Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning Ponder The Ethics of Stealing Champagne

Our etiquette ambassadors return to help our listeners deal with traveling with an ex for work, yawners who don't cover their mouths, and more.

Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.
Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.

Rico Gagliano: Each week you send in your questions about how to behave and returning to answer them this time, our etiquette royalty Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. They are the great-great-grand kids of etiquette queen Emily Post herself, and they’re the co-host of the podcast, “Awesome Etiquette,” which lives up to its name. The brand-new edition of their etiquette manual, called “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition,” just came out. And Lizzie and Dan welcome back to the show.

Lizzie Post: Thank you so much.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Mazel tov, too! We’ve been saying the 18th edition for a while. So we thought we’d ask you about some new additions to your etiquette manual. And one seems a clear sign of the times the use of Mx., pronounced mix, as a form of address. Can you tell us about this?

Daniel Post Senning: Very simply, Mx is a gender-neutral form of address.

Lizzie Post: The Oxford English Dictionary accepted Mx into its next printing and we ran with it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Like Mr or Ms, now you if you are addressing an envelope or an invitation, you put Mx?

Lizzie Post: You’ve got it. If you’re unsure of what the person you are writing to prefer as their gender identity, then you would use mix.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I do think about it. When I encounter that stuff on government document you have to select a gender and you have to fill out a form of address often, and so maybe eventually this will seep into the natural consciousness.

Daniel Post Senning: It’s appropriate that you bring that up because governmental forms are one of the places that these types of pronouns often first appear, for exactly that reason.

Rico Gagliano: Keep an eye out for that on your passport application.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, so let’s turn to some listener questions with this new book of etiquette.

Getting out of a work trip… with your ex

Brendan Francis Newnam: The first question comes from Anonymous in Manhattan. Anonymous writes, “The company I work for is sending two employees on a business trip to Thailand. One of the employees happens to be my ex-husband. The other is going to be either me or another woman. She doesn’t want to go because she has a 2-year-old kid she doesn’t want to leave behind for days, but if it isn’t already obvious, I also don’t want to go on an international trip with my ex. Who has the better excuse for not going?”

Rico Gagliano: Oh I feel so bad for Anonymous.

Daniel Post Senning: The new parents going to come in on the side of the 2-year-old mother.

Rico Gagliano: Yes, Dan, you have a new child.

Daniel Post Senning: I say suck it up, face the ex.

Lizzie Post: The emotionally damaged single person will say, please don’t force people into situations with their exes. I think that’s like-

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow, I like how etiquette is so malleable.

Rico Gagliano: Come on, can we land on an actual law here? What’s the way to go?

Lizzie Post: Right exactly. My guess is that your company is simply going to make the decision and whoever it is they choose needs to be the person to go and I would leave it up to that. These are both valid emotional reasons for not wanting to go. I would also say that the child care, depending on this co-worker’s home life and work situation and availability of child care, can definitely be an issue. But clearly, this is a job where travel is expected. And clearly the divorce happened and neither employee left so you know, people are aware of the circumstances. In both these cases, your company’s just going to make the decision I think you’ve got to roll with it.

Rico Gagliano: Oh but the nightmare. The nightmare!

Lizzie Post: Could you imagine?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Or a screenplay develops where they fall in love again, things reignite, they stay in Thailand, they decide to not even return to their jobs, and they open a mango shack.

Rico Gagliano: That sounds nice. It could also be a horror movie where they’re both kidnapped and forced to like spend two weeks inside a cage.

Lizzie Post: I was gonna say a romantic comedy or psychological thriller. We don’t know.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Either way, more interesting than just a week at the office.

Rico Gagliano: There you go Anonymous.

When should you use a wheelchair-accessible stall?

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Sam, Durham, North Carolina. Sam writes, “I often wonder, is it OK for me — someone who does not need a wheelchair accessible stall — to use a wheelchair-accessible stall. If it is my turn to use the restroom and a wheelchair stall opens, I feel like people behind me in line might get annoyed if I don’t go in. But if someone who needs the stall arrives I’d certainly regret it.” It’s nice of you, Sam.

Daniel Post Senning: It is nice and it’s really good etiquette. That stall is really there for a reason. It’s there for people who need it. There is also that courtesy you’re trying to balance in your mind. The practicality of sometimes it’s the available space and there’s more people trying to use the restroom than there is available space. So, I say you balance those two considerations, but you definitely keep your antenna out. You don’t set up shop in there. You don’t lay out the newspaper.

Rico Gagliano: But then that does beg the question and I ask this, you know, without judgement. If there’s a wheelchair accessible stall, does that mean someone who does need a wheelchair never has to wait in line?

Lizzie Post: There are some different angles to this one in terms of you know, the idea is to not come across patronizing, to not come across as other-ing someone else, but I think if you are in that line and you see someone who could benefit from using that stall, I say please offer it to them first.

Daniel Post Senning: If someone declines that particular courtesy, I wouldn’t get in an argument about it, but I would absolutely pay them that respect. Think of it as a new form of chivalry.

Is it ever OK to steal champagne?

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, our next question comes from Meredith in Salem, Oregon. Meredith writes, “My daughter and I were on a family vacation. Down the hallway from our hotel room sat a very expensive bottle of champagne in an ice bucket and two glasses. The next morning the champagne glasses were still there untouched. Is there any way it would have been OK to take the unused champagne for my own enjoyment? Would the answer be different if impressionable young children weren’t present, whom I was supposed to be guiding morally?”

Rico Gagliano: Oh, Meredith.

Daniel Post Senning: So is this question about stealing a bottle of champagne?

Lizzie Post: Yes that is it. We have an etiquette question about-

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s like a version of the two-second rule. The champagne’s been there for almost 24 hours and no one was drinking it. That’s a crime in France I think.

Daniel Post Senning: I say lifting champagne from someone else’s room service is definitely a no-no. Definitely a no-no. If you could get that person’s attention and ask maybe, maybe that 12-hour, 24-hour window starts to be territory where you might inquire.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think the unopened part is the problem. What if it was open, but 3/4 full? And then it’s the next morning and it’s still out front and it looks like they put it out front maybe to have it be taken away?

Rico Gagliano: We just want a way that we can get free wine? Can you make it OK?

Daniel Post Senning: I’m going with the safety first etiquette angle on this one. In the spirit of not drinking poisoned wine, skunked wine-

Lizzie Post: Potentially roofied wine. I mean, come on.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s a real sad view of humanity.

Rico Gagliano: I’m very disappointed that there seems to be no way we can get this wine.

Cover your mouth!

Rico Gagliano: There’s something from Mary via our website. Mary says, “No one covers their mouth when they yawn anymore!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Hold on, hold on. Thank you, Mary, for-

Daniel Post Senning: I know, Hallelujah Mary.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Keep going. Keep going Rico, sorry.

Rico Gagliano: Mary has a whole spree I think you’ll appreciate, Brendan. She says next, “Were they raised by wolves? Why would anyone want to see the inside of their mouths, their dental work — or lack thereof — their adenoids, and their dirty tongue. I have no-”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow, I like Mary.

Rico Gagliano: “I have no interest in their gaping yaw! I feel like I’m the only tight-lipped person in a sea of orifices…”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Whoa, paging Dr. Freud.

Lizzie Post: That’s a different visual for ya.

Rico Gagliano: “Is there any polite way to tell these truly offensive humans to cover their mouths?”

Daniel Post Senning: Thank you, Mary. Because it’s often inappropriate to mention it in the moment. You don’t have the standing to tell someone to cover their mouth. But it would be so nice if we did have the standing to give that direction. So we’ll take this moment to remind people everywhere, please, it can just be a little bit foul, a little bit gross of the body, but it’s also a social cue. And be aware of both implications and effects on other people.

Rico Gagliano: [Fake yawns.] Anyway, Lizzie and Dan, thank you so much for your wonderful guidance and congrats on the 19th edition.

Lizzie Post: Thanks guys. Take care have a great week.