Amy Poehler has two main qualifications for judging the city’s manners. One, she’s starred on Saturday Night Live since 2001—which means she works at Rockefeller Center, a maddening, tourist-choked hellhole for most of the TV season. (“You get used to people asking you, ‘How do I get to the ground-zero gift shop?’ ” she says.) More important, she logged many, many hours waiting tables—the etiquette equivalent of years spent in the foxhole on the front lines of boorishness. “My absolute pet peeve is people who are rude to waiters,” she says. “Any guy who’s in any way difficult, your lady-boner immediately goes to zero.”
And yet, on balance, she thinks New Yorkers are exceptionally polite—at least by the local definition. “Etiquette in New York is all about time management,” she says. “In other places, you seem rude if you see someone and don’t talk to them long enough. But here, it’s all about speed. And people are fine with that. It’s like, ‘Hello. It’s nice to see you. Thank you for giving me your kidney. I gotta go.’ ”
Of course, New York also offers its own unique etiquette conundrums: catcallers, meeting Oprah, the correct response to someone crapping in public. Thankfully, Ms. Poehler was kind enough to offer eight handy rules for civilized interaction in the city.
1. Be nice to everyone, especially people wearing hospital bracelets.
2. Don’t ask white girls if they “left their ass at home.”
3. If you have to bring your baby to a movie, make sure he laughs at appropriate times.
4. Don’t eat Cheetos and then sit down at a fancy hotel piano.
5. If you are in Central Park and think you are getting mugged, first check to see if maybe you’re just part of a student film.
6. If you see Oprah at a fancy function, don’t grab her wrist and ask for money. Quietly sneak up behind her and whisper, “You give me that money, Oprah. You hear me?”
7. When walking on a New York street, try not to spit, litter, bleed, or take a crap.
8. If you need to do any of these things, try to do it between two parked cars.