On the street
Anywhere I’m at, the cell phone etiquette is awful. Whether I’m working, waiting in line somewhere or driving, it’s invaded every facet.
Next time you're at a live-music event, look at the ticket in your pocket.
Chances are, you won't find your own name on the ticket, and there's a good reason for that - namely, that people paid good money to hear the person named on the ticket sing, not you.
Think of singing along with a performer the way you would telling a dirty joke: If you have to ask yourself whether it's a good idea, the answer is just about always no. True, there are shows where an integral part of the experience involves frenzied mobs singing along with every word (see: Bruce Springsteen), even if some crowds tend to go overboard with it (see: the Avett Brothers).
But if you're the only one in the crowd singing, you'll get (and deserve) lots of dirty looks and maybe worse. So you really need to find a different way to express your appreciation. Here's a hint: It's called "applauding," and people do it between songs.
This is just one of the faux pas noticeable at entertainment outings. For the sake of the rest of the crowd - at concerts, movie theaters, restaurants and even playgrounds - it's best to follow some ground rules so everyone can have a good time.
Silver screen slipups
If you must talk during a movie, please say something clever.
It doesn't matter if you're young or old, there isn't one thing that'll put a monkey wrench in a moviegoer's evening quicker than people who won't shut their yapper during the feature presentation. Whether they're reiterating what just happened onscreen or asking stupid questions about what's going on in the movie - or even just commenting on their life in general - people who talk during movies should be punished.
Are you one of those chatterboxes who feel the need to talk? Then pick your spots. Go to a multiplex known for its chatty clientele, find a really bad movie worth your running commentary and riff away. But make sure you say something that's worth saying, or else you'll leave the theater sorry.
Keep your cell on vibrate. And when it does vibrate, don't accept the call! It's bad enough when a cell phone goes off and the audience has to endure some chump's so-called "hip" ringtone, which is usually the hook from the latest Rihanna or Ciara single. But what is so important that you have to take the call in the theater? If you do take the call, please leave the auditorium. Don't just sit there and start yammering, describing what's happening onscreen to your boy on the other end. That's how you end up with Milk Duds and Jujyfruits thrown at the back of your head.
Please leave the loud, unruly kids at home, especially those who shouldn't be watching a movie that's graphically violent, profane or sexually explicit - you awful, neglectful parents, you! There are few things worse than having an infant or child wail his or her head off during a movie. But please tell us we're not the only ones who are disgusted every time we see people walk in with tykes who are front row and center at the latest "Saw" or "Hostel" sequel. Are these parents on crack or something? The next time you see this obvious act of child abuse, please go to the theater lobby and contact child protective services.
Dining dos and don'ts
If you've made a reservation at a restaurant and you find you need to cancel it or change the time or number in your party, call the restaurant and let them know as soon as possible. Whatever you do, don't book simultaneous reservations at multiple restaurants just so you can keep your options open until the last minute, then fail to cancel the reservations you won't be needing. That's just tacky.
Do restrain your child from yelling, throwing things and getting up from the table and running around the dining room. It isn't just inconsiderate of other customers, but it's also a hazard for the child and the wait staff. Don't assume that everyone thinks your kids' "antics" are as cute as you do. Those aren't smiles of admiration on the faces of the couple at the table next to you; they're clenched teeth.
Come to think of it, don't even take small children to a restaurant unless you know it's kid-friendly. Crayons at the host stand are a good sign, as are high chairs in the corner of the dining room. White tablecloths, soft lighting and an extensive wine list - not so good. When in doubt, call ahead and ask.
Feel free to eat sushi (but not sashimi) with your fingers. It's every bit as acceptable as chopsticks. If you use chopsticks, and you're supplied with one of those cheap, splintery pairs, don't let tradition stop you from rubbing the business ends together to smooth them out. It's considered an affront to the restaurant, implying that its chopsticks are inferior - to which I say, then don't give me inferior chopsticks.
Do tip 15 percent to 18 percent for good service, 20 percent or more for outstanding service. If service has been unsatisfactory, don't just stiff the waiter without telling a manager - or better yet, the owner - why. Chances are, especially in today's fiercely competitive restaurant market, management will appreciate your input. Besides, you owe it to yourself and your fellow restaurantgoers. In the long run, after all, we as a region will get the level of service we demand.
When you're at the playground, just relax. Don't get lost in a cell phone call; play with your child. But stand to the side if they make a new friend. If there's a little scuffle over who is next on the slide or who won't share sand toys, let the kids work it out. Or course, if Lucy is causing physical injury or is just being a huge bully, plowing through the playground, take her away. Otherwise, the kids can figure it out. They'll be all right.
Don't bring 50 books or other memorabilia to a bookstore to get signed. The author is there to share his latest work. Taking advantage just isn't nice. On the other hand, do buy 50 books at the bookstore and have them signed. (Especially if it's an independent store.)
Asking questions of the author is welcomed. But not one of those five-minute, multipart winding ones. Look around. There are other book lovers waiting to ask questions, too.
You're a writer, and an admired writer comes to town. Is there a better time than that to ask for editing help from your hero for your own work? Why yes, there is.