Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Etiquette

I've been reading the June 26th edition of New York magazine, featuring the first edition of the (presumably annual) "Urban Etiquette Handbook."

Two ideas spring immediately to mind: one, I'm going to write them and urge them to reproduce this as a brochure that I can hand out, and two, thank God someone has finally recognized that New Yorkers need not just a refresher course, but an actual introduction to basic etiquette.

New Yorkers pride themselves on their worldly sophistication. We use words like "zeitgeist" and "postmodern" and "Orwellian" and "fennel." We have Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim, and the Waldorf-Astoria. New York is iconic, romantic. Woody Allen didn't make Minneapolis Murder Mystery. Would Miracle on La Cienega have been as charming? Autumn in Reno? Home Alone 2: Lost in Kenosha? Imagine if King Kong had gotten loose in Cawker City, Kansas and scaled the world's largest ball of twine, instead.

But New Yorkers are rude. Well, maybe "rude" is not the right word. Tourists always comment that they are surprised to discover how nice we are, but that's because they sort of expect our response to "Where's the Statue of Liberty?" to be "Fuck you, you fuckin' fuck," as we rob them at knifepoint. We're actually quite gracious to out of towners.

So, I guess I wouldn't say rude so much as pathologically insensitive.

I was delighted to see that the article included special sections on "Subway Decorum" and sidewalk behavior, though they left a few of the worst behaviors out.

On the subways: you people who ride nonchalantly just inside the doors, refusing to move fully into the car, inhibiting the movement of people entering and exiting the train, have forfeited the right to look irritated by people who dare to try to get on or off. An SUV-sized stroller with cupholder and luggage rack is not an exemption that allows you to stand here. If your stroller does not fit on the subway, you need to take the hint, pal. And why is your baby commuting at rush hour?

If I can hear your iPod over my iPod, yours is too loud.

If your child is too young to walk up the stairs in the station by themselves, just pick them up and carry them.

The poles on subway cars are for people to hold on to for safety, not for your child to swing around in circles in youthful disregard of passengers coming and going from the train.

On those older trains (A, C and E) that just have benches instead of clearly marked seats, sit as close as possible to the next person without actually touching them, especially at rush hour. While we'd all prefer to have a foot between ourselves and a perfect stranger, you're preventing probably four people at least from sitting down.

I've already blogged about sidewalk etiquette, but I was disappointed that New York says strollers always get the right of way. I would say people on the sidewalk need to watch out for strollers, but saying they have the right of way is like saying a station wagon can drive over the dotted line on a two-lane road and ignore stop signs just because there's a brat in the backseat. Strollers belong on the far side of the sidewalk by the building wall.

Also I take exception to the repeated admonitions New York makes against ogling women. The current urban fashion is to swell to, shall we say, Rubenesque proportions and then wear jeans and a t-shirt that would be tight even on Kate Moss. Yell at me for supporting a double-standard, but I'd say don't ogle a woman in a floral-print dress that goes below the knees with a lace collar. If a woman's pants are so tight that you can tell whether she's recently waxed or not, ogle away.

Overall, though, the article provides helpful answers to many dilemmas: When can you get together with your friend's ex? (Never.) Is it okay to smoke pot at a party? (Yes, pot is "a public good that belongs to all people, like radio airwaves and national parks.") How do you get a stranger to stop talking to you on the subway? (Pretend to fall asleep or die.)

There is one question I wish they'd answered, though. Is it appropriate to blog about an article from a magazine that came to your office for a deceased former employee?

29 comments:

Jade said...

Yes - because the article is publicly available in a magazine, and not a personal letter addressed to said deceased former employee.

I can somewhat understand where they are coming from on the stroller issue... if you ever boat, the bigger ship gets the right of way because the smaller boats can move around quicker, and it's easier for them to get out of the way. In that regard, I understand. On the other hand, stroller drivers need to watch where they are going and be more aware of the world around them... and I'm speaking as a stroller driver myself. Just because a big ship has the right of way, it doesn't mean the Captain can stop to look at the latest jeans on sale in the window while allowing the Titanic to drift into oncoming traffic. If you're going to stop, get out of the way.

little-cicero said...

I do sort of expect bad language and rudeness from New Yorkers, but I think that presupposition is partially grounded in your first memorable words to me on this blog: "F**K YOU!"
:)

Of course by this point I guess frequent use of the F-word has totally permeated the suburbs as well as the city to the point of no return. As for me, I think I'll just move to Cawker City where all is nice, religious and conservative! :)

little-cicero said...

Oh, and your oggling rules are a bit too grey-lined for me. First of all, where does admiration end and oggling begin. Secondly, your criteria for what is ogglible is a bit too grey-lined for hot-blooded Italian teenagers such as myself. Give us an inch and we'll take a yard! :)

Do you have any oggling/admiration issues to speak of?

little-cicero said...

Why is it that as soon as I chime in people stop commenting? Am I that repulsive? :)

Trickish Knave said...

The mopst enjoyable subway experiences I ever had were overseas. Singapore had the cleanest public transportation I have ever seen. I never felt as though I was going to get mugged.

Japan was a close second. When my wife flew out to meet me in Yokosuka we took the train to Tokyo and then used the subways to get around. Everyone was polite, sans the males cutting in front of my wife, but the order of things was astounding. We can't wait to go back. The one thing that stood out on the subways and trains was the fact that almost everyone would sleep.

When I was stationed in CT I went to NYC a few times and rode the subways while I was there. A friend of mine took me to his house in the Bronx and then we took a subway to the All American Sports Bar.

The fondest memeoy of a NYC subway was when a group of about 8 black people got on wearing some kind of hybrid African-Jamiacan clothing and started playing some hideous hybrid of likened music. My friend told me to just look down at the floor and not to make eye contact. I did as I was told.

After a calculated amount of time, the performers started holding out hats and asking for money. The train arrived at its next stop and they all jumped out. Nobody in the train, except the tourists, even gave them second glance, most not even a first glance.

Oh, Jade, the rules of the road apply except in the case of US submarines. Here in HI we have been known to maneuver for speedboats and sailboats, all of which pale in comparison to our 9600 ton displacement. Anything to avoid bad press...

Matthew said...

As someone who drives a double occupancy stroller, I always try to be as unobtrusive to the other pedestrians as possible. That doesn't always work, but I think it's my responsibility. I don't expect anyone to exactly yield to me. Andy's rule resonates with me more.

Jade said...

Knave - I should clarify that I don't at any time assume I have the right of way with the stroller (aside from elevators, where I don't assume so much as people just tend to stay out of the way and let me get in and out first) I can see where etiquette people might make that determination, but I don't agree with it.

But in defense of huge strollers with luggage racks - you have to carry a lot of shit when you have a baby, and your back gets tired carrying it over your shoulder (particularly considering the amount you have to use your back to lift the baby on a daily basis) so the luggage racks are a necessity. Were I to ride a subway I would probably want to stay close to the door too so I could run out as soon as it's my stop (they can be tricky to steer) - I do agree though that they shouldn't look irritated. I would stand there too, but I would apologize.

Elizabeth said...

Try pushing a stroller around, whilst being an exhausted parent, and you'll understand why strollers should have the right-of-way. They're hard to maneuver around every little thing. But not standing right in the way is a couresy issue that exists with more than just stroller-drivers....

But yeah, I think we need more train/subway/public transportation etiquette. Recently we got on the MAX in Portland and there were actually quite a few seats available. But *everyone* had their feet up on an empty seat! We were four people looking for seats somewhat close to each other and finally we had to ask someone to move their feet. Ridiculous.

Andy said...

Elizabeth, that is so depressing! I always credit my Portland upbringing with making me such a socially conscious person. Still, having just been out in the Northwest for a week, I can assure you Portland has a long way to go before it begins to approach the chronic callousness of New York. I mean, for Pete's sake, people still drive 50 on US 26 approaching the tunnel into Portland just because the sign says to.

kr pdx said...

Actually, Andy, going 50 there isn't too ridiculous--the backup from either direction of the 5 can be sudden; it's prudent to slow down for real now (unlike when we were kids ;) ).

LC/Andy, as a female NYC visitor who doesn't dress provacatively, I got SERIOUSLY hit on every other day, all three times I've been there, and that's not counting daily ogling. Although, now that I think about it, I mostly didn't get ogled so much as appraised ... perhaps I looked like an investment instead of a one-nighter ;). Except when I walked past a construction crew one time and got the full wolf-whistles treatment. That was hilarious, in an ass-backwards way--so cliche'! I think I laughed out loud.

Which is perhaps the best way to deal with ridiculous oglers ;).

Andy said...

Example: the other day on the street outside my apartment, I saw a girl whose spare tire was overflowing the waist of her jeans and she was wearing a t-shirt that was so tight her breasts were about to burst through the neckhole, which read in big silver-glitter letters acros the midline of the breast, "I KNOW I HAVE A NICE ASS." Seriously. She's practically begging to be ogled.

little-cicero said...

You should have oggled her out of pure principle. And I mean PURE principle! :)

kr pdx said...

I think she was beyond "begging" and into "demanding," at that point :P. Sigh.

For what it's worth, I don't think any young woman really understands the degree to which a young man can be ... well, completely distracted (?) ... by a visual sexual display. Lots of them can see, though, that it is a little way that they can exercise control over the men around them ... such a great basis for a loving committment, eh? Sigh again.

Y'know what I really love about Portland (vs NYC at least)? If I (or another woman) start up a conversation with a man, or am friendly to one starting a conversation, they do not automatically assume it's all about possible sex, despite the facts that statistically the majority must be hetero- or bi-, and I don't have my wedding ring on my finger. They may be considering sex, but they don't assume I am. Men of earlier generations are on board, and even an awful lot of teenagers! It's totally crazy. I love it. (I do get ogled by young lesbians sometimes ... . And Portland is a notoriously not-sexy-dressing town.)

Anthony said...

I can't really comment on Noo Yawk etiquette as I've not been there in 18 years, so ...

Use of the word "fennel" as a sign of sophistication - fabulous stuff, Andy, I love it!

little-cicero said...

As far as high school kr, they know the effect, and they like the attention. That is my conclusion. Now, if they knew what the average teenage boy was really thinking say walking up the stairs behind a girl in a short skirt, they would likely stop wearing short skirts to school, but that is not the case. I really think that sexual appetite is increased according to skin exposure- the cleavage may well be causing the teen pregnancy. I don't think teen pregnancy was as high when girls wore sweaters (which are also attractive, but occupy the imagination harmlessly- like throwing a dog a bone).

Quinn said...

So I'm guessing you're not familiar with the term "sweater girl" from the 1950s?

Teen pregnancy rates have been (roughly) on the decline since the late 50s -- peaked in 1957 -- and it's not because girls are showing less skin (I teach 18 year olds, and trust me, they're showing plenty!)

Quinn said...

Wow, have we hijacked this thread enough?

Andy said...

the cleavage may well be causing the teen pregnancy

Whoa, sounds like someone wasn't paying attention in biology. This is what happens when conservatives refuse to teach sex ed.

kr pdx said...

(snicker ;) )

(PS: Goooooo Quinn! Gosh darn that reality stuff ;). I didn't know that!)

kr pdx said...

LC, "know" is totally different from "understand" ... as your stairs comment implies!

Quinn said...

yeah, if I had to blame teen pregnancy on a body part, cleavage would not be my first choice!

little-cicero said...

Okay, my dad has some explaining to do! We still haven't had that little talk yet. (:

Oh, kudos to Quinn for proving me wrong. You have unleashed the truth upon me.

Seriously though, cleavage may not be the most effective body part for stimulating male sexuality, but it's certainly the most frequently noticed.

little-cicero said...

I would ask Andy for an explanation but I know for a fact that my father would object to a gay man explaining sex to me before he does. :P

Quinn said...

How about the penis?

I know this line is in fun, but in all honesty, I am a little bothered that you're attributing the "cause" of teen pregnancy to girls' excitement of males, as if the boys take no initiative in the matter, or are somehow helpless the minute they catch sight of some boobs.

It takes two to tango. And to do other things, too.

ps. I dressed conservatively in high school and had no cleavage to speak of, yet I had multiple offers for sex. Go figure.

little-cicero said...

Well it is my understanding that male nature consists of greater sexual aggression than female nature- it is a force to be reckoned with.

The natural state of man, were he deprived of female companionship beyond sex and left to his primal nature, very well may be smelly unshaven cavemen jumping on every female that he finds attractive- a slave of himself. All that stands between that reality and the one we've come to know is our morality, decency and virtue. That's why I'm a moralist- because without values men are beasts!

So yes, we do have responsibility as well as sexual natures. It's worth noting however, that the sexual nature of a beast survives within every man and gains influence with every flash of cleavage or other body parts (in some men:feet, I'm an ankle man myself!) (:

Jade said...

Actually, Andy, going 50 there isn't too ridiculous--the backup from either direction of the 5 can be sudden; it's prudent to slow down for real now (unlike when we were kids ;) )

KR - do you mean 405? I-5 is around the bend a ways from that tunnel.
And AUGH! It's "I-5", not "the 5"... "the 5" is how they talk in California. :)

LC - Dude... I was covered head to toe in oversized baggy clothing back in high school... from my experience amount of skin showing whilst walking down the hall had little to do with sexual advances from guys.

little-cicero said...

I'm not speaking strictly of attraction to individual girls here, but of the effect of seeing this much skin on the overall sex drive of males. Were teens having sex as much when Playboy looked like Victoria's Secret looks today, and girls dressed much more modestly? They may have had more babies for lack of contraception, but I don't believe they were doing it as much as it is done today.

Elizabeth said...

Going 50 on 26 is really not a bad idea at all--I've only lived here for 6 months, but I've already seen 26 as a seriously dangerous highway.

But yeah, people actually follow the speed limit here, which is amusing for someone who has lived in California most of her life....A few months ago, a friend visited from CA, and he borrowed our car. Couple weeks later, we got, in the mail, a speeding ticket from one of those camera thingies, and they took a picture of the driver. It was our friend! He wasn't used to the slower pace here.

A lot of Portland is very socially conscious, and then there's the part that really is very not.

kr pdx said...

Jade, yes, the 405, tired, sorry ... I think of it as a really long "downtown" off/on ramp of the I-5 ...
(I am from California, more or less, and "the 5" and "the 405" are phrases I haven't ever expunged ... despite Oregonians' winces)