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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: Can I tell my boyfriend he should get in the cab first?

Now, let’s review the rules of taxicab etiquette that take your driver into account.

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Ani Castillo / For Metro

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Dear Ellen,

My boyfriend always lets me get into the back of a cab first, but then I have to scoot across the seat so he can get in, which is fine when I’m wearing jeans, but a problem when I’m in a dress. I know he wants to act like a gentleman, but can I ask him to let me get in second?

Rumpled girlfriend

Dear Rumpled,

Not only should you ask your boyfriend to get in first, you can assure him it’s proper etiquette to do so. A gentleman in trousers escorting a lady in drapery should always board first, for the reasons you’ve stated — so that the beskirted partner does not have to struggle inelegantly across the backseat.

This rule also goes for young’uns travelling with older friends or relatives, and for junior employees travelling with senior employees or bosses, if you work for a company that takes hierarchical power positions seriously.

Alternatively, the polite person, regardless of gender, can let the other passenger(s) get in, then gently close the car door and run around to the other side of the car to get in. Note: this manoeuvre only applies when traffic permits. No amount of proper etiquette is worth getting run over on a busy street.

Now that’s settled, let’s review the rules of taxicab etiquette that take your driver into account.

First, don’t jump into the front seat without asking permission. If there are several of you, the driver will probably say yes, but otherwise, consider the front of the car as their sacred domain.

Second, don’t do anything to befoul the interior of the car: no smoking, eating, or indulging in any kind of bodily functions — be they romantic, digestive, indigestive, or regurgitative.

Third, don’t befoul the atmosphere: no singing, swearing, shouting, or backseat driving. If the driver is chatty and you need to read or work or make phone calls, it’s okay to exchange a few pleasantries, then tell them you have to concentrate on whatever else you’re doing.

Finally, don’t feel obliged to tip if the driver is rude, reckless, or refuses to help you with luggage. But if you do tip, don’t be stingy. Always round up and remember: that extra 50 cents (or $5 extra to the airport) probably won’t make a difference to you at the end of the day. But it could make a big difference to the hardworking person who’s chauffeuring you around.

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