by Borderstan.com May 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Smoker", smoking etiquette, urban etiquette, Luis Gomez Photos

Yes, dear reader, there is smoking etiquette for outdoor spaces, too. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Drop Mike a line at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Here’s a (admittedly slightly over dramatic) letter I composed in my head as I was heading down 17th Street NW the other day:

Dear guy with the pipe who decided to blow smoke in my face as I walked by,

Did you know that that’s incredibly irritating? If you’re going to smoke on the street, pay slightly closer attention to where you blow it out so you can avoid pissing people off. I realize that it would’ve been difficult to either hold it for one extra second or turn your head, but it would’ve been nicer for me and the couple walking just a few feet behind me. Thanks for keeping that in mind.

Sincerely,

Vomiting on the sidewalk

Now, smoking isn’t my cup of tea, but I really don’t have a problem with it. There are plenty of considerate smokers out there who do it just fine. But then there’s the few crappy ones who really just ruin it for everyone.

  • Don’t blow smoke in other people’s faces. Okay, if that was new or a surprise to you, you really should just not be allowed to buy cigarettes. Seriously.
  • Along the same lines, consider where your smoke is going. Are you hanging with other people? Maybe position yourself so it goes downwind.
  • Avoid smoking in overly crowded public areas. So I’ve seen people smoking at the dog park on 17th Street NW, outside the playground of Ross Elementary on R Street NW and on the escalator going down to the metro. It’s just a courtesy to put it out when there are lots of other people (and cute puppies and kids!) in a densely packed area. Just something to consider.
  • Put it out in an ashtray. No, that doesn’t mean the street. I like seeing a clean sidewalk… which does not include stepping in tobacco from the cigarette that was split open.

Kapish?

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by Borderstan.com March 29, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Mike Kohn. Find Mike on Twitter at @mike_kohn or email him at mike[AT]borderstan.com. You can get more style tips at Parenthetical Style (where style is just a series of details).

"Iron"

Not more ironing,please. (Luis Gomez Photos)

In case you hadn’t heard, the makers of Monopoly decided to spice things up by asking the world to vote to save one of the tokens. Thank goodness that I’m a fan of a popular piece and my racecar was saved. The iron wasn’t so lucky.

To be honest, I was outraged (and don’t get me started on adding a cat when there’s already a beloved animal piece present…but I digress) — I’m a Monopoly purist, and it seems blasphemous. But in thinking about it more, maybe the world was making a statement.

Nick, one of my style partners in crime, talked about how important he thinks ironing his shirts is. And it shows — I spend enough time with him to know that his shirts look impeccable, all the time. I’m not here to advocate for NOT ironing; however, I am going to go say that there are ways around it, so you can get away with not doing it if you’re not feeling too inclined (and I never am).

The thought of getting out the ironing board and setting up the iron just makes me bored, let alone actually spending the time to do it. I’m lazy practical, so this is my solution to dealing with wrinkled shirts.

More Options

Let’s explore some options, shall we?

    1. Hide behind something. I’m a huge fan of the vest, shirt, tie combination (obviously a jacket is great in more formal circumstances, too). The vest is a lot easier to keep looking sharp, and it’ll hide some of those more wrinkly shirts, particularly around the buttons where, if you’re anything like me, broader shoulders may stretch the fabric. If vests aren’t your thing, sweaters go nicely over a shirt in the wintertime. That’s less viable as you get into summer, but it can certainly buy you some time between irons.
    2. Steam it. Haven’t you ever heard that old trick about leaving things in the bathroom and letting the steam from the shower act work its magic? It’s not perfect, but it’ll be better than nothing.
    3. Air it out. Not all shirts are meant to be machine washed (even on permanent press), but if you have ones that are, rather than putting them in the dryer, hang them and let them dry out. They come out looking much better than when you put them in.
    4. Do it as a last resort. I’ll admit, sometimes I have to actually iron my shirts because it’s necessary. I do sometimes further my laziness by getting them dry cleaned, killing two birds with one stone, but every few months I actually get out the old ironing board to do it. It’s rare, but hell freezes over every now and then.

So, there you go. At least you’ve got some choices to deal with the minor (or major) wrinkles in your life. (Element of style: Be sure you look presentable – but know yourself well enough to do what you have to do to look good. There’s room to be practicable and not spend more time than you have to.)

This post appeared first at Parenthetical Style.

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by Borderstan.com February 18, 2013 at 9:00 am 2 Comments

From Mike Kohn. Find Mike on Twitter at @mike_kohn or email him at mike[AT]borderstan.com. You can get more style tips at Parenthetical Style (where style is just a series of details).

Both of my parenthetical partners in crime, Nick and Alex, shared some great stuff about picking the right glasses. Let me add something different to the mix on the same topic.

I am legitimately blind. When I take off my glasses, the world becomes a giant blur to me.

To put things in perspective, when I looked up degree of nearsightedness (or myopia) on Wikipedia, it told me that the low range is 0 to -3.00, the medium range is -3.00 to -6.00 and the high range is -6.00 or above.

Approximately 30 percent of nearsighted people fall into the high category. My prescription is -8.75 in one eye, -9.00 in the other, so let’s just go ahead and call that very high. And in case those numbers mean nothing to you, I once asked my eye doctor what my vision would qualify as in the realm of 20/20 or 20/30, since that idea is much more commonly discussed. He laughed, told me it was near impossible to put an exact number to it and then told me that by that scale, my number would exceed 20/5000.

This makes it incredibly difficult to go buy a pair of glasses. I mean, how are you supposed to see what you look like in a pair of glasses when you literally can’t see anything?

Normally, I get someone to go with me. Generally speaking, I fly solo on things like that because then I can be on my own time – it’s not that I don’t want someone to offer an opinion, it’s really just that shopping takes up a lot of energy, so I get what I want and then I get out of there to do what I actually want to do with the rest of my day. However, on my last glasses-purchasing experience, I had to go at a time when it was just me, so I found a creative solution.

Below is one of my favorite series of photos, mostly because of the shear ridiculousness.

"Blind"

Mike Kohn for Parenthetical Style. (Courtesy of Mike Kohn)

Without an alternative, I snapped a photo of me in the mirror in each different pair of glasses and then put my prescription pair back on to view the photos. I also may or may not have shared them with a couple of people by text message to get some feedback. I only asked people who both knew me and had reasonable things to say that wasn’t just, “Yeah, great!” because that’s not helpful.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Practically speaking, you know yourself the best, but when what you’re looking at is a little blurry — whether literally or metaphorically — it’s good to get some input from people who you trust. (Element of Style: It doesn’t hurt to get a second (or third) opinion on your style.)

This post appeared first at Parenthetical Style.

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by Borderstan.com October 11, 2012 at 9:00 am 0

"train"

Train is coming to  GWU. (Courtesy Train)

From Mike Kohn Find him on Twitter at@mike_kohn or send him an email at mike[AT]borderstan.com.

Following their sold-out North American tour, Grammy Award-winning band Train returns to Washington, DC for a performance on Saturday, October 20 at 9 pm at the Charles E. Smith Center at the George Washington University.

Purchase tickets for Train here. Tickets range in price from $45 to $115.

Formed in San Francisco in 1994 by Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood, Train has released six studio albums, including platinum-debut album “Train,” double-platinum album “Drops of Jupiter” and platinum album “My Private Nation.”

“Drive By,” the first single off their new album, “California 37,” peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their second single, “50 Ways to Say Goodbye,” is currently number 16 on the iTunes Top Songs chart.

If you’d like to purchase a block of tickets, or for more information, please contact [email protected].

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by Borderstan.com March 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm 1,138 3 Comments

"Borderstan""Cherry Blossoms"

Tourists along the Tidal Basin (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette right that needs to be wronged? Find Mike on Twitter at@mike_kohn or send him an email at mike[AT]borderstan.com.

Given that Friday was the only beautiful day of the weekend, I thought I would take advantage and partake in my token annual visit to the Cherry Blossoms.

Unfortunately for me, I was not alone in that thinking. Everyone and their mother decided to drop by, so what should normally have been a casual walk around the Tidal Basin turned into a somewhat maddening journey that involved me weaving in and out of what I can only assume were several groups of tourists and fighting to make it across bridges in a speed that actually exceeded that of molasses.

I considered afterwards all of the things that I probably should have paid closer attention to, all of which apply to the Borderstan hood:

  • Everyone takes photos. I did actually think about this and managed to stop myself short, but I had to apologize for being in a couple people’s memories when I was walking too fast to notice.
  • There are WAY too many people traveling with pets and babies. I accidentally cut off a stroller. I did feel badly because the mother was clearly in distress mode, but I was distressing about feeling trapped behind her.
  • Many of these people have never seen these things (or been to the District for that matter) before. While this was my 7th visit to the festival, it still has that inaugural excitement to it for a lot of tourists, so naturally, they want to stop and admire, rather than powering through. I felt even more aggressive than I usually do in a city where things are generally more fast-paced.

Ah, things to remember for next year…

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by Borderstan.com March 13, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,055 0

"Borderstan"

Avoid sharing your sweat. (Photo by christaki from the  Borderstan flickr pool)

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette right that needs to be wronged? Find Mike on Twitter at @mike_kohn or send him an email at mike[AT]borderstan.com.

Featured image from christaki in the  Borderstan flickr pool.

Thanks to my sister, who is an avid yoga fan, I finally got on the bandwagon and started my own practice last summer. The athletic nature of it combined with the idea of locating your inner balance was incredibly appealing and got me instantly hooked.

Besides the practice itself, part of the reason I kept coming back for more was that the people at my studio, The Studio DC on Connecticut Avenue at R Street NW, had that sense of warmth and friendliness that made you want to come back — everyone seemed to know the etiquette of yoga already and they were more than happy to educate newbies like me who had no idea what they were doing. Their sense of etiquette was impressive even to me (and, admittedly, I’m a little high maintenance when it comes to etiquette, in case you haven’t noticed).

Since starting my yoga voyage, I’ve been to a couple of different studios and it’s not always the case that people have the sense of common courtesy that you just expect. I’ve seen people take up more than the necessary amount of space, like the jerk who takes up two parking spaces so no one can park in front or behind them, and it’s common to see people leave equipment scattered about. Come on folks, get it together.

So whether you’re a yogi or lifting or running at the gym, here’s some food for thought:

  • Make room. If you want a private gym, invite a trainer to your house. But otherwise, don’t leave your stuff strewn about, particularly if you’re at the gym or the studio or wherever you work out at high traffic times, like post-work or weekend afternoons. Moreover, don’t you dare give me a nasty look when I ask you to move your yoga mat six inches to the right so I can have my own space.
  • Clean up. Have you ever gotten on an elliptical and found it to be wet with sweat? If you have, you know just how disgusting that is. Yes, it’s a gym and I’m going to sweat myself, but I’d prefer to have a clean machine to start with for sanitation purposes. Every gym I’ve ever been to has a spray bottle with paper towels for you to give a quick wipe down, so be a pal and use what they’re offering.
  • Put your toys away. When I go to yoga, I always grab a block and a blanket that they offer. If I go to the gym, a lot of the times they’ll have a towel for me to use while I’m there. No matter what, I put away the stuff I borrowed. Do we need a Kindergarten lesson refresher?
  • Why are you there again? I remember my days at GW watching rows of runners who looked flawless in their tight fitting clothes (of both genders) and makeup (that one is mostly at the ladies, sorry). Are you taking up my machine because you want people to notice you?

Anyone else have any horror stories when it comes to your workout routine?

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by Borderstan.com February 21, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,246 3 Comments

"Borderstan""Urban Etiquette"

Pick it up, even when it is cold outside. (Luis Gomez Photos).

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Drop Mike a line at mike[AT]borderstan.com or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Logan Mom, a frequent Borderstan reader and commenter, wrote to me and said this:

I LOVE dogs. They are the best companions in the universe. I saw a pillow somewhere that said, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” Truly words to live by. My dog also happens to be the best napping partner in the entire family. Everyone knows I love dogs in general and mine in particular.

Is there an unwritten rule that if the temperature falls below 40 degrees, dog walkers are automatically released from their civic and moral obligation to clean up after their pet? Really???? You can’t be bothered to take off your glove to scoop your dog’s poop?  As predictable as the sunrise, there are piles for miles on top of the new fallen snow, on the glistening ice. Everywhere.

To make matters worse, rats eat dog poop. That’s right. So every time someone fails to clean up after their pet, they leave rats a big yummy meal. I just heard at the LCCA [Logan Circle Community Association] meeting last week that rats are looking for new homes in legions too because all the construction in the neighborhood disrupts their tunnel systems and nests.

Now, I’ve been out on a walk and discovered I was out of bags — what dog walker amongst us hasn’t experienced this horror? I’ve picked up plastic or paper from the street to use and scrounged in trash cans. Maple leaves are actually pretty good in a real pinch. Then there’s the radical notion that you could come back later and pick up your dog’s poop. This is a separate issue, however, of fair weather commitment to scooping poop.

As for the winter weather dog walkers who have become bad actors with the change of the weather, I’m just interested in the psychology.

Honestly, I think this reader hit the nail on the end and that’s that.

So Borderstanis, I ask you, have you experienced this? Are you a fair weather poop cleaner?

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by Borderstan.com February 14, 2012 at 8:00 am 0

"Borderstan""Couple at table"

Yes, there are urban etiquette rules to for Valentine’s Day, too. (Luis Gomez Photos).

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Drop Mike a line at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Valentine’s Day is upon us! Hopefully you have some great plans, whether that’s going out to one of the many fabulous places in Borderstan or around town or staying in and having an equally fun and probably simpler time at your own home.

Regardless of your feelings about the holiday (or “holiday,” depending on your views), it is a great excuse to go out and do something special with your significant other. Get out of the house, enjoy yourself and share your love — why not dedicate a day to that?

Now, on behalf of those of us who may not be romantically linked at the present time, I’d just like to ask for a favor. By all means, celebrate your hearts out and enjoy each other’s company. But if you could do so in a somewhat contained manner while you’re out and about, I would greatly appreciate it.

  • Keep the PDA to a minimum. I’m not really a super touchy-feely person on my own dates, but watching others make out at a table is not my cup of tea. I’ve had to do so a few times, and it made me a little less excited to be eating food.
  • Feel free to hold hands, but when you’re walking around, be sure to leave a little room for everyone else walking around you. We don’t want to interrupt your romance anyway.
  • Be nice to each other. Hopefully that one doesn’t even need to be stated. Lovers’ quarrels aren’t pretty for anyone, believe me.

That’s really all there is to it, in my opinion. Otherwise, live it up and have a great time!

Related Posts

by Borderstan.com January 31, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,518 5 Comments

"Borderstan""Smoker", smoking etiquette, urban etiquette, Luis Gomez Photos

Yes, dear reader, there is smoking etiquette for outdoor spaces, too. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Drop Mike a line at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

Here’s a (admittedly slightly overdramatic) letter I composed in my head as I was heading down 17th Street NW the other day:

Dear guy with the pipe who decided to blow smoke in my face as I walked by,

Did you know that that’s incredibly irritating? If you’re going to smoke on the street, pay slightly closer attention to where you blow it out so you can avoid pissing people off. I realize that it would’ve been difficult to either hold it for one extra second or turn your head, but it would’ve been nicer for me and the couple walking just a few feet behind me. Thanks for keeping that in mind.

Sincerely,

Vomiting on the sidewalk

Now, smoking isn’t my cup of tea, but I really don’t have a problem with it. There are plenty of considerate smokers out there who do it just fine. But then there’s the few crappy ones who really just ruin it for everyone.

  • Don’t blow smoke in other people’s faces. Okay, if that was new or a surprise to you, you really should just not be allowed to buy cigarettes. Seriously.
  • Along the same lines, consider where your smoke is going. Are you hanging with other people? Maybe position yourself so it goes downwind.
  • Avoid smoking in overly crowded public areas. So I’ve seen people smoking at the dog park on 17th Street NW, outside the playground of Ross Elementary on R Street NW and on the escalator going down to the metro. It’s just a courtesy to put it out when there are lots of other people (and cute puppies and kids!) in a densely packed area. Just something to consider.
  • Put it out in an ashtray. No, that doesn’t mean the street. I like seeing a clean sidewalk… which does not include stepping in tobacco from the cigarette that was split open.

Kapish?

by Borderstan.com January 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Supermarkets", Whole Foods Logan Circle

Five simple tips for a pleasant grocery store experience: yours and everyone else's, too. (Matty Rhoades)

From Mike Kohn. Got an urban etiquette ‘wrong’ that needs to be righted? Find Mike on Twitter @mike_kohn or drop him a line at [email protected].

The other day I was at 17th Street Safeway, waiting in the self-checkout line. Yes, I’m impatient sometimes — and with four stations, it does move quicker than the other lines, generally speaking. Someone decided they were too good for the medium-sized line and opted to stand directly next to the line. This is the aisle next to the one that all Safeway shoppers have come to understand is the one designated for self check-out, especially with the posted sign indicating it.

When the cashier who oversees self-checkout called her out and asked her to move to the back of the line, she had a slight temper tantrum. The woman complained to the cashier that the line was too long for her to wait, and then angrily muttered under her breath while forced to wait the extra 5 minutes.

I got to practice my eye rolling, so that was fun.

Grocery Shopping Etiquette Guide

So how should one act at the grocery store? It’s simple courtesy and manners, people. Here are five tips.

  1. Like other stores in our neighborhood, supermarket aisles aren’t massive like they might be in the burbs (and they’re virtually non-existent in the 17th Street Safeway), so stay compact, don’t make sudden turns and avoid stopping without warning. You’ll likely hit someone or have someone run into you.
  2. Pay attention. Obliviousness to everyone and everything else isn’t really helpful.
  3. Unless you’re using the self-checkout line, acknowledge whoever’s helping you and break free of the “Curtain of Silence.”
  4. To the above point, get off your cell phone when you’re checking out. Because lines can get so long and all you’re doing is waiting, I do find them to be awesome times for catching up with people, but it’s kind of rude to keep up the chatter while you’re wrapping up.
  5. Listen to and follow directions. Yes, I’m looking at you impatient self-checkout girl at Safeway. But this also applies to the express checkout at Whole Foods as well, and whatever else comes up.

 

by Borderstan.com January 3, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,255 4 Comments

"Borderstan"

Walk when you’re on the left! (ep_jhu in the Borderstan Flickr pool)

From Mike Kohn. Got an urban etiquette ‘wrong’ that needs to be righted? Find Mike on Twitter @mike_kohn or drop him a line at [email protected].

I swear, sometimes it’s the simplest things out there that create the biggest problems. Is it really that hard to ride an escalator? The concept is easy enough — you stand and ride or you walk up the moving staircase until you get off. And yet, how many times have I walked up or down an escalator to find someone blocking my path, like an obnoxious Parcheesi opponent?

Just last week as I was descending into the Dupont Circle metro, I had to jump to the side to avoid barreling into someone who decided that it would be a good idea to stop directly at the bottom of the escalator. Apparently we could use a little clueing in.

  • Stand to the right, walk on the left. This is posted everywhere, so you have absolutely no excuse not to do it. I’m a walker, so I’ll be racing by you on the left. When you stand in the middle of the escalator or, even worse, block the left lane, you irritate everyone.
  • In a similar vein, if you have bulky items or just a lot of them, keep them close. Yeah, I’m sure there’s something about security and watching your stuff, but really, just don’t block my way up the side.
  • When you finish your chariot ride up or down, move out of the way. There are people behind you and believe it or not, they have nowhere to go if you block their way off of the escalator.

This is DC, people. We move fast and we get things done. We don’t have time to wait for people to figure out how to use something as easy as an escalator.

Recently, Metro coined a new phrase: “escalefter.” Definition: a person who stands on the left side of the escalator when he should be standing on the right.” I think it’s time we respect those signs, don’t you think?

by Borderstan.com December 13, 2011 at 10:30 am 0

"Borderstan""Urban Etiquette"

Take a nice bottle of something to a holiday party. And it’s always nice to say “thank you” afterward. (Luis Gomez Photos).

From Mike Kohn. Got an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Find Mike on Twitter @mike_kohn or drop him a line at [email protected].

So ’tis the season and all that jazz, and you may find yourself in the position of being invited to a holiday party or two. I’ve got one on my calendar for this weekend and I felt like it was time to share some general party tips — these aren’t holiday specific, but it seems like good timing.

Lest you forget: Washington is a city that runs on connections. Do some good for people and they’ll remember that later — too bad the opposite is even more true.

  • What can I bring? Ask your host if you can bring anything. More often than not, the answer is going to be no. But you may be asked to get a side or a dessert, or if you can pick up those damn napkins that your host forgot to get at the grocery store. At the request of my host, I’ll be bringing peppermint liqueur and brownies. Only at holiday time…
  • Don’t show up empty handed. If your answer from the above point was the no you expected, bring something anyway. If someone is inviting you to a holiday party, they’ve put a lot of work into organization (probably). Bringing a bottle of wine or a small gift as a thank you is just a nice thing to do.
  • The invite is yours and yours alone. When the invitation is +1 or with a guest, don’t invite everyone you know to someone else’s party. We’ve all been to parties where you’re having a good time and then one person walks in with 20 of their friends. One word: tacky.
  • Helping or hurting. At the end of the night, ask if you can do anything before you go. Again, you’re going to get an “absolutely not,” but you’ll make your host happy. But if you can help with the clean up process in any way, you are sure to be invited back again.
  • Everybody loves getting mail. Consider sending a thank you note. This comes from my “Mom-Mom knows best” folder: my grandmother, and therefore my mother, were big fans of the follow-up. I’ve taken a broad interpretation of the idea to include email, phone call or actual paper note (remember the postal service?), but the concept is the same — thank your host for a great time.

What’s on your agenda? I’m sure you have holiday party horror stories, whether they are your own or they are from watching the lack of etiquette of fellow guests. Share them with us and tell us how to avoid the wrongs of holiday parties past, present and future!

by Borderstan.com November 29, 2011 at 8:00 am 1,123 1 Comment

"Borderstan"

The craziness of sales are not for everyone. Mike has tips on how to navigate your merchandise through the remainder of the holiday shopping season. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Mike Kohn. Got an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Find Mike on Twitter @mike_kohn or drop him a line at [email protected].

I’ll admit that I’m one of the crazy people who go out and shop on Black Friday. I can’t stand the crowds and the lines, and I’ve already made it quite clear how I feel about pedestrians who don’t know how to walk (and suburban pedestrians in the mall are the worst, as I rediscovered this past Friday at the King of Prussia mall outside of Philly), but the deals are just so awesome. Call me a glutton for punishment – but I’m excited about the new stuff I got at pretty outstanding prices.

Amidst my fabulous shopping experiences, I can’t tell you how many times I got whacked in the face, legs, stomach, etc. with people who were way too cavalier about parading through with their shopping bags. So while this may be too late for the craziest shopping day of the year, as we gear up for our holiday planning, here are some things you can do to avoid getting beat up by your own heavy merchandise.

  • Keep your bags close. For crime reasons, there’s a whole other side of this one – preventing snatch and grabs and pickpockets from taking your stuff. But for our etiquette purposes, those things can run wild and will take people out if you’re not careful.
  • Let’s go back to basics here. Remember “please,” “excuse me,” and “thank you?” Yeah, they’re super helpful when people are in your path in a crowded store or street. If you try to push me, I will evaluate if tackling you is the right decision.
  • Along the same lines, plan to actually spend a fair amount of time doing your shopping. Snapping at people for taking too long and running around without any concern for anyone else doesn’t make things go faster. Everyone is doing what you’re doing, so either budget for extra time or stay home and shop online.

Was anyone else crazy enough to venture out on Friday to encounter crazy shopping experiences? Do you have any other tips for shoppers this time of year? Leave them in the comments and let us know.

by Borderstan.com November 8, 2011 at 8:00 am 1,296 11 Comments

"Borderstan""15th Street NW""Trash Can"

A big trash no-no: Public trash cans on the street are not for your household trash. In fact, it’s illegal. (Matty Rhoades)

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette topic to address? Send Mike an email at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

You know what stinks? Trash. Even in my own apartment, I found myself needing to quickly get a bag of trash out of my apartment since it had somehow managed to smell up the place overnight. One thing can make everything around reek of garbage — and nobody likes that.

Now, I’m not going to get on my soapbox and tell you why saving the planet should be at the top of your agenda. Yes, I support the environment and work by day for a company that emphasizes the importance of sustainability, and I love that. But I don’t hug trees and this column isn’t a desperate plea for you to take action.

Dear Newly Arrived Downtown Resident: Public trash cans on the street are NOT for your household trash. Not at all. It’s illegal. Sometimes the city trash collectors or inspectors will take your household trash, trace you, contact you and FINE you. If problems persist with a specific can, the city might remove the can.

Instead, let’s talk about how your trash is affecting my life. Literally.

  • Put the trash in the trash can. I swear, it could not be a simpler instruction. And yet, I see trash on the street and blowing in the wind.
  • Along the same lines, tie up your trash bags. This is really for anyone who leaves their trash in a container outside. Trash smells bad. Like I already mentioned, we all know it, so keep it locked up as best you can.
  • Sometimes, I will admit that it’s hard to put your casual trash in trash cans because they’re full. And with that in mind, don’t place your household trash in public bins. You have a trash can. Use it. For many of us in townhouses, this requires us to go to the dark and scary alley when it’s way easier to dump your stuff in the public bin outside your house. But doing that prevents everyone else from putting trash in the bin. And when people on the street are able to use the bins… well, that makes everyone happier, doesn’t it?
  • Even if it’s kind of a pain, recycle — even if it’s just a little bit. OK, I had to get an environmental plug in there somewhere, right? Maybe it’s too much of a pain to do everything, but if you recycle just that one plastic bottle or that one glass container, you’ll be doing some good. Good for you!

Let’s be honest. Overall, Borderstan is a pretty clean neighborhood. We don’t have a major trash problem. But as we keep growing, this is a good way to make sure it stays clean and doesn’t get, well, trashy. Ever noticed any problems? Have you seen delinquents with their garbage?

As always, if you have any crazy urban challenges, please send them my way at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @mike_kohn so we can right your etiquette wrong!

by Borderstan.com October 25, 2011 at 9:50 am 5 Comments

HarrisQ, Borderstan Flickr Pool, DC Brunch Guide

Seven tips for making everyone’s restaurant experience pleasant. (HarrisQ from the Borderstan flickr pool)

From Mike Kohn. Have an etiquette issue that needs addressing? Email Mike at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn to right this wrong!

Restaurants these days are designed to be somewhat loud. The idea is to get the buzz going so people feel like there’s an excitement in the place, making it a destination for the trendy and chic. But doesn’t it drive you up the beautifully decorated wall when the source of all the noise is someone blabbing away on their cell phone three tables away?

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to enjoy your delightful Roasted Baby Chorizos while sipping your Gin & Orange Thyme Tonic (you caught me — I went to Estadio this week) and you’re so distracted by the guy who can’t seem to get off of his phone, despite his date looking increasingly annoyed to be neglected over dinner. If it’s not dude on the phone, it’s parent with screaming child who refuses to give into the temper tantrum, which only means that the entire restaurant is condemned to hearing the crying for the rest of the meal.

7 Etiquette Tips For Pleasant Dining

Enough of that. It’s time to take back mealtime. For some extra ammunition, I’ve called in the restaurant expert for some advice. Alejandra Owens has been to her fair share of restaurants, several of which she’s reviewed for our site, and knows how to handle herself at breakfasts, lunches and dinners alike. Between the two of us, we put together some good tips for you.

  • Shut up. Making some excuses for the high volume in restaurants, I still think personal volume could stand a little more control. I have loud friends (and am occasionally quite boisterous myself), so I know how annoying it is for everyone else.
  • You’re out to dinner to enjoy food and company, not stare at your phone. How many times have you been out with someone who can’t stop texting their bff? And apps have made it even worse these days. Can you really not take the time to put down your phone for an hour or two?
  • Lights. Camera. Off. Alejandra says it best here: “I’m a food blogger, I get that you want to snap a photo for your blog, your Instagram, your FourSquare check-in and your Food Spotting listing. I really do. But let’s use good judgement here. Fancy restaurant? No pics, or at least no flash pics. Casual brunch? Snap away, but don’t impede other people’s ability to nosh comfortably. Just be aware of time and place, folks.”
  • Keep your kids in check. Do I think we need to go so far as to ban kids in restaurants like this Pennsylvania restaurant? OK, maybe that’s a little extreme. But if you bring your child, just keep an eye on them. You know how you feel when it’s not your kid, so don’t pretend you’re innocent.
  • No, the hostess does not know who you work for. You’re a paying customer, just like everyone else. As Alejandra put it, “I know. DC is a town full of egos and personalities, but check it at the door. Unless you’re on TV or are a regular at a spot, don’t expect the host(ess) to instantly know who you are and roll out the red carpet. And s/he definitely doesn’t care who your boss is!”
  • Tip your server. There are times when your server does a bad job and they usually know it and feel terrible about it. I’m sure many of you will disagree, but rarely, in my opinion, have they been so bad that they didn’t at least deserve 15%. I know many people who have worked in a restaurant and it’s true that what you do has a significant impact on a server’s livelihoods, and can really make or break someone’s day/week/month.
  • It’s not all about the freebies, baby. “I’ve noticed a trend lately,” says Alejandra. “Folks are expecting freebies after even the slightest complaint. You didn’t have a fork at your setting? Sorry, that doesn’t equal a free glass of wine. Your steak came out more medium than medium-rare? Nope, comping your dish is not to be expected. I expect great customer service from restaurants, especially pricey ones, but making things right does not always mean getting things for free.”

What’s your biggest nightmare at a meal? Have some helpful suggestions for others out for a bite? Please share them with us in the comments. And keep your ideas for future urban etiquette columns coming! If you’ve got an issue you think should be tackled, drop me a line at [email protected] or track me down on Twitter @mike_kohn.

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