Inevitable Coffee Ring

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11 things to keep in mind when in public

According to the analytics of this Inevitable Coffee Ring, the audience this blog reaches and appeals to are: human beings, dolphins, really intelligent primates, and cats that decide to walk across keyboards at inopportune times. Since humans are at the top of the list and cats eked out the Top 5 because of paw placement happenstance, a few things have come to light. Where human searches are purposeful and the cats’ searches are not — keyboard walking is often noted as “bad behavior” and is rewarded with spritzes of water to the face — there has to be a gray area, right? When you Google this, a few things come up:

  • Thundercats
  • (That disturbing) Zoobilee Zoo
  • Really funny memes
  • Cat owners who love their pets waaaaaay too much and full-face tattoos
  • Ethics

Since ethics is the most reasonable topic, let’s dive into it. And, yes, this post is purposely steered in that direction.


As “functioning” members of the human race, we all have roles to fulfill. Whether we are introverts or extroverts, there is an unspoken set of guidelines that we have to follow, and adhering to such “rules” will prevent us from getting looked down at, arrested or sprayed in the face with water. And perhaps this is a result of getting older, aging respectfully en route to be an old man in the porch rocking chair, the guy who yells at kids to get off his damn lawn.

And it’s others, who ruin things for everyone else. Whether these people are trying to look cool or draw attention to themselves … well, they’re doing a great job and pissing off everyone else around them. And this contradicts the quiet people, and those being polite are deemed “uncool.”

Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when out in public:

1. Movie Theater

The mall security (“The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!”) are supposed to prevent those under 18 from entering the mall. How the hell did these little annoyances get into the theater is beyond me. (Sunday night was movie night, which should have been anxiety-free.)

The theater is not one’s living room. Theaters have walls to help with acoustics. Indoor voices can be heard as outdoor voices, and outdoor voices are the equivalent to Sam Kinison pointing out that there is too little butter on the popcorn. Whatever squabble you have with your friend, take it outside; disputes are frowned upon while a movie is going on. Although, you may not want to watch the movie – save your leaving 20 minutes before the film ends – it doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t want to watch it.

Further: one lit match can be seen down a pitch-black, mile-long tunnel, and that means a phone glow can be seen (from anywhere) during a movie.

Also, if the theater is practically empty, don’t sit directly next to people.

2. Coffee Shops

Outlets are limited and common sense would say that people with laptops would need those spots. If you;re reading a book, you can utilize a chair; if the weather is favorable, you should be reading outside. Sitting at a table of four by your lonesome and denying someone who politely asks if they could sit and utilize the outlet makes no sense. A water spritz to the face should happen to the offender, and it’s especially true when they wear a shit eating grin on their face, knowing full-well what they’re doing.

If you have one cup of coffee and you can’t throw the empty cup out as you leave … what does your living space look like?

3. Grocery Stores

There is such a thing as personal space. Consider someone hovering over your shoulder as you’re picking out your food. Are they staring at your grocery list or staking claim on that one pepper that you’re examining?

People actually lick things to claim them as their own. Licking produce could probably happen.

You carried that hand basket all over the store, but you can’t walk the two feet to place it behind the cashier. You’re lazy.

4. The ATM

If you’re waiting for an ATM kiosk, make some space between you and the person getting cash. If the ATM is in a room that you have to swipe your card to get into, wait for the person to leave that room before entering. It’s not your turn, and it’s creepy.

5. Public Bathrooms

As the saying goes, “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.” It’s your excretion, so clean up after yourself. How many times have I balled up a wad of toilet paper to clean up after someone, because I don’t want the person next in line to think I left the mess? Too many.

It takes one second to flush.

It takes less than a two seconds to put the seat down.

Also, it takes 20 seconds to wash your hands well. Just saying. To reiterate … 20 seconds.

6. Bars

There is a lot that can be said, but to touch on a handful for the give-or-take 30-plus-year-olds:

  • At night you don’t need sunglasses (unless it’s a themed party, Halloween, or you’re legitimately blind).
  • If you see someone fist pumping, shouting about shots: picture them as a howling chimpanzee with a banana.
  • Shot after shot doesn’t prove “you still got it.”

7.  Regarding Children

You decided to have sex or get inseminated or adopt or pray to the stork, and now you have kids. They are not animals, so take them off leashes. It’s lazy parenting, and the older version of that human has to admit they were a leash child. Watching your kid bounce back from your pulling on the leash is not funny.

8. Regarding Pets

If your dog could, it would pick up its own shit. However, your four-legged friend does not, so do what is necessary.

9. Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet

The true concept behind Halloween is already misinterpreted; however, the door-to-door fun is for the kids. If you’re an adult, regardless if you dress up or not, collecting candy for your kid or “inner kid” is frowned upon. Your cute newborn is also not going to be enjoying that Baby Ruth.

10. Whenever You Sneeze


Catholics give the sign of peace by shaking hands. Business is settled by shaking hands. Greeting others, shaking hands. You got it. What you don’t get? Sneezing into the bend of your elbow over your bare hand. This is something we learned in preschool.

11. Driving

If you tailgate, you’ll hit the next red light regardless of the traffic. The person in front of you cannot go as fast or faster than the person in front of them.

When the light turns green, we know it means “go;” immediately honking your horn doesn’t make the person slam on the gas any harder.


There are plenty of obnoxious things we’re all guilty of. A few others that could have been included: poor grammar, loud eaters and gum chewers, not holding doors for others, lending a hand/being courteous, wearing the T-shirt of the band you’re seeing, and sitting near the people who love to sing when they really cannot. This list can go on. However, we are all imperfect, living in an imperfect society, and we cannot change unless we allow ourselves to. We can’t force others to change either, regardless how many times you spray them in the face with water.

Do your part, and others will catch on … hopefully.


Christopher MaloneChristopher Malone plays with more thoughts and words at his blog, The Infinite Abyss(es), and at Kinani Blue. He can also be found creating worlds and playing with invisible objects with the Syracuse Improv Collective.  Feel free to tweet at @Chris___Malone, or email him at [email protected].

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