Sept. 19, 2022

Sending Electronic Birthday Cards, Telling People You're Moving, Making Voice Calls on Airplanes, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about sending electronic birthday cards, telling people you're moving out of state, making voice calls on airplanes, and much more.

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Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about sending electronic birthday cards, telling people you're moving out of state, making voice calls on airplanes, 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



  • What do I do if I've overheard an unkind conversation about me?
  • How do I stop a friend from sending me electronic birthday cards?
  • How do I break the news to friends and colleagues that I'm moving out of state?
  • What can I do about another passenger making phone calls during my flight?
  • Aftermath: Art from an unknown sender







Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian



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Episode 155


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

Leah: And it's Leah Bonnema.

Nick: And we got so many great questions from you all in the wilderness ...

Leah: [howls]

Nick: ... that we have a bonus episode. So here we go. Our first question is quote, "My husband has just taken a new job, and we've moved to a new town. Although I'm incredibly shy and introverted, I've been committed to getting out there and meeting new people. A few weeks ago, we had a lovely dinner at a colleague's house—my husband is his boss. At the end of the evening, I was so glad we had gone, and I was looking forward to continuing the friendship and having them over for a meal at our place in the next few weeks.

Nick: "Well, today I was at a hair salon getting a haircut. My husband's colleague came in, but I didn't have my glasses on and I was not certain it was him, so I did not greet him. I was the only customer in the salon at the time, and they seated him in the station next to me. I quickly realized it was the man we'd had dinner with because he started chit-chatting with his hairstylist and describing this terrible meal he had with his new colleague. He said it was so awkward and that we don't follow social cues, and he even gave specific examples to show how we were terrible conversationalists. The stories he was telling were not even true. He was telling the stylist questions that he asked and how my husband only gave one-word answers. This simply didn't happen. We had a nice time and shared quite a few funny anecdotes about our move and about settling into our new place.

Nick: "So I was absolutely mortified. I'm sure he saw me, because at one point the hairstylist had turned his chair so it was facing mine. I made sure not to look in his direction, and at the end of the haircut as I was putting my glasses on, I commented to my stylist how I'm absolutely blind without my glasses and cannot see a thing, hoping that this colleague would think I did not see him. So my question is this: what should I do? We're supposed to have them over for dinner, although we haven't set a date yet. There is a company picnic in a week where I'm sure to run into him. Do I pretend this never happened? Is there a polite way I can address it and move on? Please help!"

Leah: For those of you who aren't on our Zoom at this exact moment, Nick's just passed out because this conversation—I'm the emoji with the head exploding off the top.

Nick: So I feel for this letter-writer.

Leah: Oh, I definitely feel for this letter-writer. I don't even get what's going on.

Nick: Oh, I get what's going on.

Leah: I kept waiting for the person in the chair to turn around and be like, "I totally saw you. I was kidding!" Like, what's happening?

Nick: Yeah. So what do we do with this? What do we do with this? Leah is currently speechless.

Leah: I'm speechless. I have so much—I have so much empathy for our letter-writer.

Nick: Totally.

Leah: I think that this person is a bit of a game player.

Nick: The person in the chair talking smack about our letter-writer?

Leah: Yes, because our letter-writer is sure that they saw them.

Nick: Well, I think before this conversation happened, I don't think they realized who they were seated next to, right? I think they discovered it later after they had already said what they said.

Leah: Oh, I got the idea they discovered it and then they continued to say it. That's how I read it.

Nick: [gasps] Oh!

Leah: And I was like, "Wow!"

Nick: Oh, that's bold! Oh, no, I really hope we don't live in that world. I hope we live in a world—well, I hope we don't live in any of these worlds, but I think given the choice between universes, I would prefer the world in which I sat down, I started complaining about a dinner party I didn't have a good time at, and then I didn't realize who I was next to at any point until the very end, after I had already said everything. You would like to say that, "Oh, I know who I'm next to now and I'm gonna continue on."

Leah: That's how I read it is that this person is like some sort of a sociopath.

Nick: Oh, I—that blows my mind. That did not occur to me that that is possible.

Leah: Well, first off, I would not have them over at my house, but I'm just gonna start there.

Nick: Yes. I mean, in general, I don't think we want to invite people over who are not interested in coming over. And clearly, I don't think these people are interested in your company, so no need to extend an invitation.

Leah: And it's a very interesting place to be being that our letter-writer's husband is the boss.

Nick: Yes, that is material. That is definitely material.

Leah: I feel very like our letter-writer put themselves out there. They're usually more of a shy person. They went out, and then they got this person saying horrible things. Like, what a nightmare! And I think it's time to double down and be like, "I did a good thing. I'm stepping out of my boundaries. This person is out of control rude, and I don't think that this company get together that we have to be nice to them."

Nick: Well, yes, I hear what you're saying.

Leah: I think that we can be polite, but I don't think we have to pretend this didn't happen. I think that we can be like, "Oh, no!"

Nick: I definitely feel like the next move is theirs. It is up to them to decide to apologize or not. And so I don't feel like you actually have to do anything here. Like, I don't think there is a next move for you. I don't think we would extend that dinner party invitation. If they want to follow up on it, and if they want to apologize for this event, if they want to kind of make the next move and smooth things over with the boss's family, then I would put it in their court. But yeah, I think cordial distance, a polite hello, that's all that's required at this picnic.

Leah: If this person does talk to you at this picnic, I might be inclined to say "I saw you recently at the hair salon."

Nick: Right.

Leah: "I didn't realize it was you until I put my glasses on." And then just let that sit.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I get the instinct of wanting to let them know that you know, and sort of let that hang.

Leah: And that you may be shy, but it's not acceptable. We don't talk about people, and that I'm letting you know that I know and it's not okay.

Nick: Yeah, I think if this bothers you enough and you wanted to actually sort of close the loop on it, you could say something along those lines like, "Oh, I was in the hair salon that day. I was so sorry to hear that you didn't have a nice time."

Leah: Whoo! I like that!

Nick: "And I am. I am sorry that you didn't have a nice time. I had a nice time. I thought it was lovely. I totally understand if you would rather not accept our invitation to dinner that we talked about."

Leah: "Also, we won't be inviting you, so don't worry about accepting it."

Nick: No worries. Won't put you on the spot.

Leah: Because this is just cruel. This is mean. You talk about people in public?

Nick: Yeah. I mean, this is a good reason to avoid talking negatively about people in public settings, right? I mean, this is a really good example for why we don't do that, because you never know who's going to be around and you never know what is gonna get back to someone, and this is what can happen.

Leah: I sort of get this feeling still from this letter that this person who was talking was a bully and realized that person was in the chair before they stopped talking.

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I hear you saying that. I find that unbelievable.

Leah: Well, is it unbelievable because this person's husband is the boss?

Nick: No, I find it unbelievable because who acts that way? Who is like ...

Leah: Oh, I don't find it unbelievable just because I know cruel, cruel people.

Nick: Yeah, I guess I really am not surrounded by people who are capable of that level of cruelty, where it's sort of like, "Oh, I'm gonna say mean things, and then I didn't realize you were there. And now I realize you're there, and I'm gonna now continue to say mean things."

Leah: "Well, I'm just gonna double down on it and be like, what?"

Nick: I would be mortified.

Leah: Right? Wouldn't you be mortified? I don't get the idea that this person in the chair is mortified at all. That's why I think that it continued.

Nick: Yes.

Leah: There was no mortification. Because if I was venting ...

Nick: Right.

Leah: ... or if I got caught, I would not pretend I don't see them—they obviously know. I would profusely apologize.

Nick: Yes. In the moment, I would absolutely apologize. I would probably even follow up perhaps, given that this is your boss.

Leah: Yeah. And even if it wasn't my boss, I'd be mortified. I would just be—I would hate myself. I would fall on the floor.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I would lay on the ground, and I would say, "I hate me. Please forgive me. I was venting. It was inappropriate."

Nick: So okay, yeah, I guess the lack of mortification, I guess I didn't see that in the initial read because I just didn't want to believe it. But I guess this is really actually what is happening.

Leah: And that's why I think if this person fake-talks to you at the party, you should let that hang so they feel it. Just be like, "Oh, I was at the beauty salon with you."

Nick: Yeah. And just let it hang. Let it hang.

Leah: Let it hang!

Nick: So our next question is quote, "How do I stop a dear friend from sending me e-cards on my birthday? I despise the email reminder that an e-card is waiting for me to open, and often I delete it. But then the sender will send me an email asking if I've received the card, to which I reply "Oops, must have deleted it by mistake." I would really rather just talk on the phone, but she persists in sending me e-cards."

Leah: I feel like I would just open it and say "Got it. Thanks so much!"

Nick: Yeah. I mean, path of least resistance. Just click the link, right?

Leah: Yeah, click the link. I mean, the only other option is if you go up to them and go, "Hey, I intensely dislike e-cards. Can we just talk on the phone?"

Nick: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, I think you have to pick whether or not that's the hill you want to die on. Do we want to have a standalone polite-yet-direct conversation about e-cards? Or can we just click the link?

Leah: I feel like I would click the link.

Nick: Yeah, I think just click the link. And you could also have a conversation with your friend, which is like, "Love the e-cards. So thoughtful of you. But what I really want for my birthday is just to talk to you." And maybe we can frame it that way.

Leah: Yeah. I feel like our letter-writer doesn't want to say "Love the e-cards."

Nick: No. [laughs]

Leah: I feel like if you don't want to say "Love the e-cards," you could say—you could click the link, say thank you, and say "What I love to do most on my birthday is talk to you." And just leave the first part out.

Nick: Fair enough. And I think it's good just to remind ourselves that life is full of annoyances. Like, there's just minor annoyances in our life, and we don't have to solve all of them. Some of them we just have to decide I can accept this minor annoyance and move on. And I think this is one of those.

Leah: Because this minor annoyance is somebody who's thinking nice things for you.

Nick: Oh, totally. Yeah. No, this is done with the best of intentions. It's just not being received in the spirit in which it is being sent.

Leah: I mean, we came in on the same side exactly on that one. So I feel like there's no more to say. [laughs]

Nick: [laughs] All right, easy peasy. So our next question is quote ...

Leah: I feel like our letter-writer's not gonna like us on that one, but ...

Nick: Well, okay. I mean, what do you want us to say? What do you think our letter-writer wanted from us?

Leah: I think they want us to say "E-cards are horrible! Stop sending it!" And instead we're saying, "Just open it. Say thanks."

Nick: Well, to be fair, I mean, e-cards—you know, is an e-card a good greeting? Like, is that ideal versus, like, a handwritten card or, like, a cute video or, you know, I don't know.

Leah: Some people love e-cards.

Nick: Like one year for your birthday, I found all these clips of people wishing people named Leah happy birthday on YouTube. [laughs]

Leah: It was unbelievable. Unbelievable.

Nick: And it was like, 50 people wishing somebody named Leah in their life a happy birthday, and I just cut them all together. And so I don't know. What did you think when you got this weird video?

Leah: Well, it took me, like, three people to get what was happening.

Nick: You're like, "I don't know this person." [laughs]

Leah: I also think I watched it at, like, five in the morning, so it may have taken me, like, four or five people to get it. And then I went and I was like, "Ah!" It was really cool.

Nick: Yeah, it was kind of fun. I don't know why I decided to do that, but I did. But I mean, there are other things other than e-cards that are thoughtful, so maybe what we really want is something more thoughtful than e-cards. And I guess for our letter-writer, that level of thoughtfulness is a phone call.

Leah: But I think that we can not say anything about the e-card while expressing "I'd really just like to talk to you."

Nick: Yes. I don't think we want to make someone feel bad for trying to do something nice for you.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: I want to encourage that behavior. We need more of that in this world. I don't think we want to tell them, "Don't do that again." Like, we want that. We want that sentiment. We just want to channel it into a direction that you prefer.

Leah: I like that way of saying it.

Nick: That's what it is. Okay. So our next question is quote, "In about a year, I'm going to be moving out of state, and my question is on the etiquette of breaking it to friends and coworkers. At what point should you do it, and how? Should you do it individually, or get everybody together and do it in one fell swoop? How much time in advance of the move should you let people know you're moving?These are friends that have had anywhere from six to twelve years now, and we're moving clear across the country. This is the first time we've done this, and I want to make sure I spare everybody's feelings as much as possible."

Leah: A) congratulations on your exciting upcoming move. How fun!

Nick: Yeah, that's fun. New adventure!

Leah: New adventure.

Nick: So I haven't moved in a billion years, so I don't know. I would say you've gotta prioritize who's close to you. So whoever is closest to you, let's start there. They should know as soon as you know. So let them know.

Leah: Yeah, I would tell my close friends first. And if you sort of feel nervous about like, you know, what friends should I tell first, people's feelings might get hurt, if that's sort of—because I'm getting the idea that you feel ...

Nick: Oh that, like, "Oh, you told such-and-such before you told me? I had to hear it from such and such. You couldn't come to me first?" Like, that kind of thing?

Leah: Yeah. If that's the thing—if that's the thing you're worried about, I think you could actually invite people over for a dinner party, like your close friends, or you could go out to dinner and say, "Hey, I have an announcement I wanted to share with all of you."

Nick: Oh, that could be nice.

Leah: "My besties. You know, we're moving blankety blank. Here's all the information." And then I think for work, it doesn't have to be until much closer to the date.

Nick: Oh, yeah. No, I mean, that's sort of like the rules of if you're getting a new job, like, when do you have to let everybody know? I mean, that's a couple of weeks at the most for most places. And that email is just like, "Hey, I am accepting a new position at such and such. Here's who's taking over my responsibilities. So great getting to know you at Acme Corp. over the last six years. I will miss you all. Here is my Gmail."

Leah: And then I do think some people like to make a social announcement, which I don't think you have to do because some people feel more private about it, and some people—and I think that totally depends on you. I mean, social announcement like on social media.

Nick: Right.

Leah: I think that's up to you.

Nick: Yeah. You are not required to broadcast this widely. Like, you're under no obligation. I mean, moving is a very private thing at the end of the day, and so it's kind of a need to know basis, really. Like, nobody's entitled to know that you're moving. So I think it's just the people who would want to know and care that you're moving. And I think other people, acquaintances, like, it's not required.

Leah: I think do what feels good. I think trust yourself.

Nick: Yeah. Follow your instinct on this one. There is no etiquette rule other than being mindful of other people's feelings. So as long as you are being mindful of other people's feelings, then however you do it is fine.

Leah: And bon voyage!

Nick: Right!

Leah: Does one only say that on a trip? That seems wrong. Bon nuevo casa.

Nick: Yeah. Well, I mean, there will be a voyage to get from point A to point B.

Leah: There is a voyage in there.

Nick: Which we hope is "bon." So for that at least, we hope that's a bon voyage. And speaking of bon voyage, our next question is quote, "Greetings from the in-flight WiFi between Tokyo and Los Angeles. I'm using the WiFi to work and also write to you with this vent. The gentleman in my row is apparently using the in-flight WiFi to voice chat on his smartphone, so I and all the others around me are a captive audience to half of his conversation. Help!"

Leah: Ugh! That's how I feel about that.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: You're not supposed to do that. There's, like, signs on planes. They don't even have airphones anymore. I mean, what is that, the '80s? I'm talking from a Die Hard movie.

Nick: Wow, airphone! Okay. Fly that McDonnell Douglas plane on Pan Am, Okay.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: I did write this person back in real time because I was like, "Oh, let me see if I can help make your flight a little better." So I know what I said. What would you say?

Leah: Did you say "Do a Nick disapproval face?"

Nick: Oh, I did not have any glance recommendations!

Leah: I'd like to have a flipbook of Nick disapproval faces.

Nick: Okay. No, I did not suggest that. What do you think I suggested, if anything?

Leah: I think that you—because I do think it's actually ...

Nick: Annoying?

Leah: ... besides being really annoying, I think it's not approved of.

Nick: Right.

Leah: By the air patrols.

Nick: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Leah: So I think that maybe we could use the washroom and, I don't know, it feels like tattle-taling, but maybe we could tell the flight attendant, "Hey, we got a guy in our row who's super talky loud on his FaceTime."

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: "Can we shut that down?"

Nick: Yeah. Bingo. Yeah, that's exactly what I said. I basically said, like, "Oh, I think this is actually not allowed, and if a flight attendant saw it, they would probably shut it down."

Leah: Yes.

Nick: So just subtly, discreetly let a flight attendant know and they'll take care of it. And so here's the response: "Thank you for your reply. You gave me the courage to give the flight attendant a heads up when they went back to get a cup of water. A few minutes later, she 'happened' to walk by and catch the offender in the act. My seatmates and I are now enjoying the relative quiet of the airplane sans phone call as we complete our journey. Thank you."

Leah: Whoo!

Nick: Another satisfied customer.

Leah: In real time!

Nick: Real time in the air, over oceans!

Leah: Hurling through space and time.

Nick: Yes! So I'm glad I was able to help a little bit because this is annoying. This is really annoying.

Leah: Annoying. So annoying. Who are these people that think everybody wants to—I mean, we know who they are.

Nick: I mean ...

Leah: But, like, every time I'm shocked.

Nick: Yeah. So glad that worked out.

Leah: [sighs] I'm always glad when I ...

Nick: Are correct? [laughs]

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So our next thing is actually some aftermath. And so you may recall a few episodes back, we got a letter from somebody who received a mystery gift after completing their PhD. It was this artwork that showed up at their home address from somebody they did not know. And so we got a lot of great emails from you all about who it could have been, how to crack the code, different theories. And so a lot of people wrote and want to know what happened. And so here is the aftermath.

Leah: Aftermath!

Nick: Quote, "As you predicted, I eventually cracked the case of the mystery gifter. However, the gifter is, in fact, a complete stranger and that we have never met. Here's the story: earlier this year, I reconnected with an old friend from high school whom I hadn't talked to in a decade. After catching up over a video call, the high school friend then texted me a few months later asking for my address because she wanted to send me an art piece by someone she knew who makes art themed around marine creatures, which is the subject of my PhD. How nice, I thought. So I provided my address.

Nick: "Several weeks went by, and I was busy wrapping up my PhD and I completely forgot about this whole text exchange, so when this art piece arrived and didn't include the name of my friend, I had no idea what it was about and I wrote to you. But then I accidentally clicked on the text exchange with my friend on my phone and the pieces came crashing into place. At least nobody saw my epiphany face. So then of course, I immediately sent a thank you to my friend via text because I didn't have her mailing address and I haven't heard anything back, so I still feel like there are some loose ends. Did my friend actually commission the art, or did she just mention my research to the artist who took it upon herself to send a gift? And either way, why does my friend seem uninterested in knowing whether or not I received the gift she so nicely picked out. In any case, thanks for your advice."

Leah: Well, I'm glad we figured out who it was. So it wasn't like some ...

Nick: Yes. The idea of, like, oh, art showing up at your home from a stranger? Like, I didn't love that.

Leah: No. So this is much safer feeling.

Nick: Yeah. I'm glad that we kind of know what it is and it's not troublesome.

Leah: And thank you for following up and letting us know.

Nick: For sure. And I'm glad this had a happy ending. And as for, like, whether or not who paid for the gift and following up with the friend, I mean, you showed gratitude. And I don't think your friend is disinterested, I think they either just, like, saw the text and forgot about it or they never saw the text. So if you haven't already, I think you could send a photo of this artwork to your friend and be like, "Oh, this is what it looks like in case you hadn't seen it." And that would be an occasion to follow up.

Leah: Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I would take a picture with, like, you smiling next to the artwork. "Loving it!"

Nick: And send us a photo of this artwork. We would love to see.

Leah: I also think that definitely your friend commissioned it because she would have had to have given the address to the artist.

Nick: I mean, I guess it's possible that this artist just loves your research so much and just wanted to send you something on her own accord.

Leah: But then they still had to get your address from your friend. So I just think that your friend is definitely involved.

Nick: Your friend is absolutely involved and deserves thanks. Absolutely.

Leah: Which you've sent.

Nick: Right. And you did this via text. And so absent a mailing address for your friend, this is good enough.

Leah: And I do love the idea of following up again with a picture. Just be like, "Oh, loving it so much! Thanks again."

Nick: Yeah, I think that'd be very nice. So do you want to know the aftermath of any other questions that you've heard on the show? Let us know! And do you have questions for us? Oh, yes, you do! Send them to us. You can send them to us through our website,, or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message: (267)-CALL-RBW. And we'll see you next time.

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!