Six Behaviors That Drive Me Nuts

Liar Game
I think I'd rather not play this one, thanks!Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I’m probably guilty of them as well, and another dozen even worse.

But, I’m done!

In the past month, I’ve been pelted with bad behavior from all directions.


Failure to communicate

This tops my list. I grew up in a family of professional communicators — writers and film-makers and TV folk — who rarely-to-never told me much I needed to know. Like, how to drive or balance a checkbook or the fact our house had been sold and I had to move out within weeks, during college mid-term exams.

So this pattern of behavior, which also seems specifically and annoyingly Canadian, makes me crazy. I can’t get on with my life and make decisions, from when to book a flight to how much to budget this month, without data. It makes me feel powerless and that’s not a happy place.

When I ask someone for help, advice, an answer, a recommendation, a reference, a contact — anything! –– do me the basic courtesy of giving me an answer. Before the next milennium.

The reply might be: “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to” or “I can’t.”

Or “I’m just too busy right now” or “I don’t have the answers yet.”

But pick up that phone and send that email. Don’t leave someone just hanging who clearly needs to know something, sooner rather than later.

If you’re ambivalent, make a decision. If you’re terrified of confrontation, do it by email. But do it.


I was only slapped twice in my life by my parents, once by my Dad and once by my Mom, both times because I lied. I still remember each incident vividly and it made abundantly clear to me that lying is not an option.

Telling someone something you know for certain is not true can set into motion, as it often does and is intended to, an entire domino chain of consequences, most of which  — you know — will be lousy for that person. Don’t do it.


Ditto. I’m a straightforward person. I can only run my life efficiently, safely and happily if I know what’s really going on, not some wallpapered version you’re feeding me. Deception really means you’re happy manipulating me to your own ends. You’re really OK with that?


Ugh. I live in a northern suburb of New York City, where entitlement is like oxygen — everywhere, invisible and taken utterly for granted. Size 00 women drive $80,000 cars, live in 10,000 square foot mansions paid for by largely invisible husbands working 100-hour weeks. Yet their hyper-tutored SAT-prepped children are often such little social savages my gynecologist had to draw up a two-page single-space contract (!) explaining how they must behave in her office.

In my retail job, the subject of my forthcoming book, “Malled” My Unintentional Career in Retail” I discuss the egregious attitudes of the hedge fund crowd who shopped in our store. We, as low-wage, low-level associates, were nothing more than that hour’s peon to them. In an era of growing, stunning income inequality, this gets old.

Just because you have a lot of money, right now, doesn’t mean you’re smarter/better/kinder/wiser than anyone else on this planet. It just means you have more money. Get over yourself.

Faux urgency

I recently re-connected, after a decade’s silence, with someone who had once been a fairly close friend. The next day, she asked for a favor on behalf of a friend of hers. Then asked again. You know, if I’ve been that invisible and unimportant to your life for ten years, it can wait.

Whatever feels reallyreallyreally urgent to us may barely register on someone else’s radar. I was shocked into this a few days ago when I called a dear friend, who’d been uncommunicative in response to a request, and discovered that his father had suddenly fallen ill and died.

When people don’t respond at once, (if they are typically courteous enough to communicate with you), there’s probably a really good reason. Their urgency outweighs yours.


Not acceptable. Ever.

This is, no doubt, due to my own upbringing in a WASP, Canadian family.

Feelings? Outwardly expressed?

I think not!


But seriously, there are very few situations that really allow room for wailing, weeping, the gnashing of teeth and the (public at least) rending of garments. Your inability to find a parking space or get a pedicure appointment or gaining 3.5 pounds are not in this category.

Hold it together — using whatever means necessary (yoga, prayer, Xanax, martinis) — and your calm, grace and class will always elicit much more help, kindness and action from others around you than hand-flapping and hysteria.

Everyone’s got something crappy happening in their life, too. It might be whole lot worse than yours, but they’re not whining about it.

Do tell….

What are some of the behaviors around you these days driving you mad?

Steve Slater — Hero!

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If there’s a popular hero right now, it’s Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who hit his last nerve, cursed at a plane full of passengers and fled, beer in hand.

My retail memoir has a chapter devoted to Customers From Hell. I always had a running list of the brutes, morons, divas and princesses who made our lives behind the cash-wrap toxic and wearying. It took a lot to make my top five, but there was — sadly — plenty of competition.

We live in a country where the rich see the rest of us as peons, weird little creatures scurrying beneath their feet. Outtamyway! The income inequality is growing while millions of others are losing their homes and jobs, with no idea how they will find a new job or home or pay their most basic bills.

I saw this princess-iness firsthand while selling T-shirts and ski jackets to the wealthy shoppers in my suburban area. Their sense of entitlement was relentless and anyone who dared oppose it does so at the risk of losing their job.

I was in a fabric store the other day and shared war stories with an employee there. We all have war stories! She is in her 60s, elegant, calm, helpful — and told me that a young woman who couldn’t find what she wanted (but could not even describe it) snapped her fingers at her. Then, still unable and unwilling to tell the associate what it was she looking for, complained to management that this employee was unhelpful.

If this behavior was occurring anywhere private, sharp words would be exchanged and the offending diva put neatly in his or her place. But, no, when it’s public, the worker has to suck it up and the offending party can safely revel in their temporary power.


Slater faces criminal charges. His profanity offended many people. His reaction was intemperate.

But every single person working in a service job knows exactly how he felt.

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Etiquette, Schmetiquette — Do Manners Still Matter? (Yes!)

High-change in Bond Street,—ou—la Politesse du...
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The definition of good manners, it’s been said, is making sure everyone feels comfortable. But, in an age of nano-niches, where it’s entirely possible to spend most of your leisure time — if not work — interacting only with people who abide by the same rules you think worthwhile (which may include having no rules,) how is that supposed to work?

The nature of social life, on-line and especially face to face, means dealing with a wide range of people, some of whose codes you may not know or may not care much about. As the French say, tant pis. Too bad. Just because you think leaving a used tampon on the bathroom floor or coughing into my face is cool, you’re wrong!

The recent death of etiquette expert Elizabeth Post marks for some the end of an era.

The publication of a new book by Derek Blasberg may mark the next. “Classy” is billed as a guide for the modern lady. The guy’s 27, so he still hasn’t been around the block too many times yet.

His advice includes items never to carry in your handbag: Food you spat out (!) Drugs or other illegal substances (where else, in your bra? Your bloodstream?) Stolen merchandise (excuse me?)

This is…not obvious?

Perhaps not.

Here are 10 rules that work for me:

When addressing anyone over the age of, say, 12, do not — as a receptionist at physical therapy recently did with me — say “What’s up?” Or “Wassup?” If you’re working behind a counter (I recently did 2+ years in retail), “Hello. How may I help you?” is a much better  choice. I am not your peep. I am your customer. I have other choices, and your boss(es) would be wise to remember this.

When leaving or entering a building or room, do not let the door slam behind you into the next person. No one is in that much of a hurry.

Cellphones and PDAs are not a heart defibrillator — those are actually surgically implanted. You can live without one for the time it takes to conduct a job interview, meet for a date (even a blind date or a first date [lest it become your last date], attend a wedding/bar/bat mitzvah/funeral/memorial service.

If someone is walking slowly, (not because they are selfishly staring into their PDA), and this is annoying you, do not push or shove them out of your way. They may be ill, tired or recovering from injury. Allow them the space and time they need. If this is simply too much, live in your limo.

When using public transit, move quickly to the back to make room for everyone else. There are multiple doors and the operative word is public.

When you receive an invitation to a private social event, no matter how tedious you deem it, give the courtesy of a reply, promptly. Do not cancel at the last minute unless you or a loved one is very ill. Don’t just show up with anyone you haven’t mentioned is coming along; your host/ess may well have devoted serious time, money, thought and energy to this moment. Ignoring these efforts is like throwing a gift in someone’s face.

Thank-you notes, written in ink on a lovely card or personal stationery, are not the mark of a dinosaur but someone with…yes…class. So few people even bother to thank anyone, in any medium, you’ll stand out for miles by being so thoughtful.

Send flowers. Or bring them. Do it often. Unless your recipient is allergic, they are an affordable grace note.

When seated at a dinner table with others who are new to you, converse with them. Ask questions, nicely. Do not blather on about yourself endlessly, because, really, how interesting could they possibly be? Very, if you graciously inquire about their hobbies or pets or latest travel or favorite music. Do not use the tedious crowbar of: “So what do you do?” within the first three sentences; what if they’re unemployed? (See: make everyone comfortable.)

As they say in journalism — when in doubt, leave it out. If you think (as you must, always, before you speak) a joke or comment might offend, skip it. What’s the upside?