Seven Actions for Perfect Propriety in Public Life in the New Year, Vol. 12, Issue 2

January 13th, 2013 . by Etiquetteer

Here we are, embarked on a New Year, and Etiquetteer is working hard to maintain a Feeling of Hope for increasing Perfect Propriety. Etiquetteer has identified seven areas — some simple, some quixotic — where action should be taken. At once.

1. Homeowner associations (HOAs) need to write exceptions into their governing documents allowing homeowners to display the American flag on or from their properties without being fined or censured. Every year an HOA makes the news when it sues or fines a homeowner who displays an American flag on his or her property against the HOA rules about decorations and displays. These stories are even more poignant when the flag is tattered or in otherwise less-than-perfect condition, usually because of its association with a family member who died in service to this nation. If you live in an HOA, take the initiative now to modify your bylaws to permit display of the American flag on one’s property.

2. Anyone who has charge of an escalator, whether it’s in a shopping mall, transportation hub, government or office building, or any other public place, needs to be sure that every rider knows that standing is on the right, and passing is on the left. This can be achieved with signage or a painted line down the center.

3. Retailers need to stop colonizing private life and pandering to our baser instincts by scheduling outrageous sales events on holidays - and we need to stop letting them do it by buying into this manufactured “excitement.” Etiquetteer was outraged that some retailers actually scheduled some sales to begin on Thanksgiving Day Itself, and appalled viewing some of the video footage of the Black Friday mĂ©lee. Etiquetteer has extreme difficulty reconciling this with the True Spirit of Christmas. If it was up to Etiquetteer — which, of course, it ought to be — Black Friday sales would not be allowed to begin until 10:00 AM on Friday. Even if the retailers don’t, Etiquetteer wants you to make the commitment to refrain from shopping on holidays.

4. Unfortunately, Western civilization has reached such a low level of sloth, selfishness, or contempt that more and more people don’t care about being properly dressed in public. Indeed, many don’t even know what proper dress is. With great reluctance, Etiquetteer must endorse the use of instructional signage, such as “No Visible Undergarments” and “No Sleepwear” so that standards can be reinforced.

5. Theatres and concert halls need to enforce more vigorously the rule not to use recording devices of any kind (cameras, recorders, smartphones, etc.) during concerts. Anyone who has ever had their view of a performance blocked by rows of upraised arms with iPhones will appreciate this. Etiquetteer believes that violators should be evicted, which means that ushers will need to be more vigilant and prowl the aisles during performances more often. (It is interesting to muse on how differently Woodstock might have affected Western culture if everyone there had had a smartphone or videocamera. Etiquetteer is mighty relieved they didn’t.)

6. The battle between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians must stop. To quote Stu Ackerman, “There is only ‘we.’ ‘Them’ is a hallucination born of fear.” Everyone has the same goal: to get wherever they’re going as quickly as possible. Etiquetteer would like them to get there as safely as possible, too. And this means being aware of one’s own situation and of other travelers around one. For pedestrians, it means looking left, right, and left again before walking across the street — and only at intersections. For drivers, it means knowing where one is going before getting in the car and relying on an often-faulty GPS. For cyclists, it means awareness that both pedestrians and drivers, through no fault of their own, will have to cross the bike lane. For all it means putting away one’s electronic devices so that one can travel with full concentration and without distraction! Etiquetteer’s heart has leapt into his mouth more than once seeing a pedestrian blithely walk into an intersection while staring intently at a smartphone screen, or a driver making a sharp left turn with one hand on the wheel and cellphone held to the ear. In summary, no one group of travelers is evil, as many would like to think. Rather, there are impatient and inattentive travelers in each group. Etiquetteer urges you to represent the best aspects of your particular Mode of Travel.

7. If parents are not going to enforce Perfect Propriety in their children when dining out, restaurants are going to start having to do it for them by either asking them to leave, being sure they know not to come back until the children can behave, or banning children altogether. While hastily acknowledging the very many good and attentive parents who understand and train their children well, Etiquetteer must note that the legions of oblivious and ineffective parents make dining out difficult for everyone.* The stories from waiters and waitresses (one need only search the Web) can curl one’s hair.

And that, as they say, is that. Etiquetteer welcomes your Perfectly Proper queries resulting from these recommendations at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com.

*It’s worth noting, too, that every time Etiquetteer sees a news story about Chuck E. Cheese, it’s because grownups started a brawl there.


Three Snapshots of New York, Vol. 7, Issue 3

January 27th, 2008 . by Etiquetteer


Etiquetteer recently spent some time in Manhattan and saw a few things worthy of comment.

This sign, which appeared outside a popular restaurant/nightspot, reads “This is a residential building. Please be respectful of our neighbors. Kindly keep your noise level down and the sidewalk clear for pedestrian traffic.”

 

Etiquetteer didn’t return at closing time to see how effective it was, but can only admire the sentiment and the effort this sign represents. Etiquetteer is sure that readers could suggest other establishments where such notification would be welcome!

Etiquetteer very much enjoyed a late lunch at Max Brennan’

s, but how on earth are you supposed to drink hot chocolate with Perfect Propriety out of a cup like this?!

 

Etiquetteer first thought it was being served in a gravy boat, but it’s really called a HugMug. You’ll note that it has no handle of any kind. The best Etiquetteer could manage was to grasp the wide end of the HugMug and sip from the spout. Certainly the hot chocolate was the best Etiquetteer had ever had!

If you’re wealthy enough to swan about Manhattan in a full-length fur coat, then you’re able to afford Perfectly Proper shoes in which to do so. Etiquetteer was appalled to see this misguided lady trudging along in a glamorous fur wearing wool socks and tennis shoes! Sweet merciful heaven, one doesn’t have to wear high heels, but one could at least wear non-athletic shoes and stockings instead of socks.


An Unwanted Houseguest, Vol. 5, Issue 12

April 2nd, 2006 . by Etiquetteer


Dear Etiquetteer:Twenty years ago, the man in my life was named in a paternity suit and couldn’t deny the possibility. I threw him out, and we have had limited social contact since then (once every six or seven years). Not too long ago he showed up at my front door because he was ‘in town and looked me up,’ apparently hoping for a place to stay. This would have been awkward enough if I had been home, but I was traveling on business, and the door was answered by my housemates. They felt obliged to extend hospitality to this man on my behalf, but fortunately called me first. I explained to him, very apologetically, that it would be a terrible imposition for me to ask my housemates to put aside their plans for the night, and that he would simply have to make other arrangements. He did, and I have not heard from him since.While I have no reason to believe he was in physical or financial distress, was it rude to turn him out like that without making sure? Should I call him to find out if he is OK? If I had been home, how much hospitality would I be obliged to provide? I am curious to hear how he is doing, but I think I would prefer some advance notice to prepare myself, and perhaps explain things to the current man in my life. These spontaneous sorts of things always seem to work out well in the movies, but my life is more complicated than that. What should I do?Dear Survivor:“When you assume,” as one of Etiquetteer’s best friends is tiresomely fond of pointing out, “you make an ass of you and me.” Your Former Love showed bad planning and poor taste by showing up at your door, suitcase in hand, without warning of any kind. Etiquetteer cannot fault you for declining to offer him overnight hospitality. Had you answered the door to him yourself, you could have said “Oh, I’m sorry, but it won’t be possible for you to stay tonight” and nothing more. If he’s so ill-bred as to ask why it’s not possible, add no more than “Well, I have plans that make it impossible.” They could be nothing more than a pedicure, but he doesn’t need to know that.If you felt safe with him, you could have invited him inside for a beverage and brief conversation, but only if you felt safe. Etiquetteer still has visions of Ike Turner molesting Tina in that parking lot in What’s Love Got to Do With It? And please fight down the urge to call and check up on this guy. The whole thing sounds like you’re well rid of him.

Dear Readers: Etiquetteer made a trip to Manhattan not too long ago and was amused to see this sign outside a synagogue. Etiquetteer couldn’t agree more!

 

 

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to notify@etiquetteer.com.