Observing life: Let’s have a basic etiquette guide for everyday life

The behaviour of some audience members in cinemas can be truly atrocious, which has always struck me as something of an anomaly in a society where manners and respect are so highly valued in other walks of life.

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I was interested to hear that Vox Cinemas has introduced an etiquette guide for customers, following surveys that revealed the audience habits that most annoy fellow cinemagoers.

All the predictable pet peeves were there – people using their mobile phones, noisy eaters, feet kicking or resting on the back of your chair – and as someone who spends a lot of time in cinemas, I have to say “well done, Vox”.

The behaviour of some audience members can be truly atrocious, which has always struck me as something of an anomaly in a society where manners and respect are so highly valued in other walks of life.

I couldn’t help thinking though, that perhaps it would be useful to introduce similar etiquette guides for other ­aspects of modern living where, perhaps, the boundaries are blurred.

For example, how about the use of lifts? How close does a would-be passenger have to be to the doors before it is no longer polite to press the door-close button to make your own journey a few seconds quicker?

Some kind of equation would be useful, where x (distance from door)/y (comparative urgency of your own appointment) would give a figure z which if, say greater than 10, means press the button, but if less than 10 then you should be considerate and wait for them.

Of course by the time you do the calculation they will ­probably be standing beside you anyway.

Sticking with lifts, what about conversations? If you’re in the lift with friends only, then fine, chat away. But when other people you do not know are present, what are the rules?

Many times, I’ve found myself caught in our office lift with estate agents from another floor who are eagerly discussing all the multi-million-Dirham deals they’ve done that day. This is clearly not a conversation anyone else wants to be forced to listen to.

Also, under what circumstances is it acceptable to talk to strangers in a lift? Simple enquiries about the layout of the building or the location of the toilets seem fair enough.

However, would blurting out, “I like your shoes,” lead to a fascinating conversation about favourite footwear retailers, a blossoming new friendship and many happy trips to Aldo – or simply mark you out as a ­potential sociopath? It’s a ­minefield.

Then there is the Metro. What are the guidelines on how long you should wait before it is OK to dive into a newly vacated seat right next to you?

When there is an elderly person or pregnant women present, this is a no brainer – the seat is theirs.

But what about a guy five metres away who has clearly been waiting for a free seat since Rashadiya, while I just got on board?

The moral right is his, plus I am only travelling two stops. Then again, it is right next to me, not him. I find a good ­approach to this conundrum is to move into an almost-seated position, but before sitting down offer a quizzical “do you mind?” raised eyebrow to the poor guy whose been standing for ages.

This, of course, is a non-­question. You are essentially ­already sitting down, and the poor guy would look a fool if he objected and marched the length of the carriage to claim the spot – but you’ve at least made a gesture.