≡ Menu

Counting The Spaces In Line

I had an interesting etiquette conundrum on a recent trip away, and although the problem was solved, it did make me wonder about the etiquette of waiting in line when it comes to saving spots for people to cut ahead.

In April, I visited San Francisco for 3 days, and hoped to visit Alcatraz, but was unaware that it was so popular you needed to book days, if not weeks, in advance. However, my hostel told me that every morning they sell 50-100 tickets for the first ferry leaving on the day, so if I was willing to get up early, I could still possibly get a ticket. The office opens at 7:30, but people have been known to wait as early as 5 to get in.

Since it wasn’t a weekend, I decided not to be there quite that early, and made it to the ticket office for 6:15, where there were maybe 8 people ahead of me. I was told I could only buy one ticket, and to make sure I had photo ID so I could prove I was buying it for myself.

The issue I had however, was within the next 45 minutes, the 8 people ahead of me (and those lining up behind) started calling people, or just greeting new arrivals, who would go to the very front of the queue to wait with their party. I don’t begrudge someone holding a spot for one person, but a party of 2 at the very front of the queue ended up swelling to a party of 9 as friends arrived throughout the waiting time! By 7am, there were over 25 people ahead of me. I was still pretty sure I could get a ticket given how many I was told could be sold, but the queue had been lining up behind me as well, and I can’t imagine someone who arrived at 6:30, who counted the people ahead and thought themself safe, was too happy to see themselves go from 25th in the queue to 50th. The employee at the back of the queue warning people about buying one ticket and having ID, never said anything, and neither did anyone in the queue.

Thankfully, the problem resolved itself, when at 7 am the employees started handing out tokens that we needed to exchange for tickets, guaranteeing everyone in line a place, but I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the ticket limit had run out for those who had counted the line, thought themselves safe, only to have someone who showed up at 6:55 rather than 6:30 get in because they jumped the queue?

Is there a limit on how many spots you are allowed to save in a waiting line? Especially if what you’re waiting for is limited in number? And do you have an obligation to tell people how many people will be arriving so they have a more reasonable idea of how far down the line you really are? 0531-18


I came across a situation today that I would love to hear your opinions on!

I was visiting my local shopping centre and made my way into a newsagents to buy a few things I needed. I’m heavily pregnant and was hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible so I could make my way home and put my feet up! Upon entering the shop, I noticed a charity worker had been positioned inside the store at the entrance/exit and was asking each person upon leaving for a few moments of their time to donate some money toward Dementia Support. Whilst browsing, I heard the charity worker ask each and every individual that attempted to leave “before you shoot off – did you know dementia/Alzheimer’s *insert fact about how common it is*”. ALL customers that were targeted when leaving were quite abrupt to the charity worker and replied with a “no” or a “not interested” and squeezed past him to leave.

I soon realised that there was no way I could simply leave the shop without having to interact with the charity worker as he was blocking the door whilst he approached each and every customer. I paid for my items and made to leave – and of course, he stands in my way and starts asking me about my knowledge of dementia and whether or not I am willing to donate a monthly sum to the cause. I didn’t want to be rude to this man – my grandad is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and it’s devastating to watch a man I saw (and still see) as a father figure fade more and more each day. I also understand that CW is doing his job so for me to respond with a brisk “Not interested” didn’t feel right. I was tired and wanted to get home and having my exit blocked by someone wanting me to pay money each month was just irritating and a bit rude, I thought.

I was polite to the CW but I feel my mistake was telling him that my Grandad has the disease and as a family, we live and breathe it with him day in day out (we are very close). He took this as an opportunity to push the fact that I should be giving money each month to the cause. I was caught off guard and felt incredibly guilty for my comment – “I would rather not sign up to a monthly plan at this time but Thank you”. The CW looked at me as though I was a horrible person for being directly effected and not putting my hand in my pocket. He mumbled a “oh.. ok..” and moved out of my way so I could leave.

I feel I could have handled this better but I’m not sure how. Admittedly, I just wanted to get home and CW wasn’t going to let me out until I’d given him a good enough reason to be LET out, it seems. I find street charity workers approaching me when I’m walking very uncomfortable and awkward.

My question to you lovely people is – how do you handle this type of situation? Is there a polite way to DECLINE giving to charity?! (Not that I’m adverse to doing so! I give to a few different causes regularly but just not in this “sign up on a street corner or in a public place” way). 0531-18

And the shop manager didn’t have a problem with his customers being confronted in this manner?

He may be doing a job but how he’s doing that job is a matter of his own choice.   I can’t imagine a legitimate charity wanting the face of their organization to be that of manipulation and physical blocking of a customer’s exit from a building.   There is nothing wrong with a terse, “No, thank you” to someone whom you have no obligation to explain yourself and who is being a rude to the point of blocking your egress from the shop.


Getting Behind Again…Tsk, Tsk

I work in a government office. I am a full-time employee. As most of the full-time employees in our office, I have more to do than I can accomplish in my allotted hours, so I am perpetually “behind”. I do not want to go into detail about what we do, nor all the ins and outs of getting my job, or any of my coworkers’ jobs done, let’s just say that being “behind” is kind of a way of life in our office.

One of my coworkers is a part-time employee. She has one specific duty, and the work for this duty can be finished well within her allotted time, leaving her looking for other work to do to fill her hours. Several times, she has walked past my work station and made a comment to the effect of, “Well, it looks like you’re getting behind again…tsk tsk” This annoys me for several reasons: 1. She is not my supervisor, so whether I’m behind or not is none of her concern, and 2. Unless she’s going to follow her observation with an offer of assistance with my work, what positive purpose does a comment like that serve? None. And no, she doesn’t ask me what/if she can do to help.

My question is, what is a tactful, politically correct (government office, remember?) response to her comment that has a good likelihood that she will remember it and not make that “observation” to me again? 0504-17

I would set aside a pile of your work that she could do to fill her hours (like filing, stuffing envelopes, anything) and when she wanders past you tsk tsking again say, “I’m delighted that you are concerned about my backlog of work and how this stresses me.  Your implied offer to help is accepted. Please begin working on this.”


The story below was submitted to EHell in 2003 and published shortly thereafter. It can be found in the Archives (linked above) in the 2003 Faux Pas of The Year category. It has become a favorite of many of the forum members who have asked for it to be resurrected on the blog.  I cannot verify its veracity. It’s written like a fiction novel and people have enjoyed writing equally creative sequels. For your reading pleasure:


My story is one that could not have gotten any worse. It’s long and worth the read. You’ll see.

My cousin was to be married in September of 2000. She announced her engagement to a man I will call William. What a surprise! He is an ex of mine. We parted on good terms since we realized we had grown to be basically friends, and over the years lost touch.

Jennifer has always been greedy beyond all reason. She broke up with a boyfriend in high school because he could not afford to buy her a-get this-Corvette convertible at 16. Since then, she somehow made herself desirable by being so “selective” in her choice of boyfriends, and let it be known her sexual prowess in bed was something to envy. All before age 18. One of her criteria was that any boy who wanted to date her had to “bid” for her with a preselected gift. Always something expensive. Her first selection was a particular ring she wanted, a one-carat diamond. Whoever wanted to date her had to buy it for her. We live in a fairly rich town, okay, very rich, so it wasn’t long before one young man decided to “buy” her. Now why her parents didn’t object came up only recently-if she married rich, she would be able to support them.

This continued for several years. She even got a house from a past boyfriend while in college, a “mini”-mansion. Over 8,000sqft. The boyfriend tried suing for it back, but the judge said that it was a gift, plain and simple. She reminds me of a courtesan in the olden days, where it was a thing of prestige to bed a certain lady, often at a very substantial cost. That’s Jennifer. In our small, rich town, it’s known that those who can be with her have money, and who doesn’t like to show that off?

Anyway, back to her engagement.

William designed something, which I will leave unknown because he is a good person and I don’t want him embarrassed (and it’s nothing technological either), and made millions. He had left town before her “transformation” and met her while he was on a vacation to Italy. Fate. I’ll get to the meaning of that later, and how I know these details. She “charmed” him, and he proposed before his visit to Milan was over. It was an extended trip, and she was on it with another boyfriend, who was trying to “win” his way into her panties. She had not had sex with him, but did with William. Within the month she claimed to be pregnant, and he is too much of a man than to run or question his obligations. So he did what he felt best-proposed. They left Italy together soon after that.

(Side note-she brags about how she did not let her other boyfriend know she had left, and how the poor thing was frantic trying to find her.)

We are at June 2000 now, and they decide to marry before the baby is born. They decide on September.

When I first saw William again, before I knew of his fortune, something sparked in me, but he was my cousin’s fiancé. And it pained me that he was going to marry someone like her. But she is my cousin, and he is someone I once loved.

She told everyone that she wanted a Titanic wedding, complete with the final dress, the Heaven dress, as her wedding dress, which she expected her talented sister to make for her, and guests in Titanic fashions, held on a ship in the Atlantic. A private ship crossing the Atlantic. She wanted a replay on the movie basically. And all guests were to wear Edwardian clothing ONLY. William was at a loss, but did not want his child to grow up in a home with one parents and the other on visitations only,as he had growing up. She wanted him to finance it, but for her parents to contribute at least $50,000, “like good parents should.” I don’t know what her parents were thinking at this point. But they mortgaged their house with the intent of filing bankruptcy and living off their son-in-law. Jenn made clear that she expected large gifts.

So plans started underway, and William had little choice but to pay the accommodations and transportation for over 200 people. When he tried telling her he wanted to offer to help she had a fit, saying any money guests had to spend on that is less that they’ll spend on a gift. So he relented, to calm her down as he did not want harm to come to his baby. We were all still expected to furnish period-correct garb, no matter the cost.

And she pretty much forced me into being in charge of the correctness.

But wait-the bad stuff hasn’t even come yet. Here is the true beginning.

At the beginning of September she picked her bridesmaids, and told her sister to add those dresses to the “order,” but the order one Heaven dress and four of the dress called the Dinner dress was too much, and Lilly had to ask her design school friends to help, who did so for their friend. Lilly paid for the materials as her gift to her sister. I was one of maids. Her maid of honor. I had the honor of being terrorized. I planned her bridal shower, as elaborate as my budget could afford. I spent more than I could truly afford because she pulled her old trick-having a fit and causing concern for the baby. I did not want the child to suffer for this, so I complied.

She requested a copy of the guest list, most of which she gave me to begin with. I just added relatives. She went through the list without telling me and sent follow-up cards, disinviting some people, and assigning gifts for the rest to buy. Yes, assigning them!

At the shower, she was angry because it wasn’t elaborate enough and the food wasn’t exactly what she hoped, even though she gave no input, saying it was my work. She sulked around, insulting people for not wearing period clothes, which I did not plan on. These poor people would be wearing them on the ship! When she opened her gifts, she started throwing things because some of the guests deviated from the “assigned” gift to what they could afford. She stalked out of the hall and broke a window on her way to hailing a cab, leaving many gifts unopened and all the guests in shock. We recovered and gathered the gifts up, the shower ending earlier than planned. Among things unopened were a crib from Little Miss Liberty of Beverly Hills our grandmother bought (those things are more than the typical monthly salary!) and crystal. We took everything to her home, and were lucky the housekeeper was there, or maid as she says and William hired and pays for. She we left the gifts in the front hall. The next day I drove over to see if she was okay. But I did not stop. All the gifts were shattered and broken on the lawn.

About an eighth of the guest list backed out, the rest hanging on for the cruise we were assured. The remaining time before we left she bossed everyone around, costing her several friendships.

Once in England, we were to be there one night before departing for the ship the next day. However she was already there as planned. In that time she found new dresses she wanted everyone to wear. And she expected us to foot the bills. Like we had money to spare after our wardrobes for the trip. I ran out of the hotel room so hurt and cried and tried to get lost so she couldn’t find me. At the elevator, I nearly hyperventilated. The doors opened and there stood….William.

I tried brushing away my tears. I couldn’t let him see me crying. We’d talked briefly here and there the last couple of months, and I still had feeling for him, which I doubted he returned. But he looked as haggard as I. He asked if I wanted to go to the courtyard and take a breather, and of course I did.

For several minutes we just sat in silence. He spoke first, and began spilling how he did not want to marry her, but his child needed a two parent household. The conversation turned over the next couple of hours to several topics. He said he’d buy the dresses since everyone was already out so much, and since he could afford it it was the least he could do, and asked the store name. But the way he looked at me told me he still felt something for me. I jumped up, stated the name, and ran back to the elevator, up to my room.

At about six that evening, my roommate and I were napping, exhausted from the redeye. But there was a knock that woke me up. It was him. He had gone to the store and asked to buy the dresses on hold for the X party, and he was delivering them. My roomie cried out of relief. She just couldn’t afford another dress.

The next morning we boarded the ship and were given cards with our staterooms on them. The bridesmaids, myself included, were actually given rooms made over to look like maids’ quarters on Titanic. With as little space as well. The guests, with few exceptions, were placed in “second-class” and “steerage,” depending on how much she liked everybody. The wedding was the next night. The current night was the rehearsal.

The rehearsal was actually fun, and went as one should. She wore the Jump dress and I wore a fashion I’d seen on a website of old fashions. Some of the guests were dressed more period than others, but only those in the first-class and “servants” quarters were allowed this night. The rest ate in respective dining rooms. The night drew to a close and I thought the good would come, if tonight were an indicator. How very wrong I was.

The next morning dawned bright and early. I was not the only one with the idea to walk to deck to watch the sunrise. Jennifer slept until just a couple of hours before the ceremony, which was fine with all of us. We played old games and talked, and in general acted like we were in 1912. Until Jennifer woke up.

We knew she had when she stormed out of her stateroom and onto the deck, looking for her sister. She began screaming at her, as she had decided only a week or so before that she wanted her dress to be Swarovski crystal, not the glass beads her sister bought. She screeched on about her sister ruining her wedding day and that she is out of the party, and invited the first woman she was to replace her. Lilly ran off in tears, the rest of us again in shock. How I wished William could see this and avoid the biggest mistake of his life. She snapped at me to get inside and help her dress. I followed, swearing that after this was over I was disowning her (which I did).

She began on how the ship wasn’t big enough, and her shoes too plain, etc. Nothing satisfied her. Her greed had reached such a peak that nothing would do. I did her hair, hoping to have time to do my own, and set her Swarovski tiara on her head (she loves Swarovski). Not good enough. She swept her hands through it, knocking the tiara to the floor. I tried again, still not good enough. She yelled at me to get out and get her mother. I only hope her mother was spared the yelling.

The next time I saw her I was dressed and outside the doors while waiting for her to get there so the ceremony could start. She arrived, and I will admit she looked gorgeous, and at ease finally. He mom whispered into my ear the words Sleeping pill in her drink. YES! Maybe she’d be calm now! Jenn was drowsy and the wedding was a replay of the rehearsal, lovely.

Comment from Miss Jeanne: Regardless of how badly someone is behaving, giving them a “mickie” to drug them is highly unethical, dangerous and probably illegal.

But the reception……

The medication wore off and she began swearing like never before, at her new husband, us, the band. She had such a sinister look on her face as I’d never seen. I went to the deck to take some air, where there were several others, her husband as well. I stood by him and he told me the cost of this affair (I nearly fainted) and how he wishes he had never met her, because he could tell he’d be miserable. But his concern was, as always, his baby. We who were out there remained for some time, and regretted going back.

In the meager half hour she was drunk off her rocker, standing by the cake, with a bottle of whisky almost gone. William and I, as well as several others, ran to get. She was about to fall on the cake. William was in disbelief, and asked her why she would hurt the baby. Here’s the worst of it. She responded, hiccupping:

“There never was a baby. I just wanted a rich hot guy to marry me.”

I don’t know which went through me first or harder-that he will probably divorce her and I could pursue him, or how hurt he must be. Then she turned on me, calling me a whore, that she saw us from her room in the courtyard talking and how I couldn’t have him. The band stopped playing, the guests stood in the usual shock. Nothing should have surprised us by now. But something did. She threw her arm through the cake and started to fall. No one caught her, but she did bellow. Then William….laughed. Laughed!

And exclaimed his intent to get this marriage annulled, how relieved he was, and let is all come out about how he only married her for the baby. She tried biting back about getting money from him, but not so fast. They aren’t from a community property state. But this story has a good end.

William swept me up in a circle and planted one on my forehead. When Jennifer came to being sober the next morning, she felt like the biggest bacon-fed knave, so embarrassed she stayed in her room the rest of the trip, refusing to see anyone but her mom.

The annulment was filed within days, and granted quickly. Jennifer went to stay with her grandma some states away, leaving William to pursue me, or me him. We were married ourselves in April. In a normalish wedding with a Titanic undertheme (who says she’s the only one who loves Titanic?) in which guests could dress as they’d like. But did their old clothing ever come in handy! She was sent an invitation. But her grandma (this is the one we do not share through our moms, who are sisters) sent a short letter with a small gift saying Jennifer has shamed herself into the ground, is truly expecting now without knowing the father, and that she declined.