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Here's the thing about manners today

 There was once talk about making the teaching of manners mandatory in the school system. This idea fell by the wayside, however, just as did the plan to teach spelling. 


It was thought that if manners were taught in the schools, the sudden influx of youngsters saying “yes, sir” might cause the entire senior citizen population to have apoplexy.


So, now we have no manners, because it’s certainly not being taught anywhere, especially at home. Granted, manners consultants have popped up in some parts of the country to make up for this deficit, but they are far outnumbered by the unwashed population. 


I have several pet peeves in this area. I just can’t get over guys wearing their caps indoors, especially at the table in a restaurant. Everyone does it now, young, old and in between. Sandra says I just dislike it because I hate to wear caps and that guys haven’t taken their hats off indoors since the Spanish American War. 


Another thing I can’t get used to is this sitting in the driveway and blowing your horn for your date to come out. If the girls can’t get out of the car and knock on the door, I just wouldn’t come out if I was a guy on a date nowadays.


I know things have changed considerably, but when we were growing up, kids were seen and not heard. You didn’t just walk up and interrupt an adult conversation. Well, you might have done it once and had your head handed to you. And the world didn’t revolve around you, you were just a minor cog in an adult world.


And just what is the rule when you’re eating out with kids? Is it polite for the kids to sit in the gravy bowl or not? And in what order are they supposed to throw the food at you? Is there a rule on this? And how many can crawl under the table at one time? 


Another pet peeve is cell phones. I was in line at the funeral home not long ago. A young man stood in front of the widow as his cell phone rang. She waited patiently while he answered it.


So what’s to be done now that we’ve hit this low spot in civilization where no one knows how to act?


My friend Willard and I were talking about this very thing the other day. Willard was having some guys over for a soirée, which is French for “pig picking,” and was worried about the utensil placement. Willard was not used to putting on such a fine affair and had thought he might have to have it inside since it had rained. I told him that since he was serving pickled eggs and beer, good etiquette demanded that he have the party outside in the fresh air. So he put down some cardboard in the yard so his guests wouldn’t get their bare feet too wet. 


Finally it was decided to put the forks in a mason jar and let the guests use their pocket knives if they had them.


I reminded Willard about the time his in-laws had him and Sue Lynn over for dinner and they had ended up asking Willard to leave the table because he had killed a fly. 


“You can’t just let a house fly loose around the butter,” Willard said. “Somebody had to do something.”


“Yeah,” I answered, “but you didn’t have to kill it with your table knife.”


Willard said he always figured they were mad because he used the utensil out of order.


It’s questions like this that are always rearing their ugly heads. You never know when you might make a faux pas, which literally means “a screw up.”


For instance, there’s always that tricky question about asparagus. Can you eat it with your fingers or not? And what if it’s “al dente” — which means “without dentures”?


And do you break the bread or cut it? We always broke it because we were afraid Grandma had put cracklings in it. So, the family tradition persisted. But, if it’s light bread at a pig picking, maybe you should just pick it up and bite it. 


You should probably not put your elbows on the table unless there’s nowhere else to place them.


It’s probably not good manners to reach over and eat your hostess’ desert, either, unless of course she looks like she doesn’t want it.


Then there’s that tricky finger bowl, which I understand now may come with a slice of lemon floating in it. The finger bowl is handy if you’ve been eating ribs, barbequed chicken or tacos. It’s not proper to drink out of it unless you’re out of tea. It is OK, I think, to eat the lemon.


When passing items, such as biscuits, it is not considered good manners to throw them, even if you are accurate and have a good arm. 


As a service to the community, Willard and I are graciously offering our advice to any of you out there who might have questions regarding etiquette or manners. Just email me at the address below or call Ben’s Gas and Quik Lube and leave a message for Willard.