkets, dining when left-handed, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about leaving dirty diapers in restaurants, chatting with cashiers in supermarkets, dining when left-handed, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
Have a question for us? Call or text (267) CALL-RBW or visit ask.wyrbw.com
QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS:
THINGS MENTIONED DURING THE SHOW
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO...
Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema
Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton
Theme Music: Rob Paravonian
Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.
Nick: And we had so many great questions from you all in the wilderness ...
Nick: ... that we have a bonus episode. So here we go. Our first question is quote, "I live in Florida, and residents here are passionate about a certain grocery chain. I often complain to my partner about how frustrated I am with the chatty cashiers, even though many people actually seem to enjoy it. They start with the usual 'How are you? Did you find everything okay?' Annoying but tolerable. But then they will often go and ask what I consider to be personal questions: 'Do you have any plans for this weekend? What have you been up to today?' My Southern peers say that they're just being polite, but I find asking a stranger personal questions actually quite rude. What do you think? And how should I respond to these questions?"
Leah: This week, I actually was reading an article about how—and you know, I didn't—every time I read an article, I usually Google it to see if there's another article saying the same thing in case it was completely made up.
Leah: Which I didn't do.
Leah: So let's just say it may or may not be real, but it was how in England, they are now starting an extra cashier line for elderly people who are alone and want to have extra long conversations with their cashier.
Nick: [laughs] Okay.
Leah: And I thought, "How delightful!"
Nick: Yeah, I guess give customers what they want. And so some customers want more chat and some customers want less. So everybody wins.
Leah: I also think that this is very—we talk about etiquette varying from place to place.
Nick: Yes, inherently.
Leah: And the first solo show I did in New York City, I had a whole scene where, you know, you spend time in New York and then I would go home, and the person in front of me in line would be counting out change. And I would be like, "What are you doing right now? Nobody has this kind of time."
Nick: First of all, who has change, and why are you trying to give exact change?
Leah: And then people were chatting, and I was like, "What are you doing in line?" But that's outside—you know, people do things differently in different places, and in smaller towns, people have more—they take more time at the cashier and they have chats. I also think that if it's something you don't want to engage in, you cannot engage.
Nick: So I think, my first thought is: these are not sincere questions. This cashier doesn't actually want to know how your day is going or what you're up to. I mean, do they? I can't imagine.
Leah: They may. They may.
Nick: They're just saying these as things one says.
Leah: And I think you just flip it around and say, "Oh, you know. How's your day going?"
Nick: Right. Yeah. I think the responses are, "Fine, thanks." And, "Oh, the usual."
Leah: I also wrote, "The usual."
Nick: I think it's a classic, yes.
Leah: Just like cheese and crackers, it's a staple answer.
Nick: Right. I think that goes for everything. Like, "How's your day going? What are you up to?" "The usual."
Leah: Yeah, it's polite, you're answering, but you're not opening it up for a full conversation.
Nick: I also like a, "You know how it is."
Leah: [laughs] That's a great one.
Nick: Yeah, I think we just kind of shut it down politely. And the trick is to use a tone that doesn't sound like you're annoyed. And that's really, like, the key thing to remember when you're trying to, like, shut it down is it just has to sound like you are being polite and not super annoyed by this.
Leah: Yeah, which I think you nailed it with your tone.
Nick: "The usual, you know?"
Leah: I often respond with, "These are wild times." [laughs]
Nick: Oh, that feels like that invites further conversation.
Leah: I know, but I'm inviting it.
Nick: Oh, I see, yeah. No, if you don't want to shut it down, and you would like to actually have a longer conversation, if you want to be one of those old people in a British supermarket in their special line ...
Leah: That's me!
Nick: ... then yeah, have at it, Leah!
Leah: I want to know everything about my—I love going to Ralph's. That's one of my great joys in California.
Leah: It's a full-size supermarket, and when I'm up, I want to talk to that cashier.
Nick: Yeah. No, I'm looking to get out of Gristedes as quickly as possible.
Nick: So our next question is quote, "I have a friend that was angry at me for declining her request to attend her impromptu happy hour because I had other commitments. I was honest, and I told her I couldn't make it in advance, and again on the day when she texted me again saying, 'I really hope you can come tonight. Come at 5:00 p.m.' She then sent me an angry text later that evening when I didn't make it and said, 'I was raised that if I was invited to something, then I should attend.' Is this even a thing? Also of importance, I was about to leave on a trip for five days with this friend and all of the other gals she invited, and I didn't feel like giving up a few hours with my family after an extremely busy week, especially when I'm about to leave on a trip with these people.
Nick: "So she was miffed I didn't go to her happy hour, and now I feel required to go to everything she throws, even when I don't want to. What do you do when you strongly disagree with a friend over etiquette to preserve the friendship? I just went to another dinner she had rather than anger her, when I really planned to have a much-needed date night with my husband. What should I do?"
Leah: No, you are not obligated to attend everything you're invited to.
Nick: Can you imagine if we lived in a world in which that was the rule? That you were obligated to attend everything you were invited to? That would be bonkers.
Leah: It would be bonkers. It's impossible. You would never have time to do your life. I mean, that's just not a thing.
Nick: No, it's not a thing at all. No. And Miss Manners famously says, "An invitation is not a subpoena." And it's really true. You are not obligated to go, and you can always decline, no excuses required.
Leah: And the idea that she would follow up and be angry with you?
Nick: That! I mean, come on!
Leah: I don't even know what that is.
Nick: That's not—no, I have no words.
Leah: I have no words. And the idea that you feel like you have to go to something you don't want to go to when you wanted to spend time with your husband because you don't want to anger her?
Nick: Yeah, that sounds real fun.
Leah: This does not—this is like walking on eggshells around somebody who's making up their own rules.
Nick: Yeah. No, only we get to make up the rules when it comes to etiquette.
Nick: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, it's not a thing, and we gotta shut it down. And we need some boundaries here. And one of the questions our letter writer asks is like, "What do you do when you strongly disagree with a friend over etiquette to preserve the friendship?" And I think the question is: I don't know if you do preserve the friendship, because etiquette is not just etiquette. Etiquette is values. Like, etiquette is more fundamental than just sort of like what fork to use. Etiquette is, like, how we see the world and how we treat other people. And so if we're just on very different pages in terms of how we treat other people, I don't know if that means we are really compatible as friends, if we're really on very different pages. So I would rethink this friendship and maybe reseat this person in your theater and maybe they're more of an acquaintance than a friend.
Leah: And it's also because it's not like the idea that we see etiquette differently, she is making up a rule and telling you that you have to come to everything that she does.
Nick: Right. And is super mad that you don't.
Leah: Yeah. And then is angry with you ...
Leah: ... about how you spend your time. And I think that that's not—as Nick said, that's not disagreeing over a fork, that's a whole other way of living that's also completely by her rules.
Nick: Right. And I do get the sense that this person does like to operate by her own rules, and thinks everyone should follow her rules. And I have a feeling she's that sort.
Leah: Yeah. If you already said you couldn't come to something, and then she texted you that day and was like, "I really hope you can make it," and you'd already said no?
Nick: And you're like, "Unfortunately, I still can't." But I'll see you for the five-day trip we have planned.
Leah: Yeah, it seems you are not obligated to go to everything you're invited to, bottom line.
Nick: Right. So what we need to do is just set better boundaries. And when you say no, no means no. And I don't think you should feel bad about that. And if your friend doesn't understand that boundary that you're setting, well, then that's on them.
Leah: It really is. And when people say things like, "I was raised that if you're invited to something that you should attend," I mean, that's ...
Nick: I mean, that may be true. This person may have been raised this way, which does suggest very strongly that this person was raised by wolves. [laughs] But that's not a thing. I mean, at least in American society. Who knows where this letter came from? Maybe this is a different society. Perhaps it does operate that way in a pocket of the world I'm not familiar with, but I'm pretty sure there's not a culture in the world that obligates all of their citizens to attend every event that they're invited to.
Leah: That would be your whole life: balancing events.
Nick: It's completely unworkable, and also makes no sense.
Leah: Also, if you're the one who's always bending to preserve the friendship, then ...
Leah: But I think that Nick has given you a great quote, which is "Well, Miss Manners actually said ..."
Nick: Yeah, I think you can always quote Miss Manners when required. Yeah, toss that in. No problem. So our next question is quote,"As a lefty, when I sit down at a restaurant, I swap the silverware and stemware to accommodate my handedness. There are times when a server will continue to set my wine or water glass back on the right side after refilling. A few times, a server has looked horrified at my tableware restructuring. What is the right thing to do? Do I hobble awkwardly as a right-handed restaurant patron, or just keep swapping things back when the server knowingly or unknowingly sets things back down incorrectly?"
Leah: I think just keep swapping it back.
Nick: So Leah, you are left handed. Do you experience this?
Leah: Yeah, I think people—and I've also been a server, so I think it's muscle memory. People pick up the glasses to refill and they put it down. And, you know, they're just—I think you're often most focused on making sure you don't spill anything. Quite possibly there are people that are moving it back on purpose, but I think in general, people are just focused on the actual pouring and not remembering where they picked it up from and putting it back.
Nick: Right, that seems fair. I think for me, the question is: are you dining alone or are you dining with other people? Because I think if you're dining for one in a restaurant, do whatever you want, put it down wherever you want. It doesn't matter. And if the waiter comes up and is like, puts it in the wrong spot, you could even say, like, "Oh, forgive me, I'm left handed. Sometimes things have a way of migrating to the other side." And you could sort of like, make a comment lightly if you wanted. I think if you're dining with other people though, I think you should keep it in its normal place, because the reason why we have this rule is so that you're not drinking out of somebody else's glass. Like, we've all decided as a society that this is where things go, and that's what we all believe and do. And so when you switch it up, that does become confusing for people.
Leah: I assume you're right-handed with a comment like that.
Nick: I am right handed.
Nick: Right? Oh, is that a very right-handed thing to say?
Leah: That's a very right-handed thing to say, Nick.
Nick: "Of course you're right handed!"
Leah: So it's been set up for you. So of course you would say, "Leave it that way." I don't see anything wrong. I'm not gonna eat backwards. I'm just gonna switch it in my hands, and then I'm not gonna drink with my non-drinking hand..
Nick: Right. But is it such a struggle to reach to the right side with your left hand and grab a wine glass?
Leah: I'd probably just put it in the middle. I don't want it to get mixed up with the other glasses to the person to my left.
Nick: Right. Yeah, we definitely don't want to do that, which is why we do want to try and keep them away from other people's stuff.
Leah: But I'm not going to—if I drink with my left hand and then it goes down on my left side, I'm not gonna feel bad about it.
Nick: But I mean, like, the bread goes on the left. I'm right handed. Somehow, I do manage to reach over to the bread plate on the left and get the bread. I manage somehow. So I mean, is it so different as a left-handed person? Am I being very insensitive to left-handed people by thinking this? Do I not understand the struggles? Like, why is it any different? Like, I'm reaching to the left to get my bread, you're reaching to the right to get the wine. Like, is this not sort of similar?
Leah: I think you often forget. I mean, you drink a lot more liquids than you do have bread.
Nick: You don't know what goes on in my meals.
Nick: You don't know. Oh, I love a good carbohydrate.
Leah: But they're also swapping their silverware.
Nick: Right. And I guess I mean, that's fine. I don't—you know, have at it.
Leah: Switch it up. With the glassware, as Nick said, the danger we're running is that it might get mixed up with a person to the left of you.
Nick: Yeah. So I think if that's not a problem based on the way the table is constructed or where the other diners are, then do whatever you want. It's not a problem. But the etiquette is there because it does keep everything organized for everybody dining together. Like, that's the whole point of it. So that's the only reason we have it. So if that doesn't apply to your dining situation then, like, have at it. But I don't think we care what the waiter thinks.
Leah: And I also don't think the waiter was thinking about it. I don't think they ...
Nick: It's really not the priority of their evening, no.
Leah: And I also think that if you want to migrate to the left slowly, just remember that the rules were set up by right-handed people.
Nick: [laughs] The whole world was, Leah.
Leah: And if you want to fight against it, I don't really have a problem with it.
Nick: Oh, you can't take us down, Leah. We're too powerful.
Nick: We have people in the highest levels of government. We are in every organization. We run every corporation. Oh yeah, you can't—you can't get rid of us all.
Leah: We have some real stars in the left-handed community, let me tell you that.
Nick: That's actually true, yeah. No, you have more talented people on your team, but there's just more of us. It's a numbers game, Leah. So our next question is quote, "My first book is about to be published in a few months and I've got a couple of etiquette questions about the process. Should I be sending thank-you notes? If so, when? Should I send them to my literary agent? To my publisher? Editor? Do I send them when the book comes out, or do I send them when I sign the contract? And what about the acknowledgment page in the book? What a minefield! Is it tacky to just thank your friends and family, or make it more general? I thanked my whole family, but then carved out my sister in particular as my best friend, and then I shouted out my grandmother and my mom, since they were the most influential in my writing the book. I also shouted out my parents as "My parents," but now I feel kind of bad that my dad and a few other close family members weren't specifically mentioned."
Leah: A) congratulations.
Nick: Congratulations. That is a big accomplishment. I'm sure it was a huge amount of work to get there. So yeah, that's amazing.
Leah: What an incredible accomplishment. Very exciting. And I always think about this when people are making their acceptance speeches at awards shows. I'm sure everybody stresses out. You have a limited amount of time, you have a limited amount of space.
Nick: And that was my thought here. Like, this is an award acceptance speech, at least the acknowledgment page.
Nick: Like, you only have so much time before the music starts playing. So what do you want to do?
Leah: And I do think that some people were more influential in the writing process or whatever, the creative process than other people. And that's okay.
Nick: Yes. Yeah, I mean, I think this is not necessarily a "everybody gets a trophy situation." Some people should actually be singled out.
Leah: And I think it's absolutely fine to say my friends and family and then specify, as you were saying, your grandmother and your sister for extra special thanks.
Nick: And I guess you could also just be general. I just want to thank my friends and family. And then privately, you could just, like, let those people specifically know in a separate note that you handwrite to them with a copy of your book maybe, and let them know how important they were. Like, that's also an option.
Leah: But I think that if you did—you said friends and family, and then you threw in a few specifics, that's fine.
Nick: Now the flip side is: the acknowledgment page? It's a big page. You could probably actually get your publisher to give you two pages if you wanted. So if you actually wanted to list everybody, there's probably room to do it. You could actually just list all the names that you wanted to.
Leah: Right. I think what my reading was was that what she wanted to say was "Friends and family" and then specifically her sister, her grandmother and her mom who, like, went the extra mile.
Leah: And that's how she felt about it. And then afterwards, she's feeling guilty that she just didn't list everyone.
Nick: Right. Unless you can list everybody. Like, if that's an option with your publisher to actually do that. If that's not an option, well, we can't feel guilty about that because that's not an option. So we have to take that guilt off the table because there's nothing you can do about it, in which case you just have to sort of like do what you can with the space that you have. And so, yeah, I think your approach is fine.
Leah: And I think regarding the sending thank-you notes ...
Nick: "Yes" is the answer.
Leah: Yes. And then for the question of when you signed the contract or when the book came out, I like when the book came out because I love the idea of sending it. For the people who aren't in the publishing company, you can send a book with it.
Leah: And then for your literary agent and your publisher, I think it's like a celebration of when it comes out on the thank you day.
Nick: Right. Now here's an idea: the time between signing a contract and a book actually existing in the world? Quite a lot of time.
Leah: Long time.
Nick: So you could send two thank-you notes. You could send everybody a thank-you note for helping you get to the milestone of signing a contract. That's a big deal. And then two years later or whatever it is, when the actual book exists, you could also set a new round of thank-you notes to everybody again. And I think that would also be totally lovely.
Nick: Yeah. Yeah. No, we live in a world of "more" not "or" when it comes to gratitude, please.
Nick: Should we put that on a pillow? Yes.
Leah: "More not or?"
Nick: Yeah! I mean, that's my motto for everything.
Leah: I think put it on a pillow, "More not or." You guys can find that on the Were You Raised by Wolves website.
Nick: There you go. Oh yeah, let's sell some merchandise today! Yes.
Leah: So just to recap: we've come to the conclusion that it's fine for her to do a general friends and family with the specifics of who went the extra mile.
Leah: And then we're gonna send thank-you notes to everybody.
Nick: Okay. Yeah, totally agree. This is great. And congratulations on the book again.
Leah: Huge congratulations! I mean, I think you should send a thank-you note to yourself for being amazing.
Nick: [laughs] I mean, that actually is one category of thank-you note that we don't actually talk about. Is that a new thing? Is that a new genre of thank-you notes? The self thank you?
Leah: Well, I do feel like she's feeling a lot of anxiety making sure that everybody is shouted out appropriately, and she knows how grateful they are. But I think also take that moment to be like, "Oh wow, I finished a book!"
Leah: Is that etiquette? I don't know.
Nick: No, that's a—that's more—that's a different thing. [laughs]
Leah: But congratulations. We're saying congratulations
Nick: But congratulations nevertheless. Yes. So our next question is quote, "I have a combination question and vent. Yesterday, we were at lunch, seated outdoors at a midway upscale restaurant. The table next to us was a couple, a toddler and their new baby. As we were eating our appetizers, the parents of the baby moved around so that their knees were facing each other and used this lap bench as a changing table, and they changed the baby's diaper right there within 10 feet of my hummus. Seriously? And then when they were leaving, they wondered aloud if they should take the dirty diapers with them—there were two dirty diapers. And the mom said, 'Nah, they're not poopy. It's fine.' It is not fine! Anyway, my question is, what should I have done in this situation? I joked with the staff cleaning up the table and I tipped extra, but should I have said something to the parents?"
Leah: I have a lot of face rubbing happening. You know me, I love to find these ...
Nick: Are you gonna try and find the benefit of the doubt here?
Leah: No, the only benefit of the doubt—the benefit of the doubt that I will find is imagining why a parent would have to change a diaper at a table. I can imagine a situation where that is needed.
Nick: Sure, yes. And definitely there are times when it has to happen, or a restaurant has no changing tables, or has no private space, or just is some emergency. Sure.
Leah: You can't leave the other kid anywhere. You know what I mean? I understand that part of it.
Nick: So, we’re just going to take that at face value. Set it aside. It’s the leaving the diapers on the table...I feel like that’s where we need to discuss a little further.
Leah: We need to dive in there. And I do think this is very particular because there are two parents there. If it’s just one parent, I’m almost willing to forgive everything because I feel like the world is not set up with enough support for one parent taking care of two kids. You know what I mean?
Leah: Even one kid. I can barely maintain a puppy. So, this question is very particular that we have two parents.
Leah: The diaper part.
Leah: That's where you're like, in what world are we leaving dirty diapers?
Nick: Two of them!
Leah: Two of them! On a restaurant table?
Nick: But Leah, they're not poopy.
Leah: [laughs] Sometimes I'll have a coffee cup with me from another restaurant, and I feel bad about leaving that coffee cup on the table because ...
Nick: Oh, with some other logo?
Leah: ... that was something that I brought in from somewhere else, and why should the waiter have to clean that up, let alone a used diaper?
Nick: Yeah. Or two of them.
Leah: Two used diapers!
Nick: But then the question is: as a fellow diner in this establishment, what, if anything, do you do?
Leah: I'd be like, "You left your diapers!" No. Kidding.
Nick: You would never say that.
Leah: I wouldn't, but the person I live with absolutely would.
Nick: I mean, as an etiquette response, if you could land that in a non-judgmental tone and be like, "Oh, oh, excuse me! Oh, I think you left diapers behind." If you could somehow say that in a way that just was, like, concern that they may have left some belonging behind. Like, "Oh ma'am, you left your scarf." "Oh sir, you left your diapers." [laughs] You could get away with that, maybe.
Leah: I just don't even know. We're assuming that this—I get the idea that this was not an emergency situation, and that's why they're—you know what I mean? I think we can take emergency off the table.
Nick: I think we can take it off the table because of the detail that these were people that were prepared to leave the diapers behind because they were, quote, "Not poopy."
Nick: So I think this person just chose to do this, didn't have to do this.
Leah: I almost feel like—I mean, when I read this, I thought "More of a vent." You know what I mean? Because we can't even fix these people.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, this is not actually a question.
Leah: Because these people are leaving, quote unquote "emotional dirty diapers" all around their whole world.
Nick: Oh! Ooh, metaphor!
Leah: You know?
Leah: And obviously, Nick and I are with the caveat that it's an emergency, which we've established it is not.
Leah: Because I've been with friends. You gotta change a baby. There's nowhere to go. Obviously, change the baby right there.
Leah: It's the leaving the diapers on the table.
Leah: And there's other diners around. There's just a diaper on the table? I don't know. I just—what's going on?
Nick: And to feel like it's cool to leave it.
Leah: It's cool. It's just pee. It's just pee.
Nick: Yeah, it's not poopy.
Leah: [laughs] I will also take that as a ringtone, to be honest, Nick saying, "It's not poopy."
Nick: It's not poopy. Yeah. And the person calling you probably isn't. So I think, what do you do? I mean, this is for the restaurant to handle, and so I think you just have to subcontract. The best you can do as a diner, I think, is just to give a look that looks puzzled. I don't think you want a dismissive look. I don't think you want sort of like a disappointed look. I think you just need a puzzled look. Like, "I'm just puzzled by what is happening." And I think that's sort of the best you can do.
Leah: Yeah. We're gonna have to get like a flipbook of Nick looks.
Nick: Yes. Definitely, we need to have a deck of flash cards of all the looks you can give at all different situations.
Leah: The disappointed one, I feel—from a previous episode, I feel so bad that people at home didn't get to see that.
Nick: And that one? I have a lot of practice.
Nick: So is there anything you're disappointed about or puzzled by? Let us know. You can let us know through our website, WereYouRaisedByWolves.com, or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next time!
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