Etiquette, Bitch.

As I become increasingly fed up with the lack of decency and and the proliferation of self-centeredness in the world, I have found myself becoming New York’s own common courtesy enforcer.

Or as I like to think of it, The Etiquette Bitch.

I feel a little like the Bernie Goetz of thoughtfulness, although without the gun. And the whole [cuckoo! cuckoo!] thing.

It started innocently enough with my growing annoyance at litterers. Occasionally I’d approach the culprit and smile sweetly, “I think you dropped this,” gesturing towards the candy wrapper on the subway track or ATM receipt on the sidewalk. Nate hated this, fearing I’d–or more likely he’d–get stabbed one day. He’s probably right. It might not be worth it to die over litter.

Recently on the subway, a middle-aged gentleman hobbled on with crutches and no one stopped to offer him a seat. Standing myself, I leaned over the healthiest, youngest looking seat mates and asked if someone might offer him one. Three people looked the other way, but the teenage girl with the nose ring obliged me. The guy on crutches didn’t so much as offer me a smile in return.

I started to wonder why I bothered, or whether I did the right thing. I figure well, a guy on crutches deserves to sit down. Even if he is a jerk on crutches.

But this past Monday, I was walking with Thalia to the playground when a couple in a brand new SUV pulled over and parked. Right in the middle of two choice parking spots Move up!” I called to him. He ignored me.

“Move up!”

Nothing. I pushed Thalia’s stroller right up to the driver-side door. He rolled the window down tentatively while his wife wondered what this crazy woman with the toddler could be asking for.

“I’m sure you didn’t realize,” I smiled, “but you’re taking up two spaces. If you pull up, then someone else can park behind you. There’s not a whole lot of parking in this neighborhood.” He pulled up about two feet.

“All the way forward!” I gestured. Annoyed and I think a little befuddled, he inched forward a bit more then turned off the ignition still with a good five feet between his front bumper and the car in front of him. At that point I gave up. At least the neighborhood Mini Cooper would have a parking space.

“What happened mommy?” Thalia asked as we turned the corner headed towards the playground. “What did that man do?”

“Well sweetie, some people just aren’t that good at sharing.”

“So you are telling him to share?”

Suddenly I felt completely stupid. Who am I to tell him anything? It’s not like he’s going to walk away thinking hm, I think I WILL park more considerately next time! It’s not like the litterers will think twice before tossing that used MetroCard on the sidewalk or the seat-hoggers will be any more considerate. Mostly, they’ll just walk away muttering something nasty about me.

At minimum though, I was hoping Thalia learned a little something. Well, something more than the fact that her mom is a self-righteous Etiquette Bitch with a low threshold of tolerance for inconsiderate asses.

As we got close to the playground, a jogger stopped me.

“Hey, did you just actually tell that guy back there to move his car?”

“Um…yeah. Yeah I did. You saw that?”

“Well that is just awesome!” she laughed as she headed up the brownstone steps to her front door. “I can’t wait to tell my husband. He’s always doing stuff like that.”

“Really? That’s great!”

“Oh yeah.” she said. “Aaaalways. He’s going to be so glad he’s not alone.”

[Junk Food Mr. Rude tee via]


78 thoughts on “Etiquette, Bitch.”

  1. I was boarding a plane to fly from Philadelphia to San Jose about 8 years ago and as we were standing in line to board some ass-hat unwrapped his candy bar and popped the top off his water bottle and just dropped them to the floor. He was standing right next to a trash can. I picked them up, tapped him on the shoulder, and said “I think you dropped these” and handed them over.He took them, then when he thought I wasn’t looking he dropped them to the floor <>again<>. Then he boarded the plane.I actually picked them up, kept them throughout the flight, and caught up with him in San Jose:“I said, ‘<>I think you dropped these.<>‘.”Ass hat.

  2. My biggest pet peeve – people who litter! Good for you for saying something!

  3. Good for you. You probably taught your daughter a good lesson. As Strawberry Shortcake would say, “Manners Matter.”When I was six months pregnant I gave up my seat on the bus to a much more pregnant woman who also had a toddler. None of the men hiding behind their newspapers even noticed.

  4. Oh, I love it. And I think we need more people to call out bad behavior. I’ve never believed that morality should be taught in school, but I’m starting to think basic human decency lessons should be mandatory. Here in the midwest, people think that because we have plenty of open space, it’s OK to take up two parking spaces. More than once I’ve stopped someone as they pulled in and said, “Oh, you missed the lines! I’d be happy to help guide you if you can’t see them from there!”Being the etiquette bitch is even more fun when spoken in an upbeat, chipper voice.

  5. I just read a Dear Abbey article about the exact same thing. I wish there was an easy solution too. But I think you are doing the right thing. If for no other reason than the impact it will make on your own kids. To grow up to be little etiquette bitches in their own right!

  6. I try to teach my girls that kindness isn’t something that just happens in fairy tales and that to do the right thing is more important than anything else. I am glad that I am not alone. We always open door for people or offer up our seats to others who need them more. I am glad that has not been lost on everyone.

  7. I try to do the nice things myself, but when confronted with someone else’s pig-headedness, I am unvariably non-confrontational.You are my hero.

  8. Ha HAAA. This is a much better approach than the one I’ve sadly employed, which is the passive aggressive note on the double-spaced car that reads, invariably, “Hey! You’re a dickhead!”

  9. It’s exactly this kind of thing that, by the time I left NYC, had me itching to say to someone, “You know what? You’re not the only person in the city. In fact, THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT A CITY!”

  10. You reminded me of how Kyle and I once spent an afternoon when we first moved to NJ. We took our paper towels and Windex and a big garbage bag and cleaned up our local NJ Transit bus stop shelter. I actually dug cigarette butts out of the cracks in the sidewalk.Sure, it looked like crap again on Monday morning as we waited for the bus into the city. But we still felt good about what we’d done – just as I bet you felt too!

  11. My pet peeve? People who park in handicap spaces. Spaces that I have a permit to park in, but can’t because the asshats in SUVs always take the spaces. I had cards made that say:“Thank you for taking up an handicap space. Because of your inconsiderate behavior, I am unable to shop in any of the stores around here, thus negatively affecting the economy. Oh, and I called the tow truck company. I hope you enjoy your ticket and the surcharge for having your car towed. Was it worth it?”I left two of them tonight on the cars that totally blocked the handicapped space by parking halfway in front of and halfway behind the space. In my teeny car I squeezed inbetween them, left my cards, and had a great laugh when I got back from the bookstore and saw them both with double tickets. My car? Nary a ticket. I have a PERMIT to park there. If you don’t, stay the hell out of my space!

  12. I find adults are good about litter here – it’s the kids that drop juice boxes and wrappers on my lawn that I’d like to throttle (I’m in suburbia). I’ve given up after living 6 years in this situation – I just go out every couple of days and FILL a grocery bag. Sad huh? We even tried calling the school and they had a “clean up the neighbourhood day,” but it wore off.I think the Entitlement doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or something.

  13. Miss Manners says “The first rule of etiquette is that adults do not correct the behavior of other adults,” but I can’t help myself sometimes.

  14. a friend of my mom was asked politely by a stranger if she minded if he smoked, and she responded kindly, “Do you mind if I fart?”

  15. I am constantly shocked by people who just throw their garbage on the street. It makes me absolutely insane. Of course their purses probably don’t hold their weight in tiny pieces of paper, gum wrappers and other litter-able material that mine do, but at least *I* have manners! Great post.

  16. My grandma does that ALL THE TIME. With everyone and everything. Sometimes she goes a little over the top.I rarely have the nerve to say something, but always give up my seat.

  17. I’m so in awe of your guts. And I love Backpacking Dad’s story. Before I got pregnant, I thought people would offer seats, but not so much. And honestly, I had an easy pregnancy and turned down seats when I was feeling well(I thought that I was buying good vibes for later, when I needed a seat). When I was about 8 months pregnant, I got up to give my seat to an elderly gentleman when no one else was moving (he did thank me very nicely). I thought about announcing to the entire train car that a pregnant woman, not any of the seemingly healthy, non-pregnant people within arms distance, was the one to give up her seat to another person and that I thought it was total crap that they were just sitting there. But then I thought that it might embarass the guy that I gave my seat to and used him as my excuse to chicken out….

  18. A couple of months ago, my daughter and I were walking into Whole Foods and the woman in front of us dropped a wad of bills, but didn’t notice it. I picked it up – all 100 dollar bills, at least 5 of them. And we chased her down, as she strolled ahead of us, talking on her cell phone the entire time. I tried to interrupt her to return the money. She ignored me in favor of her phone call. Then, when I finally got her attention, I handed her the cash and said, “You dropped this.” “Okay,” she said and returned to her phone conversation. Okay? If someone returned that amount of cash to me I think I would have cried!

  19. I love that you do these things. And though you think it doesn’t make a difference, the next time they’re tossing litter or parking their SUV, they’ll probably remember that “lady that scolded them”. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll think better of their actions.

  20. I always do those things too — I’m the ultimate rule follower. Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a police officer.

  21. Bitch on, everyone! The effort and being seen as Miss Manners is a small price to pay for increased civility in the world (though maybe not so much the stabbing).We’re all on this rocket ship called earth together. Why not be kind to, generous with and respectful of one another– and get off the effing phone in the movie theater! I just spent $15 to get in here– and so did you!And Christina, you’re so right. People don’t know what to do with an Etiquette Bitch that is exceedingly polite and smiling. They’re often CONFUSED into doing the right thing.

  22. I am totally the person who will go stand in front of someone in the movie theater and make them shut up so people can enjoy their movie. I also make people pick up their litter. Stop picking their nose by offering a tisse. Give up their seats to the elderly/pregnant/disabled. Thank people who do nice things for them. Hold open doors. I just try to be nice in general and never EVER turn on my cellphone in a theater or restaurant. If the hubby or I are going out to eat, I give the babysitter the number to the restaurant in case they need us rather than have them call my phone.

  23. Good for you!! I can’t help myself either. I live in New Orleans, and we need every little bit of help we can muster to clean up the city still. And as I’m sitting on my front stoop a few months ago, an SUV full of twenty-something women drives by and out of the front passenger side window comes a bag full of McDonald’s trash. Used ketchup packets, leftover fries, pickles, dirty napkins. And then a few feet down the road, four empty drink cups. So I got in my car and pulled into the gas station around the corner from my house behind them, stood in line behind the woman who got out of the guilty seat, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “That was not cool of you to throw your trash out the window back there. My neighborhood may look like a big pile of trash right now, but people actually live there. Who were you expecting to pick up your trash for you?”She was mortified, speechless, and then said, “Sorry. My bad.”

  24. I agree with you! People who are inconsiderate and rude need to know their actions affect others. Even if it doesn’t affect their future behavior, they still need to know that not only are they being a jerk, but we all know it and someone will call them out for it…In one Trader Joe’s grocery trip, I had someone on a cell phone push her cart into my 7.5 month preggo belly. Just a few minutes later, as my 2-3 items in a hand basket and I are waddling to the check out, I’m almost there, and a young fig dude with a huge cart full of stuff zips right in front of me. While not against the rules, certainly against human decency!! I’m hugely pregnant and only have a few items, but it’s still more important for you to zip ahead of me in line with your massive cart full of stuff!!And don’t even get my started on idiot drivers…let’s just say I’m a big fan of the horn!

  25. Good for you! I do stuff like the all.the.time. I find that I’m becoming quite the manners nazi as I get older. To the point that the other day, my son (who’s 6) and I were in a parking lot and he bent down to pick up some litter and I heard him mutter “people are disgusting”. Hmmm…I wonder where he got that from?

  26. Tess, with all due respect – why in the world would you throw gum, of all things, out the window?

  27. Have you seen the commercial where a guy collects all the litter that an idiot throws out of his car window? After weeks of gathering, the first guy builds a tree out of all the garbage, and puts it on the idiot’s car with a note that says, “I think you dropped this.” I love it.My personal pet peeve is people who drive in the emergency lane on the highway when there’s traffic–you know they think that the rest of us are chumps for waiting patiently. There is a special place in Hell reserved for them.

  28. I was once like you, my young Jedi friend but then I came to the darkside. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a total etiquette Nazi. However, I’ve lost faith in humanity and man’s ability to change. If I had seen that SUV, I would have waited until he left, stuck a nail in his tire, and written him a note detailing his rudeness. When me don’t give up seats for pregnant women, I don’t ask them kindly to get up. I yell at them and verbally abuse them until they are completely shamed. When people speak loudly on their cell phone in inappropriate places, I walk right up to them and start yelling into my pretend phone, “WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! SOME RUDE BITCH IS TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE!” Works every time. Can you tell I’m a little angry these days? Must be the humidity.

  29. I park in the pregnant woman’s spot at the grocery store. I’m not ashamed to say it. Pregnancy is not a disability. One time a woman bitched at me. Get this — she was parked in the fire lane at the time. Which of us was the scofflaw?

  30. Oh Kevin, you know I love you but about this time three years ago, one week late with my pregnancy in the brutal humidity of summer, ankles swollen to the size of minivans, I saw one of those pregnancy spots and actually wept. Give the poor non-disabled preggos a break. You scofflaw, you.

  31. I think it’s great.I hate when people throw their cigarettes on the ground (hey, that’s litter and it’s polluting our water system). So when I saw a woman throw a cigarette out of her car on Bleeker Street, I said, “You know, that’s litter. You really shouldn’t throw that out your window.” She mutter an apology and said, “Can you give me directions to the Holland tunnel?”I said I would as long as she stopped throwing her cigarettes out the window. She agreed.

  32. Good for you! And great that the jogger stopped to thank you, too. I suspect that the SUV driver just wasn’t that good at parking his outrageously-sized vehicle, and didn’t know how to maneuver it into one space.

  33. I’m with metrodad… People suck, and I just can’t be nice about this kind of thing anymore. But I always thank people who are. So, thanks :).

  34. My issue is with the SampleSnackers at the grocery store. They stop for the samples and block the entire aisle with their carts while they slowly chew chew chew their little treats. When you try to get by, and say “excuse me” they look at you with pure evil in their eyes, that you would dare ask anything of them. When I have my 5er with me, I loudly exclaim, “that’s why it’s important to have manners, so that people won’t tell stories about you on websites”.

  35. I’m just a coward who wished that she had the courage to be able to face people down like that. Good on you. I’m a blue badge holder, and I do occasionally stick flyers on people’s windscreens if they are parked in a blue badge bay and don’t have a badge, but that is as far as my confidence will take me.

  36. that’s hilarious.i’m in the same boat. and it scares the piss outta my husband. he’s always like, dude, you are SO gonna get punched in the nose one of these days.and he’s probably right, but i can’t help myself.(i’m also that girl, the one who tells people about offending pieces of broccoli and toilet paper on shoes and tags that stick out inappropriately.)(yay.)

  37. Some punk kids dropped some trash in our treelawn last night. Glancing out my daughters window while getting her ready for bed, my husband witnessed it. He opened the window and hollered, “Hey guys, you dropped something!” They looked at him incredulously and continued on. I had to physically stand in front of the door to keep him from going to give them back their trash. Good for you. If nothing else, it shows your kids what is cool and what is not, and will hopefully help who she hangs out with later, i.e. not litterers or parking space hogs (another peeve of mine)

  38. My boyfriend does the same thing, and I’m terrified it’s going to get him shot. But of course I also completely admire him for doing something I wish I had the guts to do instead of just grumbling about the state of the world under my breath.

  39. I’m so fed up with rudeness that I’m becoming a police officer in my daily life while out and about. It’s pathetic. Normally, my family thinks I’m going to get stabbed over chastising children in public but that’s the educator in me who corrects kids all the time. But the one that gets me (and I’m sorry if it’s been said) is people failing to say “<>Excuse me<>” when they’re trying to get around me. They just stand there. Yesterday, Mason and I were getting some summer shorts and there was a woman behind him and she assumed I would ask him to move. When he started to move, I pushed him back in place and mouthed “No. Wait.”She never said it. She moved a different direction. Served her right. If she doesn’t want to say it, she has to change direction. That was my point anyway.

  40. BRAVO!!! Don’t ever stop being the Etiquette Bitch! I’m right there with you! I’ve decided that while the inconsiderate selfish prigs out there will not change even if I say something, I will be teaching my kids that doing the right thing MATTERS. Even if it’s not easy or popular. SO proud of you!!!!!

  41. Wow, what a great name for it–“The Etiquette Bitch”. And here I was, just calling myself “The Bitch” when I’d do stuff like that. Adding in the “Etiquette” just gives it that certain little bit of class.Double parkers of the world, beware.

  42. Mocha, I’m often AFRAID to say “excuse me”, being pathologically shy and sick of getting the big evil-eyed glare and (if I’m lucky) a huffy, grudging move-over to let me by. I figure polite people would anticipate my need on my own, otherwise it’s just easier for someone like me to find another way around.

  43. I took a walk through my seedy neighborhood last week, and was so annoyed. I kept wondering, “Why, why, WHY do working class folks screw up the good stuff we have by tossing garbage everywhere?” We have nicer sidewalks than a lot of ritzier neighborhoods, but they are covered in litter. It shows such a lack of pride.

  44. I love this. I’m usually thinking that I’m going to get stabbed, but I do stuff like picking up the newspaper and handing it to the seatmate getting off the train – “you forgot this”.

  45. You are awesome. Seriously.Backpacking dad, you are also awesome. Standing ovation to you both!motherhood uncensored: not necessarily, they could have been from Westchester. Sometimes I feel like we are the only family with children who don’t own an SUV here :-p

  46. You are so NOT alone! Good job. I’m afraid that someday we’ll all wake up and all of the manners in this world will have gone by the wayside. It’s takes people like you (and me most of the time) to remind the rest of the world. If they don’t like it…too bad. It’s not like they are going to tell us that POLITELY!I just stumbled into your blog. I’m completely enjoying it. Thank you. – Lisa (a fellow Mommy blogger)

  47. Oh I just love this post. You are so much like me. I embarrass my son and my husband to no end because I’m forever trying to ‘help’ people to see the error of their ways.My pet peeve is people who park their cars over sidewalks so those of us with strollers or wheelchairs have to go out into a busy street and those people who leave sprinklers running to waste water and have those sprinklers going over the sidewalks. Why water the concrete? Ugh.

  48. i do that kind of stuff all the time.once, i saw a man basically beating the crap out of his girlfriend in the walmart parking lot–i know, classy–and i walked up to him and requested that he take his domestic violence home so that the rest of us don’t have to watch him be an asshole.he responded that “he would give ME some domestic violence” or some other such witty thing.i got in my car, locked the doors, and called the police.for the record, i would have called them anyway…but i just couldn’t keep my damn mouths shut. as always.

  49. I’m the same way. and I didn’t think about the possibility of being stabbed until the other day…I was telling my mom about a woman who was almost rude to my 3 year old at the park who I didn’t say anything to and how annoyed I was that I didn’t say anything. and my mom was like, “and you never know how someone like that will react.” oh yeah. but it’s worth the risk!!!

  50. This must be going around. A few weeks ago, I walked up to someone who dropped their cig butt at the bus stop and tried to give it back. I’m pretty sure they thought I was ‘special’. Another person I said to pickup their garbage actually picked it up and dropped it in the trash can. To practice what I preach, I have been walking in front of people and picking up garbage at the bus stop lately. No one else joins in. Let them think I’m special.

  51. I love you, Liz! You keep on being the Ettiquette Bitch. I’ll do my part in DC. You too, Backpacking Dad! That was awesome!What is wrong with people anyway? Urg!

  52. Okay, so now I’m envisioning you at BlogHer tapping me on the shoulder and saying sweetly, “Um, excuse me, I don’t think you were actually <>invited<> to this Nintendo party.” Am I right? 😉

  53. I think the people will remember. Whenever I’ve been shamed by a stranger correcting me, I definitely remember the next time and think, “I don’t want to let my son open the gate to the playground and meet me at the car all by himself because someone might stop him and tell him to stay put and then identify me as a bad mother.”

  54. I do shit like that all the time. I can’t help myself. It’s like a disease. But, I bet on some level it helps because next time maybe the guy will think “damn, I hope some crazy bitch doesn’t yell at me for taking up two spaces” and he’ll move up a bit more.

  55. You live in New York and you do this?? Wow. Wouldn’t it just be easier to paste a sign on your chest that says, “Stab me”?(Don’t get me wrong, I think what you’re doing is great, but I lived in Manhattan for 20years and I always did the no eye contact thing.)

  56. SUCH a pet peeve of mine when people take up two perfectly good parking spaces in the city. I’ve come close to wanting to slash their tires — esp. after I’ve circled block after block looking for a spot to park my own darn car. It’s so selfish!

  57. hey just wanted to say that when your a mom don’t be stupid bitch of a mother like mine. Don’t kick your child out of her bathroom, don’t idolize your younger daughter and treat your other daughter like shit. and if they don’t talk to you about things,its not them its you. o and dont come into there room 5 min later after a fight and just act like nothing is wrong. sry if this has nothing to do with anything im just realy mad.

  58. My boyfriend is notorious for doing these exact same things. He will leave notes on peoples cars who have parked incorrectly with the number to the local driving school.The greatest gift I have given him is that of my son, because now he can talk to him loudly about other peoples bad behavior, an example:“People who have no consideration for others Ethan walk diagonally in a parking lot. People who think they are more important than the rest of the world take up entire aisles with their shopping carts and stare at loaves of bread for 30 minutes while preventing any other shopping cart traffic from having the ability to travel.”He also has made signs up to hold up to other inconsiderate drivers on pieces of cardboard about the proper use of turn signals and how to appropriately manage a four way stop. < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Steffie<>

  59. HSBF does that all the time . . . 1. we were driving on 35, going about 80 mph when some ass hat in front of us threw litter out her window. as we passed her, HSBF wrote in on my errand pad in black sharpie marker “LITTER-ER!!!!”2. HSBF went to the bathroom at a restaurant as i saw him coming back to the table, he followed some guy to his table and said something. when i asked him what he said, HSBF replied “i told him he might want to wash his hands before eating his dinner.” ICK!*HSBF is from Brooklyn, does that have anything to do with it? =D

  60. Thank you for doing this. I do things like this in hopes that my nieces and any of the children I babysit will learn to be respectful to other people as well as the environment. It kills me sometimes to see how disrespectful people treat others. What happened to love one another and treat others as you would want to be treated. Are people just that inherently bad or am I one of the few that think so much could be solved if everyone was just nice to each other and did at least one thing nice for someone every day.

  61. I have recently found you and without a doubt addicted to your blog. What is more, I feel like we are comrade in arms! I find the indifference of people to those around them to be disgusting! My pet peeve is the lack of consideration when a person steps behind a wheel. Living in the DC area has it's tribulations. However, recently I had to write a freaking note and post it (on mirror AND on the inside of stalls) for the women that share the bathroom on the floor of the building I work in. Wet paper towels on floor, crumpled TP, eaven – get this – used seat covers (gross!) left on the seats of the commodes. Seriously! Grown, cultured and EDUCATED women pulling this crap. Signed it even.
    As long as I have the energy and the ambition, I'll keep at it and I appreciate others like yourself that do the same. It makes me feel far less alone.
    Thank you-thank you- thank you!!

  62. I know this is an old post, but I saw the link to it in one of your recent posts, read it, and had to reply. I’m not totally certain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve taken years off my life with the frustration I’ve endured at the hands of inconsiderate people. It happens almost every time I’m out in public (we homeschool, so we’re home most of the time), and I’ve decided the only way to combat it is to expect the absolute worst from people. That way, maybe I won’t be frustrated when I get it, and perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised once in a while. I’ll let you know how it works out. 🙂

    I don’t usually say anything about ill manners, but I do make a habit of pointing it out to my 9 year old son, so he’ll know what rude, inconsiderate behavior looks like in adults. I might or might not have also threatened bodily harm if I ever see him doing anything of the sort. 🙂

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