Etiquette In Hospital Rooms

Being in the hospital is no fun, but often, the experience is made worse by the behavior of others in the hospital. It’s bad enough recovering from surgery or waiting for test results without having to hear someone in the hallway barking on their cell phones. I’ve had a few family members go through overnight and extended hospital stays over the past year, and asked them about what they wish was different about the experience (you know, besides being in the hospital in the first place).

  • Don’t touch things: If you’re visiting someone who is in a hospital bed, likely they’re surrounded by a ton of things that are beeping and plugged in and possibly connected to the patient. Don’t touch them. They do important things.
  • Don’t linger unless the patient has asked you to: If you’re close family it’s easier to justify hanging out in the hospital room to keep the patient company, but socializing takes a lot of effort, especially when you’re sick. Come in, check on what they need, chat for a bit, but don’t stay all day unless you talk about it.
  • Do not bring your entire family to hang out: Nowadays, at least in America, staying in the hospital usually means you have a roommate, so a lot of standard roommate etiquette applies. However, lots of people seem to forget how to have a roommate. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from friends who have stayed in hospitals is their roommate’s entire family will be there all the time, making noise, taking up space, and in general forgetting that there’s another patient in the room. Even if you’re fine with your entire family being around, your roommate probably isn’t, so be considerate.
  • Be quiet: The main thing about hospitals is that they tend to be places for rest and healing. So respect that by making sure you’re not speaking on your cell phone too loudly in hallways, watching TV during regular bedtime hours, or carrying loud conversations a foot away from your roommate’s bed.
  • Don’t argue with doctors: Ok, this is a hard one, because there is certainly an issue with doctors not listening to patients, or misdiagnosing them, or thinking that Black patients don’t feel pain. Also many American hospitals are extremely taxed/understaffed and as such getting and maintaining a doctor’s attention can be hard. That said, there are a lot of patients in hospitals, and doctors have a lot of training in how to prioritize their needs. It’s a stressful place for everyone, and getting angry generally won’t help anybody. If you have an issue, by all means bring it up, but try to judge whether it’s informed by your actual treatment or just your unhappiness at being in a hospital in the first place.

What Are My Responsibilities Towards My Roommate’s Cat?

Why don't we teach our cats to throw up in the toilet?

Why don’t we teach our cats to throw up in the toilet?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My roommate has a cat who sometimes vomits and less often … poops … around the apartment. Sometimes when this happens I am the only one home, or the first to find the pile. Am I being an asshole for ignoring it? It’s not my cat! It’s disgusting! There is cat shit on the bathmat at this very moment!

Okay I’m probably an asshole. Please tell me what the right thing is to do here. If I clean it, is there a way to tell my roommate without being sanctimonious? She can’t control her cat’s bodily functions.

Thanks for your advice. In the meantime I’m sucking it up and putting on gloves.



Victoria: So I totally think she is well within her rights not to do any cleanup. Roommate’s cat, roommate’s problem. (For the record, I have a cat AND a roommate and I do everything except when she kindly feeds him when I go out of town.)

But, obviously, if its in your way, it behooves you to clean it up.

Jaya: Right. And it reminded me of something Jolie wrote about at some point, about living with someone and cleaning duties. Because people have different clean thresholds, but it’s unfair for the person who wants things cleaner to have to pick up that slack all the time.

Victoria: Yesssss…that’s my curse, always, haha.

Jaya: Okay it’s not a direct analogy but like, you can protest and be like “no I will not clean this up,” but then you’re living in a house full of cat shit.

Victoria: And you should definitely insist that roommate picks up after her cat as soon as she gets home.

Also! Cat vomit is just a fact of life with cats.

But the pooping thing is concerning

Jaya: Yeah, take that cat to a vet!

Victoria: It’s either because the litter box is dirty or because the roommate is ignoring the cat and the cat is seeking attention.

Or yeah, go to the vet.

But that’s not okay, and the writer should definitely address it with the roommate.

Also, a thing with cats, is sometimes it is best to just remove temptation than get mad that cat is ruining your stuff.

For example, my extremely lovely cat likes to pee on the bathmat. It just feels good on his paws or something!

So I hang the bathmat over the curtain rod when I am done using it. As a bonus, it stays cleaner and fresher longer!

Jaya: Hah! Very practical.

Victoria: But obviously that is easier with some things than others.

Jaya: Right. Yeah I think here, if it’s in a high traffic area and your roommate is not gonna be home for a long time, you should probably clean it up for your own sanity.

But if it’s a matter of your roommate coming home, seeing cat vomit, and doing nothing about it, that’s a problem

Victoria Pratt: Yeah, for me its definitely more of an issue of whether the roommate is dealing with the situation when she

gets there or not. But this writer is totally NOT a jerk for letting the roommate deal with it.

Jaya: Definitely not. Cats are the jerks for not cleaning it up themselves.

Victoria: Yessss, but they do give us fuzzy cuddles, so wash.

Oh also! I think that when you sign up to live with someone who has a pet, you are signing up for all the annoyances that sometimes come with a pet. And if you prefer to not have those annoyances, you should not live with someone with a pet.

Though it sounds like this person is pretty reasonable about it.

Jaya: Right. And this can’t always be avoided. Good roommates are hard to come by. But pets make noise and shed and vomit sometimes. It just comes with having one around.

Victoria: Yep, the cat is your roommate too! And its probably better than someone’s annoying boyfriend who never leaves.

Jaya: If you ever have to clean up your roommate’s vomit that’s another story.

Victoria: Hahaha, I mean, if the roommate is very, very ill, it would be a nice gesture!

Jaya: Would it be a crazy rule to set that, if you clean your roommate’s vomit, they have to pay your rent for a month?

Victoria: Lol noooo. That’s a lot of money. And, like, you can’t put a price on human kindness, JAYA.

Jaya: I can. It’s rent for vomit.

Victoria: Hahaha, I would have a different attitude about drunk vomit vs illness vomit.

Jaya: Hmm, I guess. Though it doesn’t make it any less gross to clean it up.

Victoria: True, but you are cleaning it up out of a great sense of pity.

Jaya: Like again if the cat was sick or if it just ate its food too fast like an idiot

Victoria: hahahahahahaha


(Ed: To our letter writer, we realized we never answered your question about how to tell your roommate if you did clean up. You definitely should mention it, just be like “oh by the way, Snookers threw up again. I cleaned it up but I wanted you to know in case it becomes something you need to take him to the vet for.”)


My Roommate Is Permanently Camped In Our Common Space

This might actually be a better solution [Via]

Hey guys!

Exciting to email you, I’m a big fan. I’m also a college student, and typically at my school, students move out of dorms into apartments for junior year (which I’m in). I’m in a 2 bedroom apartment with one other girl; the common space consists of a connected kitchen and living room. My roommate has never lived in an apartment before and doesn’t seem to have been raised with some of the same instincts for being considerate that I have, so I’ve been having a lot of issues with public space and how considerate that I can expect her to be in it. Some examples of what I mean:
-she moved in a few days earlier than I did, and she neglected to tell me she was going to bring all her tchotchkes (of which there are MANY) and put them everywhere in the kitchen/living room, as well as hanging her art up in all the ideal locations. I hate tchotchkes and feel like the room doesn’t look like it’s mine at all.
-If she’s home, she’s in the living room. She basically only goes to her bedroom to sleep. It makes me feel uncomfortable about being in the living room most of the time… because she’s already there. Always. There. Just dinking around on her laptop (also she doesn’t use headphones and laughs while she read things).
-we have comfortable living room seating for like 2 1/2 (a loveseat and a beanbag chair). When my friends come over, she tends to just stay in the living room (on the beanbag chair) so not only is she just THERE while we talk/whatever, we’re also kinda squished together.
-Also this is a general anyone thing but she leaves the iPhone keyboard typing sound on and it is the WORST. Why do people use that?! Do they need everyone to know that they’re capable of typing?!
Are any of these legit issues to have or am I being unreasonable? Can y’all offer some tips on sharing an apartment?
Sorry this is like Russian-novel length but I feel like I’m going insane and no one knows etiquette like you do.
Going insane in my own apartment
Official Etiquette:
Miss Manners has a great question from a grandmother whose granddaughter is living with her (even 70 year olds don’t know how to deal with roommates!) Obviously she advocates discussing boundaries with the person.
Our Take:

Jaya: Apartment etiquette! So fraught!

Victoria: Ahhhh. Ack, I have been so guilty of some of this in the past, it’s my biggest etiquette sin.

Jaya: Hahahaa omg, I haaaate the iPhone noises. What person does that?

Victoria: Yeah, that’s really bad. I 100% think in a shared space you should do what you can to not have excess noise.

Jaya: I feel like apartments and roommates are like, the ultimate test of the core of etiquette–this idea that you need to be accommodating of other people while still taking care of yourself.

Victoria: Hahah yeah. I actually once really did hog the living room- but I HAD to- for some reason our wireless only worked for me in there and not in my bedroom.

Jaya: Ooh that’s rough, yeah I know that feeling. I mean, I think there are a few things that can be said outright. Asking someone to put on headphones if they’re listening to videos on their laptop is totally normal. Also I think asking about the art. If you have stuff you want to hang up, say that you’d like some space in the living room to do it.

Victoria: Yeah, that one is pretty weird to me, that she would decorate without asking.

Jaya: I guess it depends on how she acts normally. I can’t get a read on if they knew each other before or not, or what kind of personal relationship they have but you can either be like “Hey I have this poster I think would look great above the couch” and hope she gets the hint. Or be more direct and say “I feel like you decorated the living room entirely with your stuff, and I’d like to make it a little more balanced so it can feel like home for both of us.”

Victoria: Yeah that’s all good. And I think you can ask that she spend some time in her bedroom. Be like, I have some friends coming over tonight and I’d like to use the living room. This was my problem in my younger years- I was so used to sharing space with my family, that I genuinely could not see the problem with my just being physically present, even if I was being absolutely silent. And it took, ahem, kind of a long time to understand it.

Jaya: Yes, definitely keep her posted on some plans.

Victoria: And like, really don’t be afraid to just go in there and plop down on the couch and turn on the TV, and if she complains….I guess just be like, “well the TV is in here, so it gets precedence and if you don’t like it you have a room you can sit in.”

Jaya: As weird as it sounds, hiding in your room is only going to teach her that she can sit in the living room all she wants. You sorta have to step to her with this. So side story: My freshman year dorm roommate had been to boarding school before, so she had lived in dorms and I hadn’t. I, however, lived in apartments my whole life, so it’s not like the idea of shared living was new to me. She proceeds to give me this whole lecture on how to live in a dorm, and how I probably don’t know ANYTHING about it, and being really mean and judgmental about it. When all the advice was like “don’t make too much noise if the other person is sleeping” and “don’t bring guys back all the time.” Like, stuff any normal considerate human would know. She was THE WORST ROOMMATE. She took over all the spaces, constantly had people over and wouldn’t hang out elsewhere when I said I had to study or sleep, and generally acted like I wasn’t there. So, obviously not that LW is doing this, but just make sure if you’re coming at it from “I know what apartment living is like and she doesn’t,” that you’re not just trying to make it all your space either. I say this entirely out of past trauma and not because I actually think LW sounds like this.

Victoria: Hahahah yeah. And I understand not wanting to talk to them about it, but you have to or you will just stew.

Jaya: Yes. (Freshman year roommate also refused to talk to me about this stuff when I sat her down and was like “We need to discuss this”…after she gave me a whole lecture on not letting things stew).

Victoria: Sounds like a peach.

Jaya: So what if she brings up a bunch of reasonable points and such, and this roommate just shuts everything down and is like “no my tchotchkes stay everywhere.”

Victoria: Lol…..well then you don’t really have many options- it’s beyond etiquette and you’re dealing with an unreasonable person. If the school offers mediation, try that. If not, move.

Jaya: And break some of the tchotchkes on your way out.

Victoria: Hahah yeah, I mean, the thing with a bad roommate is sometimes the best solution is to just leave. And even if you can’t, it’s just for the one year and then you will have this great story to one-up people with for the rest of your life.

How to Be a Considerate Roommate

When you are sharing a space like this you are going to need manners. [Via Flickr user byrion]

Roommates! We’re all going to have roommates at some point, whether it’s because we’re college freshmen, we’re poor and need to split the rent, or we just can’t imagine spending a second away from our BFFs. However, your BFF is gonna peace out and leave you with all the rent and all the dishes if you are a crappy roommate. So here are some tips to follow.


  • Try to discuss chores in an adult manner without getting passive aggressive or defensive. For some people, having a chart helps. For others, one person needs to take the lead and remind everyone when chores need to be done and who needs to do them. Try to establish something early on.

  • Respect the other’s space and privacy.

  • It’s not required, but it is pretty considerate to let your roommate know if you won’t be home overnight or are going away for a weekend so they don’t worry. It’s also a safety measure- if you get kidnapped or murdered, you will want someone to call the police!

  • After cooking, try to leave the kitchen the way you found it.

  • Try not to monopolize spaces, or if you do, try to make sure your roommate feels welcome. If you cook every night, offer to share dinner with your roommate (though don’t let yourself become the de-facto chef!). If you watch TV a lot, make sure your roommate also gets a say in what’s on.

  • Respect your roommate’s moods- don’t jabber at them first thing if they need coffee to wake up. On the flip side, a quick good morning or hello when you walk in the door before taking an hour to decompress will do wonders for making your roommate feel like you don’t hate them.

  • If you are a homebody, try to get out sometimes so your roommate can have the place to themselves.

  • Make sure you aren’t taking up more than your share of fridge and pantry space. Part of this can be accomplished by agreeing on certain foods that can be shared. You shouldn’t need to have two of everything when you guys can probably split the same carton of milk or bag of flour.

  • Don’t eat your roommate’s food, and ask before borrowing things. On the flip side, establish what’s personal and what’s shared. You don’t want to flip out at your roommate for playing your records when she thought they were fair game for anyone who felt like listening to music.

  • If you have a significant other, make sure they aren’t spending EVERY night and weekend at your apartment unless they are chipping in!

  • Try to discuss things in a civilized manner without getting passive aggressive or mean.

  • Just clean the toilet already, jeez.

  • And don’t hog the bathroom.


Unfortunately, even if you follow all these rules, sometimes you will just have a shitty roommate. So let’s all commiserate and share our shitty roommate stories. Here are ours:


Jaya: Of course mine was my freshman year roommate from college, who thought that because she went to boarding school and technically had enough credits to count as a Junior when she was 18 that she was incredibly mature and knew all there was to being a roommate. She made a lot of rude assumptions (“You’re an only child, so I know you’ll have a hard time sharing…”), but then proceeded to break every rule she set, such as leaving mugs filled with sunflower seed shells all over the room for me to knock over, kicking me out of the room for a weekend so her boyfriend could stay over, blasting her music when I was studying and then insisting I leave the room while she was studying, and not letting me use the fridge because it was “her” fridge even though c’mon we’re freshmen and I just want a place to store my leftover mozzarella sticks. Oh and she would spend long times guilting me whenever I came home drunk, even though I was 18 and we went to school in New Orleans. And then she’d go out and get wasted and come home at 4am just scream-laughing and waking everyone up.


Victoria: I’ve been pretty lucky in having mostly good roommates, aside from the expected frustrations over chores and sharing the bathroom. I did have one roommate who spent most of her time on the phone with her long distance boyfriend, but that was more just…weird than anything. Another roommate had been on the track team until she was injured and then spent the rest of the semester skipping class to watch TV and thus being in our tiny dorm room at ALL TIMES. She also liked to study in the room all night with the light on (pro tip: sleeping masks are absolutely amazing) instead of going to the library like a normal person. OH! And one roommate let her boyfriend’s friend from home crash in our room during his Spring Break, leading to an EXTREMELY drunk guy crashing through my door in the wee hours and scaring me to death.