Everyday Etiquette Conundrums

  1. You find a folded $20 bill in the hallway at work. About 30 people have offices on your floor, plus about another 30 pass through that hallway regularly. Is it okay to just pocket the money or should you make some sort of attempt to find the owner?
  2. You’ve been keeping company with someone long enough to decide it is time to take the relationship to the horizontal level. Isn’t it rude of your guest to assume he/she will spend the night? Would it be rude of you to tell them to go home? (In a nice way, of course)
    • By the same token, if you are the guest and want to go home, but just before you are about to leap into your clothes, your host exclaims that he/she is going to make you one of his/her famous frittatas for breakfast. Would it be rude of you to say, “Yummy, what time would you like me to come back?”
  3. You work in a government office, so most “festive” occasions and all-day team work sessions seem to require a pot-luck lunch so as not to waste the taxpayer dollar on catered meals. Is it impolite to eat only from the dish you brought since you are quite squeamish about eating food prepared in kitchens you’ve never inspected by people you barely know who could be:
    • Not washing their hands before touching your food 
    • Licking their fingers while preparing the food
    • Tasting from the stirring spoon and putting it back in the food without washing it first
    • Cooking in a crusty kitchen with crusty pots and crusty utensils
    • Using products that have been in the fridge for months
    • Letting the kids and the dog help
    • Etc.
  4. You follow a doddery old woman out of a public washroom. She’s wearing white trousers, so you don’t notice until you’re back in the mall throng that she has about a foot of toilet paper hanging out of the back of her pants. Ordinarily you’d say, “excuse me,” explain the situation while plucking whatever is dangling from her, off. But this is toilet paper. So, of course, you don’t want to touch it and you don’t want to get into a big thing in front of everyone while she tries to grapple with trying to find and remove the stuff herself. While all this is going through your head, you’re long gone, but find yourself second-guessing the situation for days.
  5. You’ve been waiting 45 minutes  in line for a train that does not have reserved seating. The person in front of you leaves her suitcase and asks you to keep an eye on it while she goes to find her friends. You agree. Time passes and the train starts to board. You’ve had to shuffle her suitcase ahead twice. Then she returns with 7 other adults and 3 kids. They all intend to get in line ahead of you. Do you have to let them or can you tell them to bugger off?

33 responses to “Everyday Etiquette Conundrums

  1. I can’t help with all of these but I have a couple of suggestions.
    1/ When you decide to take the relationship to the physical and aren’t sure about sleep over decisions surprise and delight your partner with semi or public sex. You know back in the stacks in the library. The office after hours, out in the park with all the other pervs. Guaranteed to be memorable.
    2/ You really have to get some help on this germophobe thing.
    Howie is now actually taking medication for his. You have evolved into a wonderful awesome germ fighting and destroying being. If you insist on trying to avoid all germs you will only weaken this astonishing ability and of course drive yourself nuts because you just absolutely can’t avoid them all short of going into the bubble. Generally you must realize if the food isn’t moving, or of a truly strange colour or odor it’s ok. Your body will take care of any unexpected ingredients in there without you ever knowing. Just as it does with the cat spit Bazel puts in your food when you’re not looking.

  2. 1. 30 people working on the floor and 30 randoms. I’d pocket the $20 bucks. You could always do a quick check of the folks right around your cubicle if you’re feeling guilty.

    2. It’s all about context on this one. Is there a boyfriend/girlfriend coming home in the morning? Is there a kid that you don’t want to introduce? Is the person a bad cuddler?

    3. Your host is trying to communicate that he/she would like you to stay by offering the frittatas. Again, context is everything. If you are never planning to get horizontal or spend the night with this person, you may as well just forget about those frittatas.

    4. Wow. Maybe you should call in sick the day of the potluck.

    5. Not touching the toilet paper of others is a good rule. Unless it’s your job, of course.

    6. You smile broadly and move in front of them and say thank you.

  3. 1. Put the money in your desk and wait for someone to ask if anyone has found money. If I lost money, I’d be asking in the hall if someone found it.
    2. I have no idea. I have been married for 27 years and before that, I only had a few relationships.
    3. I don’t think it is impolite to only eat the food you prepared. If you had allergies or other restrictions, you’d do it.
    4. Timing is everything.
    5. It helps to have rehearsed the answer to this one. When she returns, you say, “I’ve been holding YOUR place, since I thought it was only you coming back. Now that I see it is you plus ten, you can have the place behind ME in line, if the people behind me don’t object.”

  4. Re money – I would pin up a note where the money was found; if no takers in 24 hours, my money.
    Re staying the night – I make it clear ahead of time that either I am going home or he is. Mind you, this rule is now 47 years out of date. I married the exception.
    Re food – it is your business what you eat. If anyone urges you to sample something, plead alergies.
    Poor lady. Grab the TP, pull it off and go and wash your hands. (Might have been me!)
    Put the suitcase behind you and stare her down. Let the rest of the line look after itself (selves?) Sigh.

    Here’s one with no right answer – someone you work with closely has sewer breath. What do you do?

  5. 1. You could send out an email to the people on your floor, saying you found some lost money (don’t specify the ammount).

    If someone says “Yeah, I lost 20 bucks”, then you know it’s them.

    If not, then donate it next time you go to Tim Hortons or something. Then you won’t feel guilty.

    2 + 3. No comment. Because I’ve been on both the guest, and the host in these situations. And I still don’t know the best way to handle the situation.

    Believe it or not, there ARE times guys will NOT want to get horizontal, if the situation dosent’ feel right.

    4. Not to mention, some of these pot-luck dishes can be quite shitty.

    Excuse me, if I don’t partake in the lima-bean-raisin casserole. I’ll just stick to the meatballs and mashed potatoes.

    5. Let the doddering old woman deal with it. Similar embarassing things have happened to the rest of us…we’ve survived. So will she. It’s not the end of the world.

    6. That woman is an a-hole, taking advantage of you. Usually in these situations, I end up not saying anything and end up mad at myself later.

    I think sometimes you gotta be an a-hole right back…you can politely say “Excuse me, but you’re 10 people. You can get in line again…BEHIND me”.

    But knowing how things work, she and her whole group would probably end up sitting right to you, the whole trip.

  6. 1. Keep the money unless and until someone starts asking around for it.

    2. I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t you want them to spend the night?? The sleepover’s half the fun….you get to cuddle and tell jokes and laugh, and they’ll get you a glass of water in the middle of the night, and your cat can pee on their shorts. (But I suppose if you feel otherwise, the polite thing to do is to sort that out BEFORE you go to bed. I’d be awfully insulted if someone told me to get dressed and go home right after we had sex.)

    3. Yay! Breakfast!

    4. I always ask around to see who made what. I figure people who are fairly clean in general probably have clean-enough kitchens. If there’s someone in the office who hasn’t washed his coffee cup for thirteen years, I avoid eating the dish he made.

    5. I’ve faced the toilet-paper situation, and while I grappled with how to handle it, she got in a car and drove away.

    6. You have to either let them into the line ahead of you or order them to the back of the line. You can’t let them into the line right behind you, because that’s rude and unfair to the people behind you.

  7. Bandobras – re: public sex… maybe you’re still spry and bendy enough to perform feats of acrobatic brilliance on office desks or park benches and still be able to move the next day, but I prefer to play somewhere cushier. And it’s not so much germaphobe, but that I wouldn’t be able to get the picture of the crusty kitchen out of my mind while trying to eat the stuff.

    Aggie – As to 2 & 3, you almost imply that if you like the person and want to see them again, it’s understood that you’ll spend the whole night together. Is this a universal thing? Can you like them and want to see them again but still want to change your sheets and enjoy a good night’s sleep – alone? Your other suggestions are all bang on. Thanks

    Julia – That’s pretty much what I did about #1 – though I did mention around that I’d found some money in the hall. #5 – So you’d advocate passing the buck, eh? I think (and said) those people ought to go to the back of the line. It’s not fair to those who arrive and hour early to get a good seat when they just fly in at the last minute.

    Susan – I try to eat only my own food, but people give me dirty looks and push stuff on me and ask how I liked their casserole and stuff. I get away with most of it because they know I’m veggie. On the other hand sometimes it’s worse when someone has gone out of their way to make something they consider vegetarian.

    Mary –Ya, it’s probably a good idea to have that “staying or going” conversation beforehand. For some people that would be a deal breaker, wouldn’t it? And I wanted to pull that toilet paper off her, I really did and I’ve pulled things off people in the past, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. I’d have to immerse my hands in bleach immediately afterwards and there wasn’t any around. (The breath thing I covered once in an earlier post – I believe people recommended eating a lot of breath mints and offering them to the stinky breath person regularly)

    Friar – For 2 & 3, I never for a moment suspected that guys had no discretion or standards. The pot-luck wouldn’t be half so bad if people didn’t try so hard to create elaborate family favourites with lots of cream sauces and mystery ingredients. Bring some bread, some cheese, some vegetables, some fruit, some cold cuts – everybody’s happy.

    Zoom – I don’t think everyone loves the sleepover, do they? I hope not. I have enough trouble sleeping as it is without having to contend with someone else’s sounds and smells and hogging space and blankets. But ya, people do tend to get insulted when you start handing them their clothes afterwards. Although sometimes they’re relieved that they get to go home without seeming rude. It’s a tricky discussion to have before OR after, but before is definitely the way to go. #4 is sometimes made worse if you ask who made it and then avoid it. I agree about #6, except there’s not way I’d let 10 people, who were too lazy/disorganized to get to the station in time, in line ahead of me.

  8. XUP, I don’t believe in universals….But, from my perspective if the horizontal action is taking place in the bed – the place of sleep – there is an assumption that the night will spent together. Otherwise, I’m kind of with Bandobras on the idea of finding other places, although you’re right, the bendy thing can be a problem. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that going to yoga once a week is going to remedy this problem.

    “Can you like them and want to see them again but still want to change your sheets and enjoy a good night’s sleep – alone?” — I guess so. But isn’t fun to wake up in a mangled bed with a semi-stranger?

  9. Oh hell at my age I can just barely get my shoes tied but for the sake of some nookie I don’t mind being bent over in agony for a few days afterward.
    On the other hand I can’t stand touching other people you never know where they have been or how “crusty ” their kitchen might be. It’s not a germ thing though.

  10. 1. Shout “Who’s the Canadian dropping funny coloured money in the hall?”

    2. I’m kind of old fashioned: if you’re going horizontal, you expect to sleep together (as in actually SLEEP together – gives you a heads up if he’s a snorer too)

    3. Yes.

    4. Umm, do you never eat in restaurants either?

    5. Shuffle up to her, tell her quietly and offer to act as a human shield while she attends to it herself.

    6. I’d like to say I would tell her to bugger off but being the wimp I am, I probably wouldn’t. I would damn well expect her to make sure I got a seat though!

  11. Its funny about #4 because we just had a potluck BBQ at my work. I sampled everything that was vegetarian and just trusted my co-workers to have basic hygiene. I think you’re risking your health more by eating at restaurants, particularly chain ones. (ie. Kelsey’s, Montana’s, etc.)

  12. Aggie – In answer to your last question –NO! Not at all. Not even a little bit. And then what? Then you’re expected to feed them breakfast. And then they just hang around. All day. And then you get cranky from not sleeping properly and then you never want to invite them over again. Lots of married people have separate beds or separate rooms even.

    Bandobras – I sense that you’re mocking me in an ever-so-subtle manner.

    Loth – Restaurants have regular health inspections, the results of which you can look up online. So, I have a reasonable expectation that there are no children or animals in the kitchen; that it’s cleaned and disinfected fairly regularly and that the staff has been trained in proper kitchen hygiene. And I guess I’m in the minority of one on questions 2 and 3. There’s obviously something seriously wrong with me. I’d go into therapy, but I don’t actually want to fix it – that’s how far gone I apparently am.

    Hannah – You think? But, as I said to Loth, restaurants have to adhere to some sort of level of cleanliness and good hygiene practice. I worked in one once and, while they do cut corners, it was a hell of a lot cleaner than a lot of private kitchens I’ve been in. Including mine, since, for example, my cat is in there all the time. I’d never pass an inspection.

  13. 1. Finders Keepers. You didn’t see who dropped it, so consider it a gift of circumstance…for you, and not the unlucky loser. (of the money, not loser in general)

    2. Never assume, however, an invitation to bed is almost always an invitation to spend the night unless otherwise discussed. What’s the point of going home all alone? Oh…right…you actually LIKE having alone time. 😉
    3. Talk of breakfast is a definite sign that s/he’s wanting you to stay the night. Duh. 😉

    4. If the food looks good and smells good and has no visible anomalies, take some. Life is too short to worry about a potluck. (Unless you have severe food allergies, etc.)

    5. If you’re close enough to say something, tell her. Don’t get too involved. If she’s already moved into the crowd and you’d make a scene darting after her, just let it go.

    6. If you’ve agreed to watch the lady’s suitcase, when she comes back, you step in front of it (toward the beginning of the line) and let her fall in place behind you. That way, it doesn’t matter if she has one or 15 people with her…they can content with the others behind you. Your reward for watching her bag was getting to board before her. (Personally, I don’t watch strangers’ bags, but that’s just me…)


  14. I just asked dischevelled man about #2 and he says he would not assume, but would ask the person if she were comfortable with him staying and would not be hurt if asked politely to leave. So, it seems there are non-assumers out there…
    The hanging around all day would be a REAL problem for me. And, breakfast should never be assumed. Not that there are universals or anything.

  15. 1) the money is yours
    2) if you are willing to share one another’s genitalia, then breakfast or at least COFFEE in the morning is expected (by the way around me this is NEVER a question – its a race between my head hitting the pillow and my snoring – post coitally speaking)
    3) See above
    4) “You work in a government office, so most “festive” occasions and all-day team work sessions seem to require a pot-luck lunch so as not to waste the taxpayer dollar on catered meals.”
    OK so when did we enter the realm of fantasy?
    This is one of them there re-tor-eye-cul questions ain’t it?
    5) Enjoy the amusement of the visual.
    6) Throw the luggage down on the tracks – deny that you have ever seen this person and make sure that they see the set of nunchucks that you are cleverly wearing as an ascot.

  16. 1-I would post a sign near the spot that said, “If you think you may have dropped an item near this spot, please dial extension XYZ to identify what it may have been.”

    2 & 3 – I don’t think I would want to “sleep” with someone that I wouldn’t want to sleep with. And if they cook, all the more good with all the sleeping.

    4-You should never have to explain your eating habits to anyone. Just eat what you brought. If you really are concerned about what they think or hurting their feelings just say, “When I was making this (buying this?) it smelled so good that I’ve been dying to eat it all day and I’m afraid that’s all I can eat today, but your casserole (salad or whatever) certainly looks good.”

    5-I would chase her down, tap her shoulder and say, “I certainly don’t want to embarass you but you have some tissue attached to you. If you want to step over here, I will shield you while you remove it.”

    6-I would smile when they returned and merrily say, “Since I’ve been taking care of your suitcase, I’ll just jump ahead of you guys. I’m glad you found your friends. Have fun on your trip!” And just GO.

  17. To MARY G:
    Pull the person aside and say, “This is really hard for me to say, but I am worried about you. I read something recently about unusual mouth smells possibly being a sign of cancer. You should see your dentist to check your mouth for any signs of oral cancer.”

    The person will be too freaked out about cancer to be offended by your pointing out their “unusual mouth smell.” Also it’s actually true. Or it could just be a cavity or gum disease.

  18. 1) search for the person who lost the money
    2) i’d think a conversation of these kinds of expectations would have already taken place prior to getting horizontal
    3) same as two
    4) stick with the lazy bums who brought store-packaged goods 🙂 actually this one is tough, i am squirmish about “strange” food. that’s one big reason i didn’t do well in apartment buildings, the smells of other peoples cooking bothers me.
    5)i would tell her. i would want someone to tell me.
    6)same as the others who said they would stay in front of the person and their posse.

  19. CP – Wow, you’re tough. The money thing is interesting because it would be dependant on the amount, wouldn’t it? One, two or even five bucks isn’t a big deal (depending on where it was found), but when you get into 10 and 20 dollars — this is money people will miss. What if it gets higher? Like my daughter’s friend who found $160 all folded up in a bundle in the mall? Oddly enough, it was the exact amount she needed to supplement her budget for the prom dress she really wanted to get. Someone is really going to miss that money. She could have turned it in to security, because if I’d lost that much money that’s where I would go. But I also can’t blame her for keeping it. What if it’s a bag with thousands of dollars in it? At what point is “finder’s keepers” no longer valid, I wonder?

    Aggie – Good to know that not everyone assumes. I certainly wouldn’t. However, I would assume that if I were asked to stay the night, that I would be given breakfast in the morning — or at least taken out for breakfast the next morning. In any case, we’re agreed that whether or not you’re given breakfast you have to leave in the morning, right?

    Lebowski – So, it’s not that you want to bask in the afterglow of love that makes you vote for the sleeping over, but the fact that you pass out right afterwards and couldn’t care less who or what is in the bed next to you as long as they give you breakfast the next day? #4 – I don’t know what you mean. Government is very concerned about optics and we are never allowed to buy anything that is consumed, worn or owned personally by an employee. Or isn’t that what you meant by fantasy? Were you talking about the all-day work session?

    Geewits – I may have to hire you as my personal assistant. Your advice is all very sound. I wish I’d told that poor lady about her toilet paper. And the bad breath thing is hilarious and scary at the same time. Would you really do that?

    Meanie – I think the money one had the greatest variety of responses. As I said to CP, I think it would depend a lot on how much money and where it was found. And I’m not sure I can wrap my head around how this pre-coital conversation would go. “So, let’s go back to my place and get busy, but when we’re done you have to go”.. It’s easiest to avoid the whole issue by never having them over to your place. Then you can just make your excuses and leave when you feel like it, don’t you think? And #4 – yes, I always strongly encourage people to buy their pot-luck offerings and even suggest how much easier it is if they just go to Farm Boy and get a read-made “whatever”. And the last one, I would have real trouble with just pushing these people behind me (and, consequently, in front of all the other people who’ve been waiting patiently) It would feel like I was butting those people in – in front of everyone. I would (and did) suggest that the new people go to the end of the line since it wasn’t fair on all the people who’ve been here an hour

  20. Pingback: knitnut.net » An ethical dilemma and a poll

  21. My Finders Keepers answer applies to your direct question: $20 in a hallway at work where oodles of passersby go.

    As for other larger amounts and what type of container they’re in? I’ve seen way too many movies to not be paranoid about even touching large sums of organized money. 😉

  22. 1. Send out an email say you found 20 bucks and if the person who thinks they lost it can give you the seriel number they can have it back.

    2. Rent a motel you both can go home.

    3. Always do it at motels. You get a lot of little soaps and shampoos as parting gifts…and towels if you are in need of cheap towels.

    4. Tell everyone you have a sensitive stomach and don’t want to ruin their bathroom experiences for the rest of the day so it is best you eat your own food.

    5. You will be old some day just grab the T.P. let it fall to the floor run to the bathroom and wash your hands repeatedly. This is why you should always carry alcohol wipes…or just Vodka. With Vodka you can sanatize you in and out.

    6. When you see them coming in the distance immediately hand the suitcase to the person behind you and say pass it back and it will eventually get to the last person in line. When the person gets to you point behind you and say it’s back there: I wrenched by back with your bag what you got in their rocks? I couldn’t haul it any further…sorry..have a good trip.” Put your hand on your back and move forward, wince a little but keep that smile on your face…you would not want them to think you rude.

  23. Jazz – Yes.

    Meanie – First they just looked stunned, but then I guess they noticed that a bunch of the people behind me were giving them dirty looks too, so then they just looked embarrassed and left. The couple behind us had already commented on how rude the person was to just disappear for so long, expecting me to hold their spot all that time.

    CP – I’m with you on the mysterious bundles of large amounts of cash. I believe I wrote a short story on that very topic once and posted it here, called The Paper Bag

    Cedar – Bwah – ha-ha. As usual, your advice is right on the money.

  24. I’m most curious about the train line situation. How did you handle it? Just reading about that peeved me to no end. I hate budding. It is AGAINST THE RULES.

    I have to say that I think the answer to #6 is to tell people you won’t watch their bag. I suspect I would passive-aggressive it and just leave her bag, and not shuffle it along. I do kind of suck, though. 🙂

  25. 1. Put up a post it note where you found the money as Mary G said
    2. Never make assumptions – an outline of expectations could be of part of the foreplay chatter.
    3. As above – best to let the morning chef know whether you even like frittata.
    4. I’ve worked in kitchens serving food to the public and it ain’t always pretty. Unless someone has come down with food poisoning, eat what looks appetizing, and if that is only what you brought, so be it.
    5. One day you will be old… find a bench or a big plant to use as a shield and steer her towards it.
    6. While you are shuffling her suitcase forward, kick it out to the side. When she returns with her gang, her luggage will no longer be part of the line. Quite conceivably the people behind you will close the gap to not let her – them – in.

  26. dude, i am so with you on the potluck thing. i don’t even trust my man with the mayonnaise jar. he’s basically not allowed to touch anything that won’t be consumed by him during the meal because his food handling practices are appalling. and he used to work in a pizza restaurant for god’s sake. i no longer think of pizza as food, which could be a coincidence.

  27. Lynn – As I mentioned in a couple of the comments above, I just told her that her friends would have to go to the back of the line. They looked shocked and confused at first, but people behind me were scowling, too, so they took themselves off to the back of the line. She went with them.

    Violetsky – That’s probably what I should have done with the suitcase. And I didn’t hesitate about the toilet paper because she was old — it was because it was TOILET paper. I’ve picked things off young and old alike, but never TOILET paper.

    Hallie – Thank you. Everyone else seems to think it’s perfectly all right to just consume any old crap. I have the same problem with buffets and salad bars — all sorts of people have been peering at the food and breathing into it and maybe even touching it. Why would I want to eat that?

  28. 1. Pocket the cash, spend it foolishly. (I bought a bunch of folks coffee.)

    2/3 — Depends, if you were like me almost 20 years ago, you’d have gotten dressed and pleaded “Thanks but I have to be at work really early and need to get my uniform.” If it’s more serious and there is more than a meal to set up the hook up, say a few dates, then I think spending the night needs to be discussed.

    4. Totally up to you what you eat… more of the foodie’s goodies for me.

    5. Tell her, she can pull it out. (Ditto if her skirt is tucked into her panties.)

    6. Ideally they would let you go first for saving the spot. If they don’t I’d cut in line in front of them.


  29. the money one is a toss up, hard to say. you could donate it…

    as for sleeping over, i don’t think it’s rude to say you aren’t comfortable doing that yet. i’ve done that before and have had it done to me and it’s ok. also a good way to test their boundaries, to see if they freak out. there was a fella that i dated many years ago, he spent the night over and never left.

    potlucks are scary for me too, as are buffets. i face the fear i guess and sample what i can and work through it.

    i would have been wondering what i should have done about toilet paper lady too.

    as for the train i like what someone else suggested about moving in front of them and saying thanks.