Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Someone Offers You A Flyer

Some people go to work and push paper, others go to work and hand out paper, aka, flyers. We see these people doing their jobs every day especially in urban centers. We see them but we don't acknowledge them. They become invisible men and women. We're not recommending that you strike up a conversation. But you don't have to go out of your way to get out of their way. When one is in front of you, a little eye contact can't hurt. Or what about, "No, thank you."?  Yvette actually received a thank you back from a man handing out a sale flyer "You could tell he appreciated that I noticed him instead of acting as though he wasn't there."

"I don't take flyers from people on the street because it's a waste of paper. I'm just going to throw it out," one friend argued. There's validity in that argument and we like trees too but someone has a lousy job to do and there's still room to be gracious.

Times are tough, people are doing jobs they never thought they'd be doing. It could be us. In fact, it was. During the campaign we both volunteered to hand out flyers for Obama. Most people took the them, some even smiled. Others walked by without so much as a glance. One man tried so hard to avoid us, he bumped into another passerby.  You'd think we were handing out the plague. We knew it wasn't anything personal, but being treated as invisible women was weird. Of course, when we gave out buttons, we received plenty of eye contact and outreached hands.

Don't let a piece of paper send your manners flying out the window.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


What is it about some people who seem to always know the right thing to do or say? Is it in their genes? Was it taught? Or are we all born with the basics and some how through the years what came so naturally becomes undone? 

Our parents teach us to say 'please', 'thank you' and 'you're welcome'. Each and every one of us comes across adults every day who don't seem to have much use for these words. You know they've heard of them and even used them once upon a time. But for some reason, they've thrown them away as if manners have become a relic of another era.

There's clearly a new rule. In the city we see it on buses and trains. Men will look up at a woman from their seats and continue to sit. They will bury themselves in books and newspapers oblivious to the lady standing. Young people will sit in seats reserved for the elderly or physically challenged while laughing or talking on their cell phones as if it's all right.

Neighbors will get on elevators and not acknowledge you. They will take out their cellphones and hold a conversation while they invade your space filling every square inch with rudeness.

We were told again and again, what we do is a reflection of our parents. We wanted them to be proud of us. And they were, every time it was reported by our friends' parents how well mannered we were.

On another note, we heard from our mother who was at the inauguration that there was a lot of booing whenever Bush's name was mentioned.  This was disturbing. Why boo during a joyous celebration of another person's success? This was a time to be gracious. President Obama was. 

We have a new First Family. They are poised, gracious, engaging, respectful of each other and all of us. Let's take a page out of their historic book. Or why don't we revisit our own book - it's all there.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dreams do come true.

Thank you, Dr. King.

We'll be back on Wednesday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Guest Towels: Why They Count

There's something about guest towels. Some guests use them and many still don't. It's as if they think they don't deserve to wipe their hands on a nice piece of cloth, better to use their host's personal towel.

To use guest towels or not to use them depends on your own family's bathroom traditions. In many families, nice towels were just for 'show'. They were a way to create or complete the color scheme of the bathroom. Often, they took up valuable real estate and sent guests guessing. Is this for me? Is this for show? There's always toilet paper. But those little wet bits and pieces are so annoying and picking them off your hands is time consuming. 

Using 'show' towels, depending how close you were to the resident interior designer aka the woman of the house could earn you a scolding or calling out. "Who used my towel? It was for show." Should they have used your towel? No one wins when a guest uses a personal towel to wipe their hands. The host gets to do more laundry (their towels are larger than guest towels) and guests get who knows what.

"I didn't want to use your nice towel, so I used the one hanging on the wider rack." A well meaning guest said recently. That towel, apparently not as nice ended up in the hamper and was replaced by a fresh one. Meanwhile the guest towel was still fresh. The intention was thoughtful and kind but guest towels are called that for good reason. In trying to do the right thing, they have done the wrong thing.

Yvette takes her towels out of the bathroom when she entertains and places towels on the racks and a tray of paper napkins near the sink.

I take my chances. I leave my towels in the bathroom, cover one with a sheer guest towel hoping that someone will get the hint, 'Use this, not MY terrycloth towel underneath.' I then place a couple on the sink. 

Our mother has come up with a solution that we strongly don't recommend. She has three guest towels. Pinned to one of them is a little note, 'Please use paper guest towels.' While we share many genes with her, the show towel one skipped us.  We prefer thank you notes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thanks For Sharing, But No Thanks

Sharing seems to be in with the economic crisis hitting us where it hurts. In our stomachs in restaurants where sharing, nothing new, seems to be a practical idea. 

Some foods are a natural for sharing such as French fries. There's nothing like a crispy plateful among friends. It is perfectly acceptable to eat French fries with your fingers. However, digging through the pile in search of the perfect fry isn't. The one you touch first is the one you eat. Most restaurants will give each diner a small plate. This should be used to put on individual helpings of ketchup.  It's probably one of the rare occasions wherein you can double dip with gusto. If the idea of someone taking a fry off the plate with their hands is uncomfortable, take a few with a fork off the plate without making a fuss. You can say, "I'm just having a few, you can have the rest."

Sometimes it's fun to order different foods at a restaurant to get a taste of this and that a la Chinese but not in a Chinese restaurant. This can be a mess if there aren't any smaller plates on the table onto which you can put a sampling of someone else's entree. A piece of flaky fish may not make it from one plate to another.  A crab cake could work or a slice of meat or a chicken leg may travel better. Unless you're a food critic, plates shouldn't take table tours.

We've all seen one person digging into another's plate without asking permission. Maybe none is needed if you're close enough to the person but it's probably not an example of well mannered dining.

Soup just doesn't work when it comes to sharing. No matter how delicious it is, don't offer a taste. Good friends and loved ones have germs too. And somehow slurping already slurped soup isn't appetizing. The same goes for a salad. There's nothing wrong with sharing an abundant one but not from the same plate. Put it on a separate one and this way you get to choose your dressing. Maybe you don't like creamy Ranch.

Calamari is another good sharing food. Some like to dip it in a sauce, (This isn't done in Italy, you ask for a dipping sauce there and they will look at you with great disdain and mumble how Americans don't know how to eat.) others like to squeeze lemon over them. If you don't mind several dippers in the same small bowl of sauce, enjoy. Fortunately, calamari is a one bite food so the sauce should remain 'clean'.  If you want to have some with lemon, take a few off with a clean fork off the main plate, put it on another plate and go for it. Just try to remember to leave some for the others.

Restaurants make sure that there's enough bread for each person. When taking a roll from the bread basket, take the whole roll. You can tear off a piece any way you want once it's on your bread plate. Never put it back in the basket. Imagine, you're fresh from a New York subway ride, didn't think to wash your hands and now you're in the bread basket. You see where we're going?

Our friend in Chicago asks, "What do you do if someone accidentally drinks your drink or wants you to taste what they're drinking?"

We think the best way to handle the first situation is not to point it out and if you can, get a fresh drink. Don't make the accidental drinker feel badly. Don't say a word. If someone is insisting that you take a swig of their cocktail, that's up to you. If you're uncomfortable, you can point out that you're getting over a cold.  A germy laden excuse is always convincing.

What do you think? Feel free to share, please.