New York Urban Etiquette, or "yes we have manners!"
New York Magazine has got a great tongue-in-cheek article, "The Urban Etiquette Handbook." For writers researching NYC, this is totally invaluable as it highlights numerous features of NY daily living that I'm, sure, most people in other parts of the country don't need to consider.
New Rules for Getting Along.
How do you politely determine the level of commitment of a gay couple?
One approach, of course, is to do it the same way you would for a straight couple: Ask how long they’ve been together; determine where Party A lives and, later in the conversation, ask Party B if he lives in Chelsea/Park Slope/Hell’s Kitchen, too; ask one of them if he has a dog and listen to see whether the other speaks about it with a tone of ownership. Cohabitation isn’t necessarily a sign of commitment, though: Many gay men have open relationships, so the only surefire way to know the level of commitment is to offer to go home with one of them.
When does an e-mail exchange end?
At the office, acknowledging receipt of requested work or information is entirely appropriate and necessary, but acknowledging receipt of receipt-acknowledgment is superfluous.
How do you walk into your apartment building behind a woman while letting her know you’re not a mugger/rapist?
First, know what you’re dealing with: She fears getting into the elevator with you, she fears your walking up the stairs on her tail, and she fears appearing like she’s rattled by either. The gentlemanly thing to do, then, is to make a concerted effort to avoid all of the above. In an elevator building, find a reason to hang back and let the doors close on her alone. In a walk-up building, however, fiddling at your mailbox will just force her to adopt a more panicked pace. Consider answering a pretend cell-phone call: “Hi, Mom!”
When is it okay to ask a stranger about something in the newspaper he’s holding on the train?
Paper-snooping is acceptable in only two situations: (1) if it’s a news story of sufficient importance that the next people you see outside the train will be talking about it, or (2) if it’s sports news with commiseration potential. (“Traded who for hot-dog-concession equipment? Fuckin’ Isiah.”) Even in the random event you see an article mentioning your own name, you probably shouldn’t say anything: Either it’s in a flattering light and you’d be boastfully massaging your own ego, or it’s in a non-flattering light and the person reading the paper probably doesn’t want to know that he’s just met the Park Avenue Pervert.
Breaching Subway Decorum
When it’s okay to annoy strangers on a train.
Crime: Plucking eyebrows, curling eyelashes, flossing teeth (!), or clipping fingernails (!!) on the subway.
Rudeness Factor: 8
Why It’s Inappropriate: Because a civilized society is measured by the delineations between its public-transit vehicles and its bathrooms.
When It’s Appropriate: If it’s your absolute last chance to freshen up before a job interview, funeral, or proposal of marriage.
How little money can you give to your child’s private school?
Swallow your fury, mentally berate the social-climbing slimeballs who make New York such a dishonesty-filled place to live, give a bare minimum of $300 at annual-fund time, and consider it part of tuition. But no matter what you do or don’t give, the school is never allowed to hold it against your kid.
WHEN IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO BLACKBERRY DURING A CONVERSATION?
When it’s a “conversation” in the sense of “The New School Presents a Conversation With Harold Bloom” and you’re there. Otherwise, never. This remains one of society’s most frequent breaches of basic human decency. Seriously, what is wrong with those people?!?
IS IT EVER OKAY TO DRIVE A HUMMER?
Yes! If you’re leading a nighttime raid in Tikrit. Otherwise, Hummers have returned to their rightful place as a semi-obnoxious, semi-absurd rarity. Accepting a ride is different: In New York, being a passenger in any vehicle, matter how gauche or fuel-inefficient, is a rare treat.