Thursday Ask The Lady: Eavesdropping Over The Cubicle Wall

Cherished readers, firstly The Lady begs your pardon for being absent from the blog this week. Some tasks came up that needed her attention and she needed to focus on them. She is heartily sorry for not posting.

Secondly, Today’s question. Many years ago, The Lady was employed at a large insurance company and had her very own cubicle. She can relate to the writer of today’s question. Enjoy!

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I work in a large office on a floor with approximately 100 other people. We work in our own little cubicle villages, but as you can imagine there is very little privacy. There is one co-worker who is ridiculously obnoxious to all of us around her. She listens to every conversation, both business and personal, and pokes her head over the wall and comments or advises without invitation. While I realize anything you say on the floor can be overheard, I find the fact that she makes no bones about letting us all know she knows what is going on and seems almost proud that she is an eavesdropper. So what do we do? I am writing not just for myself but for the group of us who are forced to sit near her. 

Frustrated in Cubicle Purgatory

Dear Frustrated,

Oh my.

The Lady prefaces her answer by acknowledging that this person may be lonely and just looking for something to talk about. Also, she might not even realize what she is doing is rude because of the expectation of no privacy on the floor. If she is one of these people and you will know it usually, The Lady advises kindness. Just smile at her when she comments or thank her. Maybe even taking a break together and being friendly will help. Steer subjects to things other than work. The lonely and the clueless can generally be rehabilitated.

If you suspect that this is not the case with this person and you find she just enjoys feeling in charge and in control, when she starts to advise you about business, cut her off and say “Thank you, SoandSo, I have it covered.” If you all do this, The Lady believes that this will stop.

If it is a personal conversation, again cut her off and pointedly say, “That was a private matter that I do not wish to discuss it with you.”

The problem with eavesdroppers is that they only hear one side of things and their advice (and the gossip that they pass) only applies to their one-sided listening. If this is truly bothersome and disruptive to work, The Lady is sure that HR can call a meeting on the matter and address it as a department or company issue.

Best Work Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Decorum at The Table

Cherished readers, in the past week The Lady has gotten two questions  about dining away from home. Rather than answering them separately, this week’s Food Friday segment answers those questions about how to comport yourself, be it in a restaurant or at a friend’s home.

  1. Should you be a smoker, do not smoke at the table. The Lady is not sure any restaurant allows smoking anymore, so she will say that it is important to remember not to do this when in a friend’s or family’s home.
  2. Should you be in a buffet restaurant or at a party where there is a buffet line, do not fill your plate to epic proportions the first time around. You can always go back for more. (The Lady once saw a patron at a salad bar fill up their plate in an attempt to resemble Mount Everest!)
  3. Your dinner napkin is never tucked into the neck of your shirt. The Lady goes so far as to say that those plastic bibs they give you at New England restaurants when you order lobster are also a no-no.
  4. No fixing makeup at the table, or heaven forbid…combing the hair!
  5. Using at a toothpick at the table is frowned upon.
  6. Do not pick up a dropped utensil or anything else that may have fallen to the floor. Ask your hostess or waiter for a new one. Think how picking up the dirty implement will sully the table with all of the germs from the floor.

Best Dining Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Thursday Ask The Lady: Multi-Level Annoyance

Cherished readers, The Lady cannot be certain how widespread this issue really is, as the correspondent states she is from Texas, but The Lady  feels this might be something that some readers deal with regardless of locale.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

How do I politely say no to a woman who is involved in a multi-level marketing company who continually pesters me to try the latest and greatest product? I have never shown enthusiasm for the products at all, but at every turn she brings up the company, the marketing plan, and actually makes me feel as though there is something wrong with me for not wanting to join. The fact is, she and the other people who sell these products are pushy as hell and I have no desire to be in  their company. I am a proper Southern Belle Texas lady, but there are times I want to be rude and tell her to back off. 

Had Enough In Houston

Dear Had Enough in Houston,

The Lady is sorry that you are being seemingly targeted by this enthusiastic person who obviously is passionate about what they do. Their passion, however, should not infringe on your peace and quiet. The Lady sees nothing wrong with telling her flatly that while you appreciate her wishing to “spread the word” about products she obviously loves, you do not wish to try them, so please do not ask. Be firm. If she continues on her quest to get you to buy or sign, she is the rude one, and you have every right to remind her that you’ve spoken to her already about your feelings on this company. No is NO.

Socialization should not be a sales pitch. In The Lady’s opinion, truly effective sales efforts attract and do not attack.

Best Non-Salesy Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

Wedding Wednesday: Manners for Guests

Cherished readers, The Lady loves a good nuptial celebration…and realizes that some people may need to take a refresher on what is considered good etiquette for wedding guests (or prospective guests) Let us take a look a few general guidelines:

  1. Answer all invitations promptly. A general rule is to respond within a week of receiving the invitation.
  2. Although The Lady sees formal invitations sent less and less, should you receive one that is written in the third person, it must be answered in the same way. If a reply card is enclosed (which to The Lady means that it is semi-formal) you indicate your acceptance or regret on the card.
  3. It is bad taste to ask to be invited to a wedding even if you feel you have a close relationship with the bride or groom.
  4. If, after accepting an invitation, it becomes necessary to cancel, call the bride or groom and explain why as soon as possible.
  5. Asking to bring a friend to the wedding is bad form.
  6. Do not ask to bring your children if they haven’t been invited. Even if they are invited, consider their maturity levels before accepting for them. One of the worst things to deal with at a wedding is the bored or hyperactive child who runs around hell-bent on annoying people.
  7. It is rude to skip the ceremony and only attend the reception.
  8. You are not obligated to send a present if you simply receive a wedding announcement. However, if you are given an invitation to the wedding, customarily you are expected to send a gift (even if you do not attend.
  9. Remember that the day belongs to the happy couple. It is especially important not to do anything that will take attention off of them. (No inebriated toasts!)

Best Guest Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Tuesday Tea Time Thoughts: The Surprise Party

Cherished readers, today in the semi-drear of the New England weather (it was 72 degrees and overcast…unusually cool for August!) The Lady and her friends gathered for their weekly tea. The topic today was how mannerly it is to plan a surprise party for someone that has stated they do not want one.

The Lady’s short answer: It isn’t. At all.

If the person of honor has made it very clear that they do no wish to be surprised. So you do not surprise them. EVER. Not for the fun of it or to make everyone happy or because it would be a great thing to see their shocked face. The celebration is not for you. And you will risk seriously making your loved-one upset if you go ahead and plan such a function against their wishes.

The only time that a surprise party is warranted is when you know with absolute certainty that they enjoy surprises or have expressed the desire to one day have a surprise party. The Lady would like to state for the record that in no circumstance would she want a surprise party and would probably lose all sense of decorum if she walked into one thrown in her honor.

Take into consideration these points:

The surprisee may not be properly dressed for a party

The surprisee may not have had their makeup, nails, or hair done and these things may be of the utmost importance to them (The Lady attended a surprise party of a friend who entered her home after digging in her flower beds and covered in dirt…her husband was banished to the couch for a month after this incident)

The surprisee might be feeling unwell

The surprisee might just want to avoid people because they are a curmudgeon

Best Surprise Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

Vintage Saturday: Amy Vanderbilt’s Advice on Accepting Jewelry

Cherished readers, this excerpt comes from Amy Vanderbilt’s Every Day Etiquette circa 1956 page 191. The Lady finds this advice interesting because in our times, people accept all kinds of gifts from whomever offers them, never really giving much thought to the look of it all. This young lady wrote to Miss Vanderbilt and asked if she must give back a costume jewelry bracelet. Miss Vanderbilt responds with the passage below:

No, costume jewelry does not come within this ban. An un-engaged man should not give to a girl such things as real diamonds, pearls, or mink coats. He must avoid anything so personal as underthings. A recent news picture showed an important American diplomat fastening on his daughter’s wrist a large rhinestone bracelet which, it was explained, was a “gift from one of her boy friends”. So, you see, gifts of costume jewelry are quite all right, even though the cost may be high. After all he could have sent you a spray of orchids that could have cost the same amount of money or entertained you at an equally expensive dinner. 

The Lady agrees with Miss Vanderbilt…it is always nice to have a durable gift!

Best Vintage Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Thursday Ask The Lady: Handling a Nosy Fellow Traveler

Cherished readers, The Lady sympathizes with the sender of today’s question as she has much experience traveling with the general public and dealing with them.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

On a recent flight, there was a man who was one of the last to get on the plane and of course, he sat in the seat right beside me (the middle seat in a row of three). He had a faint odor of liquor, also, so I think he knocked back a few before boarding. I was on a business trip and once it was safe to do so, I began to work on my laptop. The man began to look at my screen and comment on the report I was working on! He went so far as to suggest edits!!! While it was nothing confidential (like a medical or financial report) I was taken aback by the ballsiness of this person. In frustration, I slammed the laptop shut and put it away. He then said in this ridiculous high and mighty tone, “Gee, I was only trying to help.” I said nothing, pulled out my eye shade, and pretended I was asleep. As an aside, I missed getting the pitiful drink and snack they serve because I just wanted him to think I was asleep and not deal with him. Any thoughts on this situation? Should I have told him off? 

A Good Passenger

Dear Good Passenger, The Lady commends the restraint you showed and feels that you were wise to behave so. In the confined Aluminum Tube, it is best to control your temper. Bad enough to have a heated exchange with feet firmly on the ground, but at 33000 feet….well, one has seen the news about these types of things.

Obviously, it goes without saying that you did nothing wrong. While one wishes to not deal with these types of people, in the circumstances you found yourself in, it is best to ignore and be silent to the best of our ability. One never knows how volatile a person can be after a few drinks (as you stated) and it was best not to find out. So, let him be pompous, after all, after a few hours, you won’t see him again.

The Lady is also sorry you missed snack service, although with the meager servings they give you these days, she is sure your nutrition didn’t suffer that day.

Best Travel Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett