Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about taking phone calls on treadmills, discarding broken freezers, surviving middle school, and much more.
Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah answer listener questions about taking phone calls on treadmills, discarding broken freezers, surviving middle school, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
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Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema
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Nick: Hey, everybody. It's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And it's 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'm joining a gym for the first time, and I was wondering: is it considered rude to be on a phone call while on the gym treadmill? Non business, just with a sister."
Leah: Love a gym question.
Nick: Love a gym question.
Leah: I feel like it really depends on how busy the gym is.
Nick: Okay. So, like, proximity to other people.
Leah: And if you're a really loud talker.
Nick: Yes. I think people do tend to be louder on the phone than they would be in an in-person conversation.
Leah: Because my immediate thought is probably not good to be on the phone.
Nick: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Leah: But then I can think, like, I was at—I do a lot of hotel gyms.
Leah: For when I'm traveling. I was at a hotel gym. It was actually a very big hotel gym, and there was one woman, she was all the way in the corner. She was on her phone, but all the way down on the other side. Couldn't hear. Nobody else was there. Totally fine.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I guess the etiquette principle is being mindful of the people around you, but I think you should also be mindful of the person you're talking to. And so my first question was: how fast are we going on this treadmill where we could actually have a conversation?
Leah: Well, then maybe they're just having a nice walk.
Nick: We're doing a stroll. Okay.
Leah: She wanted to catch up with her sister. Maybe her sister's doing a stroll.
Nick: Oh, we're just dueling treadmilling.
Leah: Maybe they go to the gym at the same time so they could talk at the same time.
Nick: Okay. I mean, that's kind of nice. I like that idea.
Leah: I'm gonna make a whole—I'm gonna make a whole fun story around it.
Nick: Okay. So, yeah, I guess it depends on are you annoying other people or the person you're talking to? So presumably, your sister doesn't mind, so then we only have to be concerned about the people around you at the gym.
Leah: Yeah, I think probably the sister, they're on the same page. They're both doing it. They're catching up. They're sisters.
Leah: But I do feel like at the gym, one doesn't want to hear other people's phone conversations.
Nick: Yes. And I was thinking, like, why are one-sided conversations more annoying? Like, if you're talking to a friend on adjacent treadmills, that wouldn't be annoying to hear both sides of the conversation. But to only hear one side of the conversation, like, why is that more annoying? Because it is.
Leah: I do think that what you said is true about it being somehow when people are on phones, they get louder. Not all people. Like, this woman that I was just at the gym with? Most quiet talker I've ever seen in my life.
Nick: But is it just the volume that's the problem? Because I think for me it's actually only hearing one side of the conversation I also don't enjoy, even if the volume was normal.
Leah: Yeah, but in that case then if they put them on speakerphone, it wouldn't be annoying. And that's not true.
Nick: Oh, that's not true at all. True. Yeah.
Leah: But we do agree that it feels weird if somebody is on the phone and you can hear it at the gym, correct?
Nick: Yes. If you're on your phone and I can hear it, that's a no. So you would need to be far enough away from other people to make that work. So there definitely can't be anybody on any of the nearby treadmills.
Leah: Is it part of the phone-bringing that—and this is just a question I'm tossing out there.
Leah: Is it part of the phone that it signifies bringing the outside world into the gym when we're there for gym time?
Nick: So we're piercing the sanctum, is that it?
Leah: Because if it's two people talking, then they're both already in the sanctum.
Nick: Right. So we are bringing in some outsiders. Hmm.
Leah: I don't know.
Nick: No, because I'm also equally annoyed if I'm at a coffee shop and somebody's on their phone at the next table. [laughs] So ...
Leah: Yeah, I guess it's just phone conversations.
Nick: I think it's just one side of phone conversations in places where that's not supposed to be happening, which is most places.
Leah: [laughs] Which is most places.
Nick: It is. Yes. There's very few places.
Leah: And I feel bad because I want you to be able to catch up with your sister. I think that's fun. You do a little exercise, you catch up. That's totally fun. But I do think that people go to the gym preferring not to hear other people's conversations.
Nick: Yes. So long story short, regardless of the reasons or the feelings, I think if you can do it and no one else can hear you, it's a Zen koan. If you're on the phone, but no one can hear, are you really on the phone? So I think maybe that's the answer.
Leah: Yeah. Find a treadmill in a corner. Also, it's definitely nice to be on the treadmill and have a fun way to pass time.
Nick: Yes, it could definitely get a little boring, so I can see why you want to be, like, occupying your time. Sure.
Leah: I love an audiobook at the gym.
Nick: Okay. Some paranormal romance?
Leah: I actually—I read those out loud myself. I don't need anybody else reading them, but I do listen to a lot of thrillers on audiobook.
Nick: Okay, that'll get your heart rate up.
Nick: I actually, in this most recent one, thought they were going to kill off one of the main characters, and I thought I was gonna have a full breakdown. A full breakdown.
Leah: They didn't. But I mean, I was breathless.
Leah: I was—I was more breathless than I was, you know ...
Nick: Doing the cardio.
Leah: Yeah. I was like, "This—I can't—I won't make it through this." And they didn't. So ...
Nick: I mean, that begs the question: why bother with cardio if you could just read thrillers?
Leah: It's doubling the calories.
Nick: Oh, I see.
Leah: It's doubling the heart rate. But I mean, it passes the time is what I'm telling you.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. So our next question is quote, "My son is a sophomore in college and in his first apartment. His boss offered him a large freezer to use. My son does not have a car or truck at school, so my husband and son went to go pick it up and installed it at the apartment. Turns out, the freezer does not work and leaks. We placed something under it to help with a leaking issue, and have now looked into how to dispose of it. The options are either $200 for someone to come and haul it away, or if my son disposes of it, it's $20, but that place is only open Monday to Friday in the mornings and my son doesn't know anyone with a truck to help. We, the parents, are a four-hour drive away and work full time. Needless to say, this is tricky. I've said that we should just drive down on a weekend, load the freezer into our truck and drive it back to our area for disposal. My husband wants to take the freezer back to the original owners for them to dispose of or keep. I believe that's rude. They gave it in good faith. But I also don't want to pay $200 or drive it four hours to be able to dispose of an appliance that never worked. Help!"
Nick: Ooh, this is tricky!
Leah: It is tricky.
Leah: First off, congratulations to your son on his first apartment.
Nick: Very exciting.
Leah: It's very exciting.
Nick: You never forget your first apartment.
Nick: Do you remember your first apartment?
Leah: Of course I do. In college, yeah. I moved in with women that I'd met in the dorm, and then we all came together and got a—it was just so exciting!
Leah: Do you remember your first apartment?
Nick: Oh, yes. Right out of college in New York City. It was the darkest apartment in the history of the world. Like, no joke, it could be 12:00 noon, bright sunny day, and you would not be able to see your hand in front of your face. It was on the second floor, and the view was of the air shaft. But because it was a tall building, no photons actually made it that far down. So there was oxygen in the air shaft, but there was definitely no light. And so it was definitely an interesting apartment, let's put it that way.
Leah: I feel like in New York, if you get oxygen, that counts.
Nick: Yeah. And that's why we pay so much money. Like, "Oh, this comes with oxygen? I'll take it! There's a broker fee? Fine." So what do we do about this freezer, this broken freezer?
Leah: So I feel like there's a third option.
Nick: Oh, love an unspoken third option.
Leah: Even though we've been told there's only—I understand why there's mainly two options, but I don't think we bring it back to the people who gave it to us because they did give it in good faith.
Nick: I do get why that's tempting.
Leah: I get why it's tempting.
Nick: Just in the middle of the night to just, like, drop it off at their doorstep?
Leah: Because they gave you a job.
Nick: Or they wake up and instead of a horse head, there's just a fridge in your bed? [laughs]
Leah: [laughs] There's a freezer in your bed. I definitely get why it's tempting because it's, like, irritating that now you have to do all this work.
Nick: Well, the conspiracy theory is: did they know it wasn't working?
Leah: No, they didn't know.
Nick: I'm just putting it out there, you know? Why did they get rid of it? Why were they getting rid of this thing?
Leah: I think they wanted to be helpful. They were like, "Hey, it's your first apartment. Here's something cool."
Nick: Yeah. Okay.
Leah: Tons of ice. Put all the ice in there.
Nick: So much ice.
Nick: Put your frozen meats.
Leah: So I think there is somebody in this area with a pickup truck.
Leah: A friend of a friend. We throw up on the socials, "I need somebody with a pickup truck for 30 minutes."
Nick: Yeah, I do feel like we can find someone to help out and just take care of this. Yeah.
Leah: For less than $200.
Nick: Yes, definitely less than $200. I do feel like at this age, a box of pizza does a lot. Like, that's currency. "I'll buy you pizza if you help me out with this thing."
Leah: I feel like that's exactly what it is in college. I got pizza, I got some chips.
Nick: So that's what we're gonna do.
Leah: I'll give you gas money.
Nick: And also at this age and in college, it's all about reciprocation. So it's sort of like, somebody did you a favor and helped move this freezer, and so when they need help moving, like, you gotta help. And then you get to a certain age where you're like, "Oh, I don't help people move. I pay—I pay professionals to do that. And so therefore you cannot ask me to help you." So you do get to a certain age where you're like, that's what it is. But at this age, yeah, I think you just help out. There's a little food exchange, you reciprocate when it comes up in the future and, like, that's how that's gonna go down.
Leah: And then my other last option was you just unplug the freezer.
Leah: It just has to sit there until the next time you go up for, like, a parent's weekend, so you're not making an extra trip.
Nick: Oh, that's true. Yeah. I mean, assuming what is leaking isn't, like, something within the freezer, and it's not just, like, ice water. But yeah, I think that's a great idea. I do get this impulse of wanting the people who gave you the gift to know that this was not a great gift. I do feel like there is some flavor in this question that wants that somehow. And I guess the question is, is there a polite way to let the giver know the freezer didn't work?
Leah: And what do you think is that polite way?
Nick: I mean ...
Leah: I don't necessarily think our letter-writer wants that. I think her husband wants that.
Nick: Oh, he definitely wants more than that. Yeah.
Leah: He definitely does. I can't tell if our letter-writer ...
Nick: Our letter writer I think just is like, "We'll just go pick it up and we'll deal with it."
Nick: I think is kind of like the vibe there. In thinking about this, one idea—and you'd really have to land it, and I don't think you should do this, but one way you could do it is mention to your boss, "Oh, the freezer wasn't working. I was just wondering, is it under warranty by any chance, and so I could maybe reach out to the manufacturer? Like, do you think it's under warranty?" And you'd have to say that in a tone which wasn't like, "Oh, you gave me a bad gift." It has to be done with a "I just want to know about warranty coverage." So I don't know if a tone exists that does that, but that's what that tone would need to say.
Nick: [laughs] No?
Leah: No, I mean, if somebody wants to reach out.
Nick: Because the only reason you do that is if you really secretly want your boss to just, like, pay for the disposal.
Nick: I mean, that's really what that's about, which is kind of like kind of hard to do that politely. The other way you could do it—which is also not great, and you shouldn't do it. But the other idea I had was you can ask for the morning off to dispose of the freezer. Like, "Hey, I need Friday morning off because the freezer disposal place—for the freezer you gave me—is only open on mornings Monday to Friday. So that's the only time I can get there to dispose of this freezer. So would it be okay if I came in late?"
Leah: I don't think he's working there right now. I think it was like his summer boss because it's four hours away.
Nick: Well, the parents are four hours away. I guess we don't know where the boss is.
Leah: We don't know where the boss is.
Nick: And we don't know if this is his current employment. Okay. So I think exchange pizza for some help from somebody you go to school with. I think that's your best bet. Option two, solid option, unplug it, dry it out, and then the next time the parents are down, then they can help out.
Leah: I think those are definitely the best options.
Nick: Those are the best options, I know. Those are not satisfying, though.
Leah: They're not satisfying at all, but I think that you just want to—we just want to get through this situation.
Nick: Put it behind us.
Leah: Yeah. And get it done with, because it was just like an unfortunate.
Nick: I know.
Leah: I also wondered. I was like, can we make this freezer into a piece of art?
Nick: Oh, we're just gonna Dekopasaj it.
Leah: Maybe we, like, make it into—you know what I mean? We turn it into something else.
Nick: [laughs] Okay?
Leah: And then we bring it to a gallery and we say, "Would you like some modern art?" I'm just throwing ideas out.
Nick: Okay. I mean, I've seen that very special episode of Punky Brewster with Cherie. And so for me, any time I see an abandoned appliance, I'm like, "Ooh, gotta be careful!"
Leah: I don't know what this is, but by your description, I assume somebody got stuck in the freezer.
Nick: Cherie was Punky Brewster's best friend, and the episode is called "Charity Lifesaver." It's a very important episode. And yeah, it's just a very valuable lesson about not playing around fridges or freezers because, you know, stuff happens. This is why you're actually supposed to take the door off before you dispose of it.
Leah: It's a very good point, that we are taking the door for a very good reason.
Nick: It all comes back to Punky Brewster.
Nick: What doesn't, though? So our next question is quote, "I am a 60-plus Southern woman with a perplexing question: when I grew up, people were dressed by default as Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones, in particular by those younger than they. It was only when Mrs. Smith said, 'Please call me Lisa,' that first names were used. I prefer to not be called by my first name when introduced to someone much younger, but usually am. I feel so stodgy and old fashioned if I say 'I prefer Mrs. Smith.' But the other option seems for me to fume in silence when they call me Lisa. This is complicated by the fact that I go by a nickname that people find cute and immediately want to use. My children's friends often call me Lisa, and I need a nice way to respond without sounding like a total stick in the mud. Maybe I just need to accept it."
Leah: I like the idea that people get to be called what they want to be called.
Nick: Yes, that is the etiquette rule. That is a firmly-established etiquette rule that you should be addressed the way you want to be addressed. That goes for titles, that goes for pronouns. Like, how you want to be addressed? That's it.
Leah: And I think—I wonder if we can go about it in the opposite direction. We say to the people who are introducing us, "Oh, in the future, I love to go by my last name."
Nick: Oh, okay. That's actually a nice solution. So, like, you let your daughter know. Like, "If you're gonna introduce me to more of your friends, just please introduce me as ..."
Leah: Yeah. Or—and we could even say to our kids, "Hey, I would love it if your friends call me Mrs. Smith."
Nick: Yeah, that's true. I like that.
Leah: And then try to retroactively, and not like, "Oh, hey—" like, say we're out with our friend, and our friend introduces us as what's—"Oh, this is Bitsy."
Leah: And then you meet this new person. And then this new person goes about their business. We then say to our friends, "Hey, in the future, I just love to go by Mrs. Smith." Not with any kind of like, "I hate you forever. You're not a good friend." Just in, like, a "Just so you know." And then I bet they switch it up real quick.
Nick: Yeah. Yeah, the tone is just that value-neutral, non-judgmental tone, which is like, "FYI, here's a thing."
Leah: So I think if you want to go by Mrs. Smith, we're going by Mrs. Smith. And I don't think it is stodgy if you'd like to go by your last name. It's just what you like to go by.
Leah: The other—our last option ...
Leah: Which is we just wear a nametag.
Leah: Flat out nametag. And then when people get it wrong, we just point to it.
Nick: We just tap.
Leah: Tap it.
Nick: [laughs] Okay. I feel like if you do that, you should also have, like, a siren, an air horn with it.
Leah: I mean, I'm honestly at the point in life where I feel like that would be fun.
Nick: Sure. Yeah. Where if somebody calls you by the wrong name, tap on the name tag, blow an air horn? Yeah.
Leah: Why can't you just be—you know what I mean? Why not at this point?
Nick: Yeah, why not? I could think of no—no good reason.
Leah: It would be very funny, though, because then we'd get a letter and we'd be like, "Hey, I just called this lovely woman that I met, Lisa. She blew an air horn."
Nick: [laughs] "Was that rude?"
Leah: Was that rude?
Nick: And we'd be like, "No, it was not."
Leah: "She's just letting you know that's not what she wants to be called."
Nick: "And you won't make that mistake twice.
Nick: So our next question comes from a class of middle schoolers. So quote, "My middle school students really enjoyed listening to your podcast. We used a recent episode as part of a lesson, and students had to listen to some listening comprehension questions. I then collected some etiquette questions from them, and here are some I thought would have the best chance of getting on your show."
Leah: I think this is so cool!
Nick: Wonderful! I love that we're being used as a lesson.
Leah: It's so fun!
Nick: So they sent a bunch of questions—and they're all great questions. All great questions. But here are two that caught my eye because I thought there was a universality of these questions. So the first question is quote, "What should you do if someone you don't like sits with you at the cafeteria lunch table? Could you ask them to not sit there? If so, how could you go about doing so in a way that does not hurt their feelings?"
Leah: I think that if we don't like them because they did something to us ...
Leah: ... and we are creating a healthy boundary ...
Leah: ... that's one thing. But if we just don't like them, I think we let it go and sit with them through lunch.
Nick: Yeah. Very interesting. I basically had the exact point on my little sheet here.
Leah: We're becoming the same person.
Nick: We're the same, Leah. And what I like about this question is that the idea that we have to be around people we don't like, this is not just middle school. This is your entire life. Welcome to life on planet Earth, being a human in society. Like, for the rest of your life, you're gonna have to be around people you don't like. You think you're gonna like all of your colleagues? You think you're gonna like your best friend's new girlfriend? You think you're gonna like all of your in-laws? No, of course not. Like, that's just not how it's gonna go. And so figuring out how to be around people you don't like is a life skill you will need to work on for the rest of your life. And so let's start now.
Leah: Also, you might end up liking something about them.
Nick: Yes, for sure. Definitely.
Leah: And I say that as a person who almost likes everybody.
Nick: Right. Yeah. No, if Leah doesn't like you then you've really done something wrong. [laughs]
Leah: There's legitimately only, like, three people that I don't like.
Nick: So yes, I think, you know, is it a big deal to have someone sit there? No, it's actually really not, and you can tough it out and be fine. But Leah is absolutely correct that if someone did something and you need to actually, like, not be around them—and there's definitely etiquette crimes or worse that fall into that category—then absolutely. You can politely say, "Oh, I don't think that's a good idea," or something of that flavor.
Leah: I think you could even say—like, say they did something really mean. You could say, "Hey, I'm not comfortable sitting next to someone who is so mean to me."
Nick: Also fine. Yes. Yeah, that makes sense. But the idea of asking someone to not sit there if you just don't like them, that is inherently a mean act. And so if they don't deserve it, then yeah, there's no polite way to do that.
Leah: Yeah, because I think they would be embarrassed and other people will see it.
Nick: It's inherently hurtful.
Leah: Yeah, it will just hurt their feelings.
Nick: Yeah. And it also comes down to being, like, oh, how do you want to be treated? And, like, if somebody doesn't like you and you just want to sit down for lunch, like, do you want to be told to sit somewhere else? Probably not.
Leah: I feel like we—that seems right.
Nick: Yeah, I think we solved middle school.
Nick: So the next question I want to highlight is quote, "What should I do if I pass gas in class and nobody knows it's me? Should I own up to it? If so, how?"
Leah: I'm interested to see if we have the same answer on this one.
Nick: [laughs] Okay. Well, in general, etiquette is all about certain fictions and buying into that fiction and all agreeing on a certain fiction. So, like, in an elevator, oh, we're just gonna pretend that there's room for all of us. Or, like, in a theater, when someone's passing in your row, you'd be like, "Oh, your butt is not two inches from my face. We're just gonna pretend that's not happening." Or on an airplane like the one I was just on, where somebody was clipping their toenails. You just be like, "Oh, this is not happening. La la la la la. I'm just gonna go into my bubble. Not happening." So I think for something like this, we pretend it's not happening. That is the polite thing to do. Do not acknowledge it. No giggling, no upturned noses, no furrowed brows. We just pretend it didn't happen.
Leah: I wrote, "I think we all pretend it didn't happen."
Nick: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, I think that's the correct answer. Yeah, so do that.
Leah: I mean, if somebody is not playing that game and, like, calls it out, I don't then think you're obligated to own it.
Nick: Yeah. I guess, I think I would just be silent about it. And I don't think I would deflect, like, I don't think I would then turn around and try and blame some innocent party.
Leah: No, I wouldn't blame some innocent party.
Nick: But ideally, if there's a dog around, I feel like that's always the best solution, right?
Nick: [laughs] Like, that's kind of your go to, right?
Leah: I think we just don't engage.
Nick: Yeah, because also—all right, we're in middle school in this question but, like, let's fast forward. We're in a boardroom. We have the international sales team there. Your boss is giving a presentation. Somebody lets out a devastating, diabolical flatulence. We're not gonna say something.
Leah: No, we're not going to say something.
Leah: And we are gonna pretend so hard that we don't notice it.
Nick: Definitely not. We are not gonna flinch.
Nick: So ...
Leah: My favorite thing is when you're on a subway platform and someone has their earphones in. And they fart, but they don't realize they're farting loud because they have their earphones in and you want to be like, "You're ripping it!"
Nick: [laughs] That's like one of your favorite things?
Leah: It just makes me laugh so hard. It makes me laugh so hard!
Nick: I mean, luckily there's enough ambient wind in a subway tunnel where I guess no permanent damage is done.
Leah: Well, there's also so much to smell anyways that that's not really gonna ...
Nick: That may be the least of the problems. Yeah.
Leah: It's the least of the problems.
Nick: So thank you for these great questions.
Leah: These are so great! I hope we did okay with our answers.
Nick: I feel like we did. I feel good about my answers.
Leah: Well, we have the same answers, so ...
Nick: So join my feeling good train. And do you have questions for us about anything? Please 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.
Nick: And we'll see you next time.
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