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Flying Is An Adventure

Posted by Peter Post July 30, 2013 07:00 AM

We’ve all seen them, those crazy stories in the sidebars of internet news pages. Recently, I was reading a CNN.com story online when I noticed a list of “More from CNN Video” which included:

  • Diver: I saw two mountains in the water
  • Neighbor tipped off police to smell
  • The woman Anthony Weiner was sexting
  • Crocodile bites down onto trainer’s head
  • Airline passenger gets TOO comfortable

“What crazy thing has happened on an airplane now?” I thought to myself as I skipped over the possibility of seeing the person Anthony Weiner was sexting.

People do some amazing things on airplanes. It turns out a woman sat down in a seat next to a man and quite quickly not just nodded off, but her head landed in his lap.

Awkward.

He tried getting her to sit back up. No luck. So of course he did the next best thing: he filmed a video of the situation with his phone, maybe to prove it really happened or maybe to see how many views he could get because he posted the video on YouTube. Somehow the video made its way from YouTube to CNN. It turns out that after a few attempts to get her out of his lap he finally succeeded. She solved the problem for him by promptly tilting over into the lap of the guy on her other side.

With all the time in the world to think about it, my Monday morning quarterback decision would be to push the call button and get a flight attendant to help get the lady out of my lap and recline her seat so she could continue her nap without spending the flight in my lap.

Flying is an adventure for sure. It used to be glamorous. Passengers dressed up, flight attendants served mini but elegant meals with real cutlery and cloth napkins, and Pan Am would make up your berth for your overnight flight. Not so today – where the closest thing to a berth is the lap next door. What stories do you have about the unbelievable, amazing things you’ve seen airline passengers do? Leave your story in a comment below.

Babies Royal and Otherwise

Posted by Peter Post July 23, 2013 07:00 AM

Congratulations Kate and William on the arrival of your baby boy!

That’s what you say to a couple who have just enjoyed the birth of a new baby.

But what other baby arrival etiquette is there? Surprisingly, there are several things you should be aware of.

Pre-arrival, a relative or close friend of the parent(s)-to-be may arrange a baby shower. Here’s what to remember about showers and gift-giving:

  • The mother-to-be shouldn’t host or plan her own shower. That’s like asking friends to give you a gift. Very tacky.
  • If you are invited to a baby shower and plan to attend, you should definitely bring a gift. If you’re not sure what to bring, ask the hostess for some suggestions. She should be primed and ready with several possibilities in a variety of price ranges. Remember, the gift should be within your budget, not something you really can’t afford.
  • If you don’t plan to attend then you are off the hook for giving a gift, unless you would like to anyway.
  • If you’re not invited to a shower but want to give a gift, that’s okay, but it may be better to present your gift when you first visit with the parents and new arrival. Giving it at or near the time of the shower may appear that you are miffed you weren’t invited.
  • People always ask us; so, yes, it’s okay to have a shower for subsequent babies.

Post arrival, what other issues should you consider as you arrive for the first visit or call to offer your best wishes?

  • Call first to schedule your visit at a convenient time.
  • Don’t ask questions about the details of the delivery. Focus your questions instead on the baby and how the parents are doing.
  • Don’t relate the story of your horrendous experience at any time. This isn’t about you; it’s about the new parents and their baby.
  • Regardless of your opinion of the name of the child, be complimentary.
  • Keep your visit or phone call short.

Make Your Vacation A Success Getting There

Posted by Peter Post July 16, 2013 07:00 AM

It’s the height of summer and people are taking to the roads for summer holiday trips. My wife and I left on our vacation trip on Sunday, and we were quickly reminded of three driving actions that can end up testing your patience if not triggering road rage.

  1. Failure to focus on the road. We were driving along a four-lane road when the car in front of us drifted into our lane. My wife, who was in the passenger seat, let out a yelp as she thought she was about to make the lady’s acquaintance. The yelp was followed by an expletive (not her usual style) as she noticed the driver of the other car was talking away on a cell phone, completely oblivious of the near accident she had almost caused. Of course you can up the ante to the even worse cell/smart phone crime: texting while driving. It’s gotten to the point now that almost every time I see a person driving a little erratically, I realize the person is talking on a cell phone. Put the phone away, have a passenger talk for you, or pull off to use your phone. As the sign in Vermont says, “Hang up and drive!”
  2. The “I-can-be-anywhere-I-want” driver. This person plunks himself down in the passing lane, drives slower than the traffic and makes cars go around him on the right. On the Interstate in northern Vermont this person isn’t much of a hazard as there are few enough cars on the road. But on Interstate 95 going around Boston (or any other urban area) with people peeling around this person in obvious frustration, not signaling and cutting off other cars, the likelihood of an accident increases immeasurably. Leave the passing lane open for drivers to use to pass.
  3. The “I’ve-never-heard-of-a-four-way-stop” person. Since we have been in kindergarten, we’ve all been taught to take turns, and four-way stops are the epitome of that lesson. Yet, routinely, people don’t wait at a four-way stop but barge through when it’s not their turn. You can sense the collective deep breath, as the other drivers suppress their annoyance. One more uptick on the road rage trigger.

I get it: It’s hot; the roads are crowded; you’re in a hurry; you have to catch a plane, or make a ferry reservation, Almost all the rules in the Driver’s Ed manual are based on courtesy for other drivers and your passengers. Courteous driving leads to safety for all of us. That little extra courtesy, that little extra bit of awareness and attention could make the trip more pleasant, could prevent an accident could save a life. Maybe even your own.

What’s with smiley faces?

Posted by Peter Post July 9, 2013 07:00 AM

I got an email just the other day. There, at the end, was a smiley face: (:

The weird part was the smiley face was backward. When I key it instead as a semicolon followed by a closed parenthesis mark, I end up with ☺.

But I digress. I understood that the writer really intended a smiley face. Maybe it was just a typo.

“Thank you for letting me know what you think (:”. That’s how the writer closed the email, and I’m okay with it. In my book, the smiley face passes muster:

• at the end of an email,
• as a way of ending on a positive note,
• in a friendly email (preferably not a business email).

I wouldn’t recommend it all the time, but once in a while its upbeat message resonates with me. Kind of like finishing a conversation and making sure that as you say “Thanks,” you also smile. After all, that’s what I would recommend a person should do at the conclusion of a conversation. Smile.

But what about using the old smiley face in the body of a message? There, it seems to me, they take on a different meaning: “Hey, in case you missed it, what I just wrote was a joke, a bit of sarcasm, and I want to be sure you know that’s how I meant it.”

Oooops. When you write something and then have to put a qualifying symbol on it to make sure the recipient doesn't misinterpret it, that’s when you should probably go back and reread what you’ve written. Ask yourself if maybe your note needs editing or deleting. Humorous writing is hard to do. Dave Barry does it. Carl Hiaasen does it. David Sedaris and Steve Martin do it. But they’re the exceptions to the rule.

So, next time you think about using a smiley face to convince the recipient about the intent of the tone of your writing, put it aside for a few minutes and then reread it before sending it. Better yet, if you still need the smiley, pick up the phone to deliver your message. You may just save yourself a big headache.

Let Pride Go Before Becoming Hopelessly Lost

Posted by Peter Post July 2, 2013 07:00 AM

I fell victim to a classic male syndrome last Thursday: I didn’t want to ask for help finding my way to someplace.

Now, in my defense, I had input the destination on my iPhone and carefully followed the message prompts to the address. Unfortunately, the address turned out to be a private residence and not the business I was looking for. Later, the people at my destination explained that I was not the first person to be led to the wrong location by a map app. They also noted that the other people had then called the company for directions.

That’s what I should have done; but, no, I was determined to find the place on my own. So I spent the next half-hour becoming more and more hopelessly lost. Luckily, I didn’t have an appointment at a fixed time, or I would have compounded my error by being inexcusably late. Finally, I broke down, pulled over to the side of the road, and called.

I was on Interstate 84 heading east at exit 41 I explained. “Turn around, get on 84 going west and call us after you get off on exit 39.” I pulled aside once I was on exit 39 and called again. In my earlier wanderings, I had actually been right there at exit 39 but turned left when I should have turned right. My hubris tripped me up, but at least now I was heading in the right direction and had my client’s (not my phone’s) reassuring voice guiding me to my destination. A few minutes later I arrived.

My lesson: Call as soon as something is amiss. Cell phone directions are great when they work and that cheery voice has navigated me efficiently and correctly to numerous destinations. But when it fails, I need to swallow my pride, pull over, and call right away. I don’t even think about trying to correct the problem while driving, not even with Siri. That’s a fast way to have an accident. Better yet, call your destination ahead of time and get directions straight from the source.

About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. The column is distributed by The New York Times More »

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