Tag Archives: etiquette

Retail rant

OK, so I got a seasonal retail gig working in a toy store to supplement my jobs. It’s a lot of fun; how many workplaces let you play with toys all day? But there are some things that irritate me.

1. Yes, we encourage kids to play with the toys. Please remind any children with you that this is a place of business, not their playroom. Do not let them take over floor space with the toys or leave them where someone can trip over them. Do not let them put things in their mouths.

2. We are not babysitters. Please keep at least one eye on your child while you shop.

3. If your toddler needs a diaper change, please go take care of that, THEN finish your shopping. (This happened today. I could smell the child four feet away, and I have a cold at the moment.)

4. Put your phone away while I’m checking you out.

5. Hand your money or credit card to me. Do not leave it on the counter for me to pick up. (When did this become acceptable?)

6. Yes, we offer complimentary gift wrapping. Feel free to take advantage of it when the store is NOT crowded.  (Sidebar: I am the world’s worst gift-wrapper, even when not handicapped by the cats.)

7. Do not give me a vague description of what you’re looking for and then seem offended when I have no idea what you’re talking about.

8. Do not ask for something you “saw on TV” without giving me a product name. I realize each commercial kills 1,000 brain cells, but surely you still have enough to take notes.

9. Do not joke, “I guess it’s free!” if you don’t see a price tag on something.

I’m fortunate to have a great manager and good coworkers, and most of our customers are nice, but some behaviors just annoy me.





Filed under Holidays, Work

Have you tried the bean dip?

This election year, I was even more irritated and frustrated than usual.


When did political ads become less “My candidate is great because _____________” and more “My candidate’s opponent is responsible for everything except climate change, and we’ll find a way to blame him or her for that, too”? During election season, our local daily paper runs a feature where reporters fact-check the advertisements and spell out any necessary corrections. But so many people are either overwhelmed, suggestible, or lazy and simply buy whatever is presented on television. During the 2008 campaign, I disconnected (and later sold) my TV. This year, I played CDs in my car, hid posts on Facebook, and sent all the mailings to the recycle bag. But I still couldn’t escape. Senior citizens watch a lot of TV, and there was no way to fast-forward through the commercials.


Then there were the times when the seniors I care for wanted to engage me in discussion. Sometimes I agreed with them. Most of the time, I did not. In fact, I found one client’s opinions particularly offensive. But apart from the fact that I love my job and would like to keep it, etiquette in general, and specifically, the respect for my elders that I was brought up with, demanded that I keep my own opinions to myself.


I generally handled any differences of opinion in one of two ways.


  1. Ask questions: why does this person believe what he or she believes? What were previous elections like? What would you do differently if you were campaigning for your candidate?
  2. This is the method I used more frequently: Say, “That’s interesting,” or “I don’t know,” or make some other noncommittal noise, then change the subject. Ask about their grandchildren, or what they would like for lunch. Invite them to play cards or a board game. Ask what else is good on TV. I’ve heard this technique called “bean-dipping”; you’ll find the origin of the term and many funny and cringe-inducing stories on etiquettehell.com.


How did/do you handle differences of opinion, particularly with people in a different generation?


Filed under Caregiving, Life, the Universe and Everything, Politics

Ms. Understood

An adjunct to my previous post:

Then, there’s the salutation “Ms.” I am closer to 40 than 30. I have never been married, though I am open to the idea and came close a time or two. Thus, “Mrs.” is inappropriate for me, and I feel that “Miss” is inappropriate for me as well. “Ms.” is utilitarian, like “Mr.” It simply indicates a female of a certain age, without regard to marital status. It shows and commands respect like nothing else short of professional titles (Dr., Reverend, Senator, etc.)

The problem? Kids generally don’t understand “Ms.” Because many of the other women they encounter use either “Miss” or “Mrs.,” they assume that applies to me.

I try to explain that “Miss” means not married, “Mrs.” means is or was married, and “Ms.” means “Let’s talk about something else.” Some kids get it. Some don’t. I’m not getting paid to teach feminism, so I typically just leave it at that.

One of my aunts told me something funny not long ago. I was ranting about being called “Mrs.,” and my aunt reassured me that my uncle, who is a reading teacher, has been called “Mrs.” a few times. My uncle is 6 feet tall and big, with a fairly deep voice. He’s mostly bald, and until a few years ago, he had a full mustache and beard. NO ONE could mistake him for a woman. So that made me feel a little better.


Filed under Life, the Universe and Everything, Teaching

That’s Not My Name

My blogger friend The Surly Spinster wrote a thought-provoking post on spinster names versus married names, and that was part of the inspiration for this post.

During the course of my day, I use several different names. When I’m substitute teaching, I’m Ms. [MyLastName]. When I tutor and while I was babysitting this summer, I’m Ms. [MyFirstName]. To the seniors I care for, I’m [FirstName]. One client is fond of nicknaming her aides and has christened me “The Schoolteacher” because of my day job.

My last name, though ethnic and multisyllabic, is fairly simple to pronounce. Nonetheless, I frequently hear my last name being badly butchered. In those circumstances, I explain that I will answer to Ms. [MyLastInitial]. One student, a freshman in high school and therefore old enough to know better, mispronounced my name in a particularly egregious way and asked if it was OK to call me that. I replied, “No, because it’s not my name.” For him and the rest of the class, I became Ms. [MyLastInitial].

I’ve had this name for 30-something years and have become rather fond of it, and I am not sure I want to change it if I ever get married. If I change it, I start anew as Mrs. [NewLastName] and possibly end up subjected to more butcherings. If I hyphenate, I could create a real mouthful for students to pronounce. There’s also the issue of my first name. I’m all in favor of diversity and marrying the person you love regardless of ethnicity, but I’m also a great lover of words. My first name sounds good with my last name. It might not with a new last name.

One man – I’ll call him Love of My Life So Far – made me consider changing my name. His name was also multisyllabic and hyphenated to boot. My first name would have sounded great with his last name. Alas, it was not to be for us, but that’s another story for another time.

For now, I simply write my name on the board with the explanation that it sounds like it looks (it does) and the corollary that Ms. [MyLastInitial] is acceptable.

It’s better than “Hey, you.” (One home care client actually called me that, but in her defense, she was suffering from dementia and not happy about having caregivers outside the family.)

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Filed under Caregiving, Life, the Universe and Everything, Teaching