March 13, 2023

Passing Salt and Pepper, Asking for Pickles, Running Into Acquaintances, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle passing salt and pepper, asking people if they're going to eat their pickle, running into acquaintances, and much more.

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Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle passing salt and pepper, asking people if they're going to eat their pickles, running into acquaintances at bars, 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



  • AMUSE-BOUCHE: Passing salt and pepper
  • A QUESTION OF ETIQUETTE: Menu substitutions and secret menus
  • QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS: How soon is too soon to ask someone if they're going to eat their pickle? What do I do about an acquaintance who is mad at me for not including them in a night out?
  • VENT OR REPENT:A noisy neighbor update, Unsupportive comics
  • CORDIALS OF KINDNESS: A musical voicemail, A middle school party







Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian



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Episode 176


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Nick: Do you separate your salt and pepper? Do you demand substitutions at restaurants? Do you expect to be invited to everything? Were you raised by wolves? Let's find out!

[Theme Song]

Here are things that can make it better

When we have to live together

We can all use a little help

So people don't ask themselves

Were you raised by wolves?

Nick: Hey, everybody. It's Nick Leighton.

Leah: And it's Leah Bonnema.

Nick: And let's just get right down to it with our amuse-bouche.

Leah: I feel slightly nervous. [laughs]

Nick: [laughs] Good. So for today's amuse-bouche, I want to talk about the 1989 movie Batman. Do you remember this movie?

Leah: This is Michael Keaton?

Nick: Yeah!

Leah: Oh, yeah. I remember.

Nick: So it's a great movie. And do you remember there's a scene where Batman and Vicki Vale are dining. They're in his dining room. And it's a very long dining table, like 50 feet long, and they're both at opposite ends. Do you remember this?

Leah: I do, because I think he makes a joke, "I don't think I've been in this room before."

Nick: [laughs] Right. Exactly. So in this scene, they're having soup. And the room is so large that, like, they can't actually hear each other talking. They're like, "How's the soup?" And she's like, "Excuse me?" So she says, "Oh, would you pass the salt?" And so then do you remember what Batman did? What did Bruce Wayne do?

Leah: I feel like he picked up his soup and he came down and sat with her.

Nick: What he did is he grabbed the salt and walked it all the way down to her, and then gave it to her and then walked back to his seat. And so the question is: was that correct? Was that proper etiquette?

Leah: As a side note, they do sit next to each other, though, at some point.

Nick: Eventually they're like, "Oh, should we just get out of here?" And then they finish their meal in the kitchen. That's what happens.

Leah: Okay, because they do end up sitting together. You know, it's been a while since I've seen this, so ...

Nick: Sure. That is fair. But the question is: was this good etiquette?

Leah: I mean, there's only this—it's 50/50, yes or no. And I feel like you wouldn't be asking me if it wasn't. But also, how else would the salt get down there?

Nick: How would you get it down there? Right.

Leah: And of course he wants to walk over and be near Vicki Vale.

Nick: So?

Leah: I feel like the answer is no, but I'm gonna say how lovely and polite of you to walk that salt that extra mile.

Nick: So let's put a pin in that for a second and let's just talk about, like, why is salt and pepper as a combination a thing? Like, how did this happen? Because if you think about, like, dining tables throughout the United States, every diner, every tray table on an airplane, it's always salt and pepper. And, like, how did this combination come to be? Because, like, there's lots of other options. And so salt makes sense. Our bodies actually need salt. To survive, we need actually a certain amount of salt every day. So, like, we are designed, we're programmed to crave salt. Salt tastes good. We want that. Okay, fine.

Nick: And pepper has been around for a long time, too. I mean, thousands of years we've been using pepper. I mean, it comes out of India most likely. And it's been used medicinally, it's been used as currency. It was very expensive in the Middle Ages, but then it kind of actually got cheap and it was sort of common. And then everyone had it and it was like, oh, what's the big deal? But why pepper and salt as a combination just became the thing comes down to one guy, one person in the entire world.

Leah: Wow!

Nick: Can you imagine having this much power?

Leah: No.

Nick: I mean, to basically say like, "Oh, you know what we're doing? Everyone? All of us? Salt and pepper." And so this was Louis XIV, the Versailles guy. And he had legendary dinner parties, and he was also a notoriously picky eater. And what the king wanted the king wanted and the king got. And he didn't like anything that overpowered his food. Like, that wasn't what he was interested in. And his chefs decided that, like, oh, pepper gave just enough je ne sais quoi but would be acceptable to the king. And so because of this, and because French cuisine sort of became so influential at this time, that became the combination for, like, a lot of cuisines that followed.

Nick: So even today, American cuisine, salt and pepper, that's what it is.

Leah: Wow!

Nick: Right? Isn't that sort of interesting? It's like a weird quirk of history.

Leah: It's very interesting because I never thought why are these the things that we have?

Nick: Right? Because, like, what else could we use? We could use, like, turmeric. Turmeric could be kind of interesting. Or coriander or hot pepper, like chili pepper. That's, like, an option. Like, there's a lot of other things we could use as a spice to, like, dial up dishes.

Leah: You know, we—I come from a very big pepper family. My parents even have a pepper grinder in the car in case they end up somewhere where there's no pepper.

Nick: [laughs] Okay. So instead of, like, carrying hot sauce in your bag, you just have the full blown Peugeot pepper grinder. Okay.

Leah: Hot sauce in the bag or pepper in the car. [laughs]

Nick: So back to the salt and pepper shaker. The rule is that salt and pepper must always be passed together. So what Bruce Wayne did, which was incorrect, is that he only brought the salt. He needed to bring the pepper, even though the pepper was not asked for. Salt and pepper are always passed together.

Leah: I never would have guessed that. So I learned so much today.

Nick: And Miss Manners explains it this way. Quote, "Like many couples, one is sought after and the other generally ignored. But the polite person will treat them as a couple and invite them together."

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: [laughs] Now I have not been able to find any explanation for why this is the rule. This is just the rule. It's just this is how we do it so that's what we're doing. There's maybe no logical reason other than it is sort of more convenient just to keep them together in case you wanted the other one. I guess that would be as far as the logic would go. But the rule is this is just what we do.

Leah: I had no idea, and now I know. And I don't actually think that I've ever seen anybody pass me—because I always ask for pepper, and I've never gotten the salt and pepper passed at the same time. So it's a learning for all of us.

Nick: So interestingly, people who know this rule do clock it when people don't follow it. They won't say anything to you, but they will silently judge you. And so it's just important to know that, like, oh, this is the rule and I will be judged. And so now that you know this rule, now you have to do it.

Leah: [laughs] Now I have to judge people?

Nick: I mean, you don't have to, but you are now welcome to. You're not allowed to do anything with that judgment. You have to keep that to yourself.

Leah: Oh, bottled up judgment!

Nick: But you are allowed to clock it silently. You're like, "Oh, that's interesting. They only passed one of the two items."

Leah: This feels a lot like the blackened wicks.

Nick: It's definitely in that world. Yes, it is absolutely in this world. Now are you ready for a little etiquette 2.0. Can we—can we actually add a little twist to this rule?

Leah: I'm ready.

Nick: Can we dial this up a notch?

Leah: I'm ready.

Nick: Okay. So there is an exception to this rule, and I'm gonna tell you this, but we cannot weaponize it.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: You just have to file this away. So at a proper dinner party, you'll actually have enough salt and pepper for every two people. So between every other place setting, there'll be, like, salt and pepper. And that's "proper," quote unquote. Now, Letitia Baldrige, one of the etiquette greats, she does allow for an exception, which is that if everyone has their own salt, so there's plenty of salt to go around, one for every other person, but the pepper grinder is in a grinder and the grinder is a quote "conversation piece," then you can pass just the grinder around.

Leah: Very specific loophole. Everybody's gotta have their own salt. Pepper's gotta be in a grinder, and it's a conversation piece.

Nick: Conversation piece, yes. So she does not specify what type of conversation we're having, but it must be an object of conversation, which means, "Oh, this is quite a pepper grinder."

Leah: I bet it has lights. It's at least three feet.

Nick: So that's the loophole. So if that is a scenario, then you would pass one without the other. But other than that, Miss Manners, it's a couple. They come together. They leave together.

Leah: All right!

Nick: That's it.

Leah: I'm gonna put this one into practice.

Nick: Immediately.

Leah: Immediately. Even in my own home.

Nick: Yeah, of course. If not there, where?

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: And we're back. And now it's time to go deep.

Leah: Deep and delicious!

Nick: So for today's question of etiquette, I want to talk about asking for substitutions on a menu, and also how to ask for, like, secret menu items.

Leah: I think it's fair to tell our audience that you have your finger on the pulse. You are quoted in an article about secret menus.

Nick: Oh, yes. That's true, yes. Somebody did interview me and be like, "Oh, what are my thoughts about secret menus?"

Leah: And it was terrific.

Nick: Thank you. Well, I'll be happy to rehash them here, so no need to read anything. But first let's just preface and say we are not talking about people with food allergies or religious dietary restrictions or other considerations. Like, this is more about preferences, and more about, like, non-allergic aversions. Like, "Oh, I just don't want to have the French fries. I'd rather have the salad. Can I substitute?" Like, that's what we're talking about.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: So you were a server once. Did you ever get requests to make substitutions?

Leah: Oh. Oh, definitely.

Nick: And what were your thoughts on this?

Leah: I'm happy to give it a try.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: A lot of times, you know, the—the server is gonna have—if it becomes—if it's not just a swapping out a side ...

Nick: Right.

Leah: ... which is easily manageable. Or, like, leaving—like, maybe you're doing no carbs. Can I leave the croutons off? After that, you have to go ask the chef because it's cooked in with it, and you gotta get permission.

Nick: Yeah, I think the first thing on my list was: what kind of restaurant are we in? Like, is there even a chef? Is there somebody back there who would call themselves the chef? Like, is that the restaurant, or is this just like Penguin Point where it's just like it's a burger joint and, like, they're happy to leave the tomatoes off. So I guess that's really the first question. Like, what is the restaurant?

Leah: I don't know what Penguin Point is. Is that real?

Nick: Oh, Penguin Point is very real. Yeah, it's like a chain in northern Indiana.

Leah: It's a cute name. I do love penguins.

Nick: Right? Yeah. So, you know, you can—next time you're in the neighborhood, you could swing by. But I don't think anybody back there at Penguin Point would call themselves, like, the chef. Like, "Oh, let me ask Chef about this." So I think substitutions are probably easier there.

Leah: But I think we still do the same thing, which is as the person asking we say, "Is it possible to blankety blank blank?"

Nick: In asking people about this, chefs and, like, servers, the way you ask is, like, 99 percent of it. And so anytime you're demanding it, that's pretty much not the way to go. Asking if it's possible, is this thing possible, and then being prepared to take no for an answer, that is pretty much, like, usually the way to go. And so you just want to be like, "Oh, would it be possible to have the BLT but not have the bacon? Is that possible?"

Leah: Yeah. I feel like when I—when I was working waitstaff, I was always happy to give it a shot and, like, "Let me check if I can do that."

Nick: And I guess before you ask, I mean, is your request feasible? Like, are you asking for chicken noodle soup, but asking them to pick out all the noodles? Like, is that—is that the request? In which case should you make that?

Leah: That's true.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: I mean, there are probably some things where you're like, "Wow, that's actually a whole other dish." And also, if the restaurant is slammed and you are asking for something that is so complicated, and there's, like, 900 things happening and it's like—I remember the first brunch I worked on a roof deck in New York City, I almost—I almost moved home. I was like, I" can't handle this." It was—because it's also there are bottomless mimosas, so you can't walk anywhere without anybody wanting to refill a drink.

Nick: Uh-huh.

Leah: You're trying—and then so when people then start making extremely complicated off-the-menu orders, or not off the menu, but just like exchanges and ...

Nick: "Can I get the risotto without rice?"

Leah: [laughs] Yeah. And then you're like, "There's 900 people yelling at me right now."

Nick: Right.

Leah: We're lucky if we get a plate to your table.

Nick: And some restaurant menus do say, "No substitutions, please." Which if it does say that, I mean, I guess you could still ask, although I kind of actually like if it says it on the menu, like, maybe you shouldn't even ask.

Leah: But I feel like you could say, if it says no substitutions, you could say, "Hey, I see it says no substitutions, but can I ask for no croutons?"

Nick: Right. Yeah. And I guess is that a substitution or is that an elimination?

Leah: That's an elimination, which I think is different.

Nick: Although I have seen some restaurant menus where they say "Substitutions are politely declined." And that phrasing to me actually feels rude. I really don't like the passive-aggressive nature of the way that is phrased.

Leah: Yeah, I like "No substitutions" better.

Nick: Yeah. Or "No substitutions, please" I'm good with, but "Substitutions politely declined?" It was like, "Oh, I don't—I don't love that.

Leah: It does have that thing, that je ne sais quoi of ...

Nick: It's got a little flavor of I don't know if I love that. So if you are a restaurant owner and that's how you have your menus? Think twice. That's all. Think twice.

Leah: I think it's just not coming off the way you think it's coming off.

Nick: Or it's coming across the exact way you think it's coming across and they're good with that.

Leah: Oh, you think that they meant it that way. Okay. Okay.

Nick: [laughs] You know, because, like, if you said that to somebody in person, like, there's no tone where that's polite. There's no tone, where, like, "We're gonna politely decline your request." Like, there's no way to say that in a nice way.

Leah: You're like, "Can I have the fries instead of the mashed potatoes?" "I politely decline."

Nick: [laughs] Right? Yeah. There's just something about that construction that's like, hmm, not great. Let's talk about some secret menus.

Leah: So you say secret menu, I immediately think In-N-Out Burger because you keep telling me to try the animal-style fries.

Nick: And you haven't tried them yet?

Leah: I haven't tried them yet.

Nick: Oh, you gotta try them.

Leah: But I will try them. And then I thought of drive-thrus because I was like, "I gotta go to the drive-thru," and then I thought of that amazing story you just told me about the drive-thru quote-unquote "situation," and I think you should share with the group.

Nick: Oh, gladly! So this hit my radar this week, and it's a story about a woman was driving her car and going through the drive-thru, and I guess she was taking a little longer than normal at the sort of speaker placing her order. And the woman in the car behind her was getting very impatient, was, like, honking the horn, making, like, wild gestures. Like, pretty rude. And so what the woman in the first car did was like, "You know what? I'm gonna pay for the person behind me. So just let her know that when she places her order, that I'm gonna pay for it." And so the first woman drives through and picks up her order, but because she had both receipts, she picked up the order for the person behind her as well and drove off with both orders.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So that the woman behind would then get up to the window and her food wouldn't be there, and she'd have to drive all the way around to the back of the drive-thru line and do it over again. So ...

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So just to be clear, that is bad etiquette. Don't do that. However ...

Leah: However ...

Nick: It is kind of wonderful. [laughs] So speaking of secret menus ...

Leah: What's funny about that story is you think it's gonna go the other way. You think she's just being like, "I'm taking the high road."

Nick: Pay it forward, yeah.

Leah: "And maybe she'll learn a lesson about how nice people are. And then you're like, "Oh, no! She's going in!"

Nick: So I do appreciate that boldness, for sure. I would never be able to do that, but I do on some level appreciate the poetic nature of all that.

Leah: I do feel ever so slightly inspired. [laughs]

Nick: Yes. But again, don't do it. We're not endorsing that, but it is wonderful.

Leah: We're not endorsing it publicly. But in private ...

Nick: Yeah. What you do, we don't know. So speaking of secret menus In-N-Out Burger, I think is famous for having a secret menu. And I don't even know if it's a secret. It's basically just like, there's other ways you can get those same ingredients back there that they'll give them to you.

Leah: I mean, we're endorsing it a little bit. Just to circle back.

Nick: [laughs] Well, I'm saying don't do that. I'm sharing a story which is very funny, but don't do that.

Leah: At a certain point, people gotta learn.

Nick: Okay. So with In-N-Out Burger, most people know that, like, oh, there's all these other things that you can actually just get from them. So they have, like, animal style, which is like with grilled onions and, like, more sauce. And there is protein style, where you can get their burger, which is like no bun, but they'll wrap it in lettuce instead.

Leah: But I think that's on the menu.

Nick: If you walk into an In-N-Out Burger, it's not on the board.

Leah: Oh, it's not? Well, I always get protein style.

Nick: Right. I mean, so that's why In-N-Out Burger, probably not a secret. Like Chipotle, they have nachos. Like, you can get nachos from them. I don't think that's on their official menu but, like, they have the chips and they got all the other stuff so, like, they'll put it together. So for those types of restaurants, you know, those "secret menu" quote-unquote items? Have at it. They know how to make those things. But there is this whole world of, like, online influencers going out of their way to come up with crazy combinations at chain restaurants. Like, oh, what is the craziest thing we can make Starbucks do for us with all of the ingredients they have? And then we'll come up with some crazy name for it and then, like, we'll see what it looks like and tastes like. And then this spreads, and then you walk into some random Starbucks and you're like, "Oh, I want a London suitcase fog purple haze." And then the person's like, "I don't know what that is. That's not on the system." So you have to be mindful that, like, oh, that's not a real thing. So if you want that thing, you actually have to explain to them how to make it.

Leah: I assume London Fog has to have tea in it.

Nick: I mean, I was just making that up. I don't know if that's a real thing. But sure, it's Earl Gray tea with berry syrup and pistachio cream. And then you take one of the egg sandwiches and you put it in there.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: I mean, I don't know. Sure. That sounds great.

Leah: Oh, I bet the baristas at Starbucks are like, "Can we not come up with any more drinks?"

Nick: So if you want one of these things, I think you gotta read the room, which is like, oh, are you doing this at, like, prime time morning rush? And is this a drink that will take 40 minutes to explain and another 40 to make? Like, is that what we're doing? Are you going through a drive-thru, which this will also take a lot of time to explain. and that might actually be a little, like, inconvenient for everybody behind you? So I think you just want to, like, read the room a little bit.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: And then also you have to be prepared to take no for an answer there, too. Like, you can't expect that yes will always be the answer.

Leah: Yeah. If you're making up a drink—I mean, I think people—I've always tried to accommodate people when I'm working somewhere, but at a certain point you're like, "I can't."

Nick: Yeah. I mean, there is a limit. But I think the bigger issue which does come up is that people walk into Starbucks demanding a random thing that doesn't exist, expecting everybody to know what that is, and then gets upset that they can't have it. And it's sort of like, "Well, we don't know what that is. You don't know what's in it either. And so what are we supposed to do here?"

Leah: Yeah, if it's off the menu, you gotta know what it is because how would everybody know what it is?

Nick: Well, you say that like, oh, that obviously makes sense. But, like, there's people in this world walking into Starbucks getting all belligerent because they don't know how to make the London suitcase fog purple haze thing. So, you know, I don't know what we do with these people, but I'm just saying don't be that person.

Leah: I don't know what we do with these people either, Nick. And I think that could be a whole, not only an episode, but maybe a season of Were You Raised By Wolves? which would be what do we do with these people? And then we ...

Nick: What do we do with these people?

Leah: And then we take ideas, we do—there's probably a pie chart and some X and Ys, and we figure out what do we do with these people.

Nick: What do we do? Because the current path is unsustainable. It's unsustainable.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So long story short, these are some thoughts about going off menu. So I think at the end of the day, you just want to be mindful of, like, oh, is my request reasonable? Am I asking it in a polite way, and is it achievable?

Leah: And I think you could say—I just thought of this sentence—"I heard that you did a coffee where you put the egg sandwich in it. I'd love to try. Is that correct?"

Nick: Okay. Yeah, I like that idea. Yes. Invite them into the conversation.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Yes.

Leah: And then they could be like, "I heard that too. I've never tried it. Happy to try it for you."

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: Or they could be like, "I don't think that's real."

Nick: Well, let's make it real!

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: [laughs]

Nick: And we're back. And now it's time to take some questions from you all in the wilderness.

Leah: [howls]

Nick: So our first question is quote—and someone actually forwarded this to me on Instagram, which is, "How soon is too soon to ask someone if they're going to eat their pickle when you're out to lunch? Have we as a society determined this yet?"

Leah: I love under the headline of "Things we need to determine as a society." It's a great—it's a great category.

Nick: Yes. We need definitive rules about certain things: how long you can leave your laundry in the dryer, when you can unplug someone else's electric vehicle, when ...

Leah: When you can ask for the pickle. [laughs]

Nick: So okay, Leah. Do you have thoughts?

Leah: Well, I think in this one, we gotta split it up. It's gotta be do we know—like I—certain people I eat with, I know they're not gonna eat their pickle. They never eat their pickle.

Nick: Hmm.

Leah: So when they get their food and it has a pickle, I feel comfortable saying, "Are you gonna eat your pickle?" Because I know they don't want it.

Nick: Okay, so when you're dining with declared pickle decliners, then fair game. Ask immediately.

Leah: Fair game right up top. I think they don't even want it on their plate. You're doing them a favor.

Nick: Okay. Interesting.

Leah: They've been giving you this pickle for 10, 20 years. You know what I mean?

Nick: Oh. Well, if you have a history of pickle redistribution with this person, then yeah, if there's a history, yeah okay.

Leah: Yeah, I think if there's a history, I mean, you don't even have to wait 'til the plates are out. You could be like, "Hey, when you get that pickle, can I have it?" And they'll be like, "Yeah, no problem."

Nick: On the way to the restaurant.

Leah: [laughs] Yeah.

Nick: When you're scheduling the lunch. Right. "Let's do lunch tomorrow. And by the way, I want your pickle."

Leah: Yeah, because you know. This is the relationship.

Nick: But then there's gonna be the category of people where perhaps their pickle status is unknown.

Leah: And in that case, I think you have to wait unless you want to be—I'm just throwing this out. This could be a no, but we'll just ...

Nick: Uh-huh. Okay.

Leah: We're just gonna workshop it.

Nick: Sure.

Leah: Maybe you're out with, like, five people and everybody's got burgers and fries and pickles. Everybody got the same thing. And you love pickles. Pickles are one of the reasons you get up in the morning. And you say—when all the food gets put down, you say, "Hey, if anybody doesn't like pickles, I love pickles. I'm happy to take them if anybody's not into their pickles."

Nick: Okay, I like that. Making an announcement. Yeah. That doesn't put anybody on the spot.

Leah: Nobody's on the spot. It's a general pickle announcement.

Nick: But really, what is the appropriate amount of time or way to ask when you're unsure of their pickle status and it's a one on one? We can't make a blanket announcement to the table. We're just dining with one person. They have a burger, they're eating their burger. You see the pickle has not been touched. And you're like, "Are they gonna eat the pickle? Not eat the pickle?" Because I am aware that pickle preferers do sometimes save the pickle for the end.

Leah: They do.

Nick: They're like, "I'm gonna save the best for last." So the fact that a pickle has not been touched is not necessarily indicative of pickle disdain.

Leah: It is very true.

Nick: So what do we do with this?

Leah: I think we could just ask. "Hey, are you a pickle—are you a pickle person?"

Nick: So I guess you can ask if they like pickles. And I think you have to wait towards the end of their meal.

Leah: I think you could do it in the first quarter.

Nick: First quarter, okay.

Leah: Not at the beginning of the first quarter. End of the first quarter. And I do like what you said about saying, "Hey, just so you know, I love pickles. If you're not gonna eat—" although I feel fine saying, "Are you a pickle person?"

Nick: I think a declarative statement is probably better than a question. "Hey, if you're not gonna eat your pickle, I love pickles." And just, like, leave it at that. I think that's a little nicer than asking if I can have your pickle, because then it's sort of like, "Oh, do I have to share my pickle now?"

Leah: Well, I didn't ask if I could have your pickle. I asked if you were a pickle person.

Nick: Oh, are you a pickle person? A character question. Hmm. Is it in your nature?

Leah: I also would love to have a full conversation about pickles, so if you say yes, then I want to know what kind of pickles you like. Have you ever made your own pickles? You know, it could be a great conversation.

Nick: Right. And then we go to fermentation. You know, there's all these adjacent worlds.

Leah: It's a—it's a broad topic of exciting details to learn. So I think if you want to talk about if that's—if you like pickles, and maybe you'll get a pickle out of it, maybe you won't, but you might get a full pickle conversation, that might be a way to go into it.

Nick: Okay. So did we answer the question? Did we provide any information here?

Leah: Well, we decided if it was a group situation we could make an announcement.

Nick: Yeah, I like that. Okay.

Leah: And if it's one on one, we had two suggestions. You felt like after half time, we could say ...

Nick: But I could see first quarter, but the end of the first quarter, start of the second quarter.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: And you think the person should say ...

Nick: I think you might want to just talk about your own pickle appreciation, and sort of leave that hanging. Like, "I love pickles," and we just sort of hint, I guess. Although then I would be like, "Oh, you should just be polite and direct."

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Like, that would also be what I would say. Like, being a little coy? That's actually a little rude.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So maybe—yeah, maybe you should be like, "Hey, I'd love your pickle if you're not gonna eat it." I think that's what I would say. It's not a question, I'm just letting you know if you're not gonna eat your pickle, I would love it. And we just sort of like state that.

Leah: I would love to say that I'm letting you know.

Nick: Right. FYI.

Leah: I would love your pickle if you're not gonna eat it. If you are gonna eat it, I'm excited for you.

Nick: Right. I'm glad the pickle will be eaten, and so I want to make sure that that's covered.

Leah: [laughs] Yeah. Yes.

Nick: Okay. Maybe that's the spirit.

Leah: I just want the pickle to get eaten. I think that's fair. I just want the pickle to be appreciated.

Nick: It's a team effort at this table, and so I'm gonna jump in if you need me, Coach. Like, I'm ready to do it. But if you're gonna do it, that's great. But we've just gotta get it done.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Okay. [laughs] Okay. So our next question is quote ...

Leah: Whoo!

Nick: "Last night, my two friends and I and our husbands went out to dinner. After dinner, we went to a local bar for a nightcap and ran into another friend and her husband—let's call her Lisa. Lisa and I are friendly, but we're not that close. We went over and said a quick hello as they were paying their check and heading home. Today, we found out Lisa was upset that we were out without her and thinks we excluded her on purpose. Do I reach out to this friend? I'm not sure how to handle this situation. I'll add that this friend who was upset goes out with other friends all the time and doesn't invite me and I'm not bothered by it. Help!"

Leah: I think if we'd gotten this question on another week ...

Nick: [laughs] Okay.

Leah: ... I could have been a little more ...

Nick: Not—not feeling charitable today?

Leah: ... I could have been a little more charitable. That's a great word.

Nick: Uh-huh.

Leah: I could have been a little more, "People have feelings," you know? But I've had a week that—a lot of laying on the floor, a lot of wiping my brow.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And so ...

Nick: So we don't have a lot of patience for this.

Leah: I don't have a lot of patience on this. So I apologize to our listeners.

Nick: Uh-huh.

Leah: I just wrote, "This is on her."

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: "Welcome to the world."

Nick: Welcome to the world. Yes.

Leah: What are you talking about? You—you see people out and you think you should have been invited? I don't even know what that means!

Nick: Well, because imagine a world in which the rule was you have to invite everybody to everything.

Leah: I can't!

Nick: What would this be?

Leah: What is that?

Nick: What would the world look like? What would the world look like? Like, what a bonkers thing. But the thing that caught my eye with this question was the idea that Lisa's mad at us, but she didn't let us know. She let someone else know. And I'm gonna guess for the express purpose of making sure that got back to us so that we would know that Lisa was upset with us. And it's like, Lisa, if you're mad at me then, like, call me and then let's talk about it. Don't talk to some third party and then have them relay a message that you're upset with me. Like, I don't like that at all. That's the thing that bothers me the most.

Leah: I don't like that at all.

Nick: It's like, mm-mmm.

Leah: I mean, if I read this, I would think that Lisa was in preschool.

Nick: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, she's out at a bar with her husband, but could be preschool.

Leah: I mean, somebody should be working the door and carding people, but ...

Nick: [laughs] Right.

Leah: Do I reach out to this friend? No.

Nick: Oh, interesting!

Leah: Because once we start catering to people who are—who are—you know, catch me last week and I would have been like, "Oh, we could check in on people's feelings, you know, take the high road." This week the answer is no, we don't reach out to them because once we start being like, "Hey, even though it's absurd that you would think that any time I left the house I should invite every single person I've ever met. I'm gonna check in on you."

Nick: Yeah. So interesting you're like, "Oh, no. We're not gonna reach out." Because I do agree on some level, like, "Oh, you didn't say anything to me directly, and so therefore you didn't say anything. Therefore, I'm not obligated to respond to something that I wasn't told." So I do definitely get that line, and I definitely, like, agree with that on some level. But what I was thinking was, oh, we're gonna call Lisa right up and be like, "Hey, Lisa. I heard you were upset, and I'm disappointed that you didn't feel comfortable coming to me directly with your concerns. And I would hope moving forward that you would feel comfortable coming to me directly if there's ever a problem in our relationship so we can talk about it." And then you can pivot and be like, "I also didn't invite you because we weren't planning to go to that bar. We were just out to dinner. We stopped in. It was casual. I'm so sorry if you were hurt by this."

Leah: If you could do that, then do that.

Nick: Although I feel like once you're explaining, you're losing.

Leah: That's what I feel like. Once you explain to somebody like this who thinks that everything should revolve around them constantly, you're playing their—you're—you're—you know?

Nick: Yeah. But I think the idea that we just let someone be mad at us in talking through third parties, I don't love that. So that's why I'm like, oh, I kind of want to just nip this in the bud.

Leah: Well, you could call them and be like, "I heard that you were talking about me to a third party. Did you have something you wanted to complain about?"

Nick: [laughs] I think we can rephrase that, but yeah, because that's where I am this week, which is like, oh, I don't have any patience for this either, but the way I don't have patience is like, oh, I'm not gonna let this fester. I'm gonna call you right up and I'm just gonna be like, squash that real fast and let you know that that is not okay. So I guess we both have short fuses in different ways.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So for our letter-writer, yeah. I mean, you didn't do anything wrong here. You're allowed to pop into bars without inviting everyone you know to stop by, which is essentially what Lisa wants from you. And, like, we don't live in that world, so sorry that's not how the universe works.

Leah: I'll add that the friend who is upset goes out with other friends all the time and doesn't invite me. There's no—there's no reasoning with a person who doesn't even recognize that their own behavior isn't—they're not doing what they're asking other people to do.

Nick: And it does come back to that theater metaphor, which is like our relationships with people are not equal. We have closer friends and we have acquaintances, and acquaintances who are in the balcony, cannot expect the same number of invitations as people who have orchestra seats. And so that's just how this is. Everybody doesn't get the same number of invitations because you're in different seats.

Leah: I also don't know if we can reason with somebody who's so irrational as to think that they should be invited to everything when they're not inviting people to everything.

Nick: So I'm sorry this happened.

Leah: I am too. And don't feel bad. You didn't do anything.

Nick: No. In fact, you should make a point to just have nightcaps all the time and hope you run into her.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Or you run into her at the supermarket and you're like, "Oh, I'm sorry I didn't invite you to come grocery shopping with me today. I should have invited you."

Leah: Maybe we should just do a month of, like, advice that's like the not appropriate way to handle thing, but that would be the most fun.

Nick: "Hey, Lisa. I need to fill up my car. I'm heading down to the gas station. Wanna come?"

Leah: "Did you want to come, or do you want to talk to our mutual friends about how I didn't invite you to get gas?"

Nick: "Hey, Lisa. I'm having my annual physical, so just wanted to know if you want to come."

Leah: "Do you want to come?"

Nick: "Wanna come?"

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: "Hey, Lisa. I have jury duty. Wanna know if you want to tag along." [laughs] Maybe that's what you should do. I think maybe that's the solution. I kind of love that.

Leah: I really like that one. Even though obviously not appropriate.

Nick: I don't know. It's not a hard no for me. I think if you want to just include Lisa in everything, I think that's great. [laughs]So do you have questions for us about being petty or etiquette or anything else? Let us know. You can let us know through our website,, or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW.

Nick: And we're back. And now it's time to play a game we like to call Vent or Repent.

Leah: Vent or repent!

Nick: Which is our opportunity to vent about some bad etiquette experience we've had recently, or we can repent for some etiquette faux pas we've committed. So Leah, would you like to vent or repent?

Leah: I feel guilty that I always get to go first.

Nick: Okay. Well for me, I would like to give a follow up to a previous vent.

Leah: Oh!

Nick: And I—I will do this in a way that is as value neutral and non-judgmental as possible. But I think our careful listeners will be able to read between the lines. So you may recall that I had some noise upstairs from a neighbor.

Leah: Yes!

Nick: And I was not thrilled with this. So what I did is I wrote a very nice handwritten note on a very nice card and left it at their door. And the last time we were chatting, I had not yet heard back from this person. So more time had gone by, no response still. And I hear this noise again, but it's in the middle of the afternoon this time. It's not in the morning. But I'm like, ah! Okay, great. It is happening. I have not heard back. Let me do the thing which we don't want to do in New York City, but sometimes you have to, which is let me go upstairs and knock on the door. Let me just actually do this in person. So I did go upstairs and I knocked on the door and they were vacuuming. And so I was like, "Hey, I'm your neighbor downstairs. Not sure if you saw my note. Just wanted to chat with you about vacuuming and, like, the times that that's happening."

Nick: And the neighbor was sort of puzzled, I guess, is the word I'm gonna use. A little defensive. Not thrilled that I was sort of interrupting, and was a little defensive about the note because she was like, "Oh, I tried calling, but the number wasn't correct. I got somebody else."

Leah: Mmm!

Nick: And so this is the part where I'm going to try and be non-judgmental and value-neutral.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: This is—this is the part. Because obviously, like, I live downstairs and, like, that's clear and, like, there's a doorman. So you can, like, ask the doorman or like, you know, you know my name and so you could probably Google me. Like, I'm reachable. But, you know, value-neutral and non-judgmental. And so the idea was that, like, oh, I'm never actually up that early. Maybe it's my cleaning person some days but, like, I'm not up at seven. And, you know, this building, there is a lot of noise transfer, and so it could be another apartment. Which is that that is all totally possible. Like, it could absolutely be another apartment. Noise does travel. It is sort of like a big guitar the way vibrations can work. So okay, great. So just like, "Nice meeting you. Thank you for hearing my concerns. Sorry to interrupt your afternoon and thanks." You know, just like we'll all just be more mindful. And that's kind of how we left it. So I did leave it very neutral. I did walk away from that conversation thinking, like, "Oh, she just made me feel like I did a bad thing."

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: It was that classic etiquette thing where it's just like, oh, she just made me feel like I was, like, a bad neighbor by, like, accusing her of something which she feels like she did not do. So I didn't love that because, like, that's a very common etiquette thing, which a lot of our listeners experience where, like, I didn't do anything wrong, but why do I feel this way? So know that you're not alone. I just felt that too. And I can definitively tell our audience I absolutely did not do anything wrong. This was textbook good etiquette.

Nick: So cut to a week later. I hear the noise again in the morning and I'm like, "What is happening?" So I get out of bed and I march right upstairs, and it turns out it's the apartment across the hall. So it's not directly above me. It actually is the apartment across the hall, very aggressive, squeaky vacuuming taking place. And it was a transfer. It was a transfer of noise through, like, the ceiling and, like, down across. And so I later that day asked the doorman. I'm like, "Oh, is that guy cool? Like, who's in that apartment? Like, what's the deal?" And he's like, "Oh, let me handle it."

Nick: So the doorman did speak to him. Okay, great. But then two days later, same noise. So I called the doorman and I was like, "Doorman, What is that about?" He's like, "I talked to him. Let me call him again." So then the doorman called him again and was like, "Oh, uh-uh. No, no. We had a conversation about this." And he's like, "Oh, it was really quick. I didn't think anybody could hear." He's like, "Oh, no. We can hear." And that's gonna be the end of it. So apparently the doorman did just take care of it. I have not heard about it since. So this is how they earn their Christmas tips.

Nick: So the etiquette question is: do I go back to the first neighbor and say, "I apologize for accusing you, even though I did not accuse you of anything, I just wanted to have a conversation?" Do I let her know that I found the source even though her TV is really loud in the evenings, so she's actually not in the clear? Like, do I do anything or do I walk away? I don't know. So it's not a vent, it's not a repent. It's—it's a neutral. But that's the update.

Leah: And for our listeners who maybe listen, they just came in on this episode, they're new, they didn't hear the other one. Nick's original letter was not accusatory.

Nick: No!

Leah: All he said was, like, "Can we chat about this?" Or ...

Nick: Yeah. "I have some noise concerns. I want to chat with you about it briefly. Here's my number." So it wasn't, "The noise is yours." It's not, "You're doing something." It was just like, "There are noise concerns."

Leah: Yeah. You were just trying to figure out where it was—you know ...

Nick: Just like, "I want to talk to you about it."

Leah: You were trying to figure out where it's coming from.

Nick: Right. "Do you also hear what I hear?" Like, let's all—it's a team effort.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: So that's the update. And for you, Leah, would you like to vent or repent?

Leah: I gotta vent, Nick. I ...

Nick: [laughs] All right. What happened this week?

Leah: Prior to starting the recording today for all of our lovely Wolves family, I vented about, like, 900 people. So this is very specific to comedy, but I'm sure that this happens in other people's jobs in other ways.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: So in a show and it's a bit of a difficult show, which ...

Nick: Okay, what makes it difficult?

Leah: So sometimes shows—like, the audience is just real rambunctious or there's TVs going on or, you know, it's like a—it's a—the room's a little out of control.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And—which happy to do. It's always—I'm excited to be there. You know what I mean? I'm happy to do any kind of comedy.

Nick: But it makes it as a performer a little more difficult when you don't necessarily have, like, the focus of the audience. There's a lot of distractions.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Okay. Got it.

Leah: And the etiquette for comics in such a room is if you're gonna be in a room—like, you could leave the room and not be watching, but if you're in the room and you know that this is a wild room, you're there to support the other comics. We're sort of a team, you know what I mean?

Nick: I see. So you gotta be laughing. You gotta be applauding. You gotta be focused.

Leah: And definitely don't be talking in a room that's already difficult.

Nick: Right.

Leah: If you need to talk to somebody, leave.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: So I'm last. I'm going last on this show. The second comic goes up, she does great. She has a great set. I stay in the room. I don't look at my phone. I'm not doing my notes. I'm totally paying attention because it's a hard room. And I—there's only a small group of us and they're long sets. I clap, I pay attention, I focus, I say nice things after she gets off stage. Fine. Next comic goes up. She apparently had this whole group of people there to see her.

Nick: Hmm.

Leah: They get up, they go to talk to her.

Nick: Oh!

Leah: They stand there and talk to her through the next comic and then all the way through my 40-minute set.

Nick: Whoa! Okay.

Leah: And you want to be like, A) I've been in shows where people came out to see me. They were friends. And then other comics went on stage, and I very politely explained, like, "Oh, you guys gotta go back to your seat." You know what I mean? Like, the show is happening.

Nick: Yeah, you gotta support the show. Yeah.

Leah: Or if you have to, if there's some kind of timeline or something, you gotta leave. You can't stand in the room that's already a very, like, loud distracting room and just talk. And the idea that another performer on the show would do that, I almost got offstage and went over to them and be like, "Hey, are we having a group conversation?" And I can imagine this happens at other people's jobs when you're, like, giving a ...

Nick: Well, Patti LuPone does it if there's a cell phone in the audience.

Leah: Good for her!

Nick: She'll stop the show right there.

Leah: I wanted to so badly, but I was like, this room is already wild, and I'm just not gonna get in with it with a comic that I don't know. But ...

Nick: But that's rude.

Leah: It's so rude!

Nick: That's definitely not supportive, because they should know better.

Leah: They should know better. And the audience? The audience might not know better. They're there to support their friends. But as the comic, you know. And it's on you to either take them outside or tell them to sit back down.

Nick: Right.

Leah: And then that woman came up to me afterwards and wanted to talk, and I was like, "Oh, we're not talking."

Nick: No!

Leah: "You just disrespected me when I listened to you." You know what I mean?

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I was like, "Oh, no"

Nick: And do you think they got it? Do they think they realized, like ...

Leah: Oh, no. I don't think they got it at all. They have absolutely no idea. But I was not in a place where I could be like, "Hey, next time ..."

Nick: So you know.

Leah: "... when someone's doing a long set, you should never do—" I wasn't in the mood to explain. I was just like, okay, we're—let's hopefully that we never work together again.

Nick: Well, I'm sorry this happened, because it is always disappointing when people who should know better do rude things.

Leah: Should know better. And I think also I—I sort of operate like everybody is—we're all on the same team.

Nick: Yes.

Leah: Why are we not—and every time that we're—I'm reminded that some people are just ...

Nick: Not team players.

Leah: Not team players.

Nick: Yeah. No, that's disappointing.

Leah: And I wish up top you could be like, "Oh, I'm not a team player, so don't feel the need to sit here and support me and listen."

Nick: Oh, yeah. Had you known, you would have been happily, like, in the green room doing something else.

Leah: Had I known, I would have been happy to be outside playing with people's dogs. You know what I mean?

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I thought we were doing this together.

Nick: Right. "My mistake. I thought you were a good person. Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm confused. Okay. Well, now I know. Okay, great." Well I mean, good for next time. Now next time, if you ever are booked on the same show as this person again, you'll know where to be and not be.

Leah: Also moving forward, next time someone's like, "Hey, did you want to do this show with this person?" I can say, "I'm not doing something with that person. So let me know when there's another show."

Nick: Ooh, yeah! Ooh, I like that.

Leah: Do you know what I mean? It does come back to people.

Nick: Yes. And it should. Yes. Bad behavior should not get rewarded.

Leah: Just be polite!

Nick: [laughs] Put that on the pillow.

Nick: So Leah, what have we learned?

Leah: Oh my goodness. I learned—A) I learned about the history of how we got salt and pepper, which I didn't even think—I can't believe I didn't think about it.

Nick: Right?

Leah: And then I learned that they go together. I mean, I'm gonna be passing them. And you know people are gonna say, "Oh, I didn't ask for the pepper," and I'm gonna have to say, "No. Just so you know, they go together. They're like a couple."

Nick: Don't weaponize it. Don't weaponize it.

Leah: I will only say it if people say, "Oh, I didn't want the pepper," and I'll go, "I gotta—I gotta bring it to you."

Nick: Yeah. "I am obligated. I have no choice."

Leah: "I am a co-host of a podcast, and I am under obligation."

Nick: Yeah, this is legally obligated. So sorry. And I learned that we both have short fuses, but in a different way this week.

Leah: What a week! They got us both. They got us both.

Nick: [laughs] Well thank you, Leah.

Leah: Thank you, Nick.

Nick: And thanks to you out there for listening. I'd send you a handwritten note on my custom stationery if I could.

Leah: He would!

Nick: So for your homework this week, we need your help. We need your help getting more people to listen to our show. So however you want to do that, do that.

Leah: [laughs] Sounds almost conniving. You need to go into your friends houses and download our podcast onto their devices. We're not against it.

Nick: Breaking and entering? Yeah, happy to explore that.

Leah: Please help us!

Nick: Or you can, like, tell some friends about us.

Leah: That's more casual.

Nick: Or you could, like, post about us on your social media, or whatever you want to do to help us get the word out. So please do that. And we'll see you next time.

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!

Nick: All right, Leah. It's time for Cordials of Kindness, the part of the show that you make us do, but I only give you 30 seconds to do it. Ready, set, go!

Leah: So we got the most beautiful voicemail. And as we all know, I've had a week. And so when I got this voicemail, it actually really turned my week around. And it was a youth chorus.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: Singing to us.

Nick: Yep.

Leah: Beautifully!

Nick: Totally unexpected.

Leah: Totally. It was so fabulous and well done. And it was given to us by Karen. And right as I say this, I think I know which Karen it is, and I'm gonna message her. I was like, "I'll just do a Cordials of Kindness," but now I think I know which Karen it is.

Nick: Put it together.

Leah: I put it together right now.

Nick: And for me, I want to share an email we just got. You may remember we got some questions from middle school students, and the teacher just wrote in to say quote, "I wanted to tell you that my class had a listening party today. They were so excited they could barely contain themselves. We even voted on whose question they thought made your podcast before we listened. They enjoyed Jolly Ranchers, popcorn, chips and a choice of strawberry or grape soda—what a middle school menu! Thanks so much for featuring their questions. It really made for a fun day for the students, and the principal even stopped by for the party. You really made our Monday fun, and I think your answers were absolutely perfect."

Leah: Honestly, that is so wonderful.

Nick: Isn't that nice? So I'm delighted we got to inspire a middle school party. Great menu. Hope there were place cards.

Leah: What a great menu. And the principal stopped by, and they—they voted on which—I mean, I'm honored!

Nick: So thank you for this. This makes our day.

Leah: Really does.