Archive for the ‘Everyday etiquette’ Category

Yet another positive ZipCar experience

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

On Monday, July 12, I rented a ZipCar for an hour to go grocery shopping. During the half hour I was in the store, some asshole thief put a grapefruit-sized dent in the bumper of the ZipCar and drove off without leaving any contact information.

I called ZipCar immediately on my cell phone. The rep with whom I spoke first verified that everyone was OK and then went through the “customer was in an accident” script quickly, efficiently, and politely. I received email within minutes of our phone call telling me everything I needed to know and do. It was all quite reasonable.


What makes a bully? Part 2

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I reworked my recent blog entry a bit and submitted it to the Boston Herald for consideration as a letter to the editor and/or “As You Were Saying…” (which is what the Herald calls guest op-eds) column.  Here’s the letter they published today:

Good citizenship taught

The school my wife and I chose for our children stands out dramatically because the students, faculty and parents are nice to each other and happy to be there. This does not happen by chance; it is the result of a consciously designed, constantly maintained culture which emphasizes respect and empathy as the community’s most precious values.

That culture could not possibly be achieved through punishment and discipline. Rather, good citizenship is an essential component of the curriculum, in every class and every grade.

And therein lies the solution to bullying. Schools cannot merely teach our children not to be bad; we must teach them to be good.

Jonathan Kamens, Brighton

Here’s what I originally sent them: (more…)

What makes a bully?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

bullyThe flood of news coverage about the suicide of Phoebe Prince has set me to thinking about what makes kids into bullies.

My children attend JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.  Students at all academic levels are admitted to the school.  JCDS is less concerned about intellect than about whether the student, and his or her parents, are compatible with the school’s culture.

In the 6½ years I’ve had children at JCDS, only a few families have chosen to leave.  Some of those departures were due to academic needs the school could not fulfill, but others were because their kids simply didn’t fit in.

I’m sure many of you just cringed.  We all know what “didn’t fit in” means, right?  Kids that are brainy, nerdy, funny-looking, or too fat.  Kids who do their homework and care about getting good grades.  Kids who would rather play D&D than football.  Right?

Nope.  At JCDS, fitting in isn’t about any of those things.  Rather, it’s almost entirely about one thing and one thing only: treating others with respect.  Kids with an “attitude” just don’t fit in at JCDS.  What’s most interesting is that usually, their parents don’t either. (more…)

Better handcuff those weapons so they can’t get away!

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Mayor Menino, is it your policy to allow your staff to park city vehicles illegally?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Spelling error of the day… or is it?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

If you’re going to call someone at 11:40pm, get the !*#@? phone number right!

Friday, July 31st, 2009

At 11:00pm last night, my cell phone rang, and “Unknown number” (i.e., no caller ID) showed on the screen.  I answered it, and whoever was on the other end hung up without saying anything.  A minute later, the same call came in, and again, when I answered it the other party hung up.  I figured that was the end of it, and my wife and I went to sleep.

Forty minutes later, just when we’d both drifted off to sleep, it rang again and jolted us both awake.  This time, the party at the other end of the line was “kind” enough to actually speak:

Him: “Is Matt there?”

Me: (groggily) “Um, there’s no Matt here.  What number are you trying to call?”

Him: [Reads off a number different from mine by one digit.]

Me: “That’s not the number you called.  I don’t know if you’re the same person who called me twice forty minutes ago, but if so, then this is the third time you’ve called the wrong number, and it’s the middle of the night, so please get a clue and stop it.” [click]

It’s hard enough for my wife and I to get a decent amount of sleep with five kids and me gallivanting off on silly windmill-tilting exercises on a regular basis.  We really could do without rude idiots waking us up in the middle of the night. *sigh*

A well-deserved rebuke at an appropriate time of year

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I’ve recently started bicycling to and from work again after a very, very long hiatus.

My route home from work takes me past the Boston Public Garden:


Because Boylston and Arlington are both one-way the wrong way, I have to make a loop around the Public Garden by taking Charles to Beacon to Arlington.

Or, at least, I would have to do that if I weren’t doing this instead:


That is, I was cutting through the Public Garden.  That would be fine if it weren’t for the “no bicycles” sign posted at the Garden’s entrance.

I rationalized what I was doing: “I ride slowly and carefully… I always yield right-of-way to pedestrians… I’m not hurting anybody.”  Given how much I hate it when other people pull shtik like that, I was being a grade-A hypocrite.

Well, today my hypocrisy came home to roost.  As I was slowly and carefully riding through the Garden, a crotchety old guy stepped in front of my bicycle, forced me to stop, and then proceeded to chew me out, with a lecture that began with, “Can’t you read!?”

I argued with him, because accepting criticism from strangers is not one of my (nor, I would imagine, most people’s) strengths.

But he was right, of course.

Although I can’t thank the crotchety old guy, I can say there that I’m grateful to him for reminding me to live up to my own standards.  Thanks to him, starting tomorrow, I’ll be “taking the long way home.”

The three weeks leading up to the Jewish fast day on the Ninth of Av, and especially in the eight days preceding the fast, are supposed to be used, among other things, as a period of introspection, self-examination, and conscious effort to improve one’s middot, i.e., one’s behavior toward one’s fellow man and toward society.  Whether I ride through or around the Garden may seem trivial, but in fact, no aspect of one’s conduct in this world is truly trivial, and I’m grateful for the reminder.

Seat belt law opponents are either idiots or liars

Monday, July 13th, 2009


To the editor:

It has been painful to watch the avalanche of flawed statistics and discredited urban legends wielded by opponents of a primary enforcement seat-belt law in their foolhardy efforts to stop a law which would undeniably save lives.

Jonah Goldberg informs us that since there are states with higher traffic fatality rates that have primary enforcement laws, such laws must be useless.  His simplistic analysis ignores the prime directive of statistical research, i.e., that statistical variations between two samples are only relevant if all other factors have been taken into account.  Study after study that did take such factors into account have proved that primary enforcement dramatically increases seat-belt use and that increased seat-belt use dramatically decreases accident injury and fatality rates.

A recent letter writer claimed that since millions of people who don’t wear seatbelts have not been killed in accidents, seatbelts don’t save lives.  It would make just as much sense to say that since people who don’t play Russian roulette don’t shoot themselves in the head, Russian roulette isn’t dangerous.

That same letter writer trotted out the ridiculous myth that seatbelts can trap passengers in vehicles that are submerged or on fire.  The fact is that, as documented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, virtually every study ever conducted indicates that lap and shoulder belts cut the risk of serious or fatal injury by 40 to 55%.

While the Herald may have a journalistic obligation to present both sides of every story, I do not think that obligation extends to printing absurdities and lies.

Jonathan Kamens

What kind of person steals a child’s toy?

Saturday, July 11th, 2009