Modern Etiquette

At one point in my life, I was taught something about etiquette. I am no longer sure who did the teaching or how expansive was the curriculum.

Nonetheless, I somehow internalized, for instance, for whom I should open or hold doors. Old(er) people. Women. Those with visually apparent disabilities.

I also learned when and to whom to tip or remove my hat. The fact that I haven’t owned a hat in my entire adult life makes no difference to learning the procedure. Funerals. When the U.S. flag is raised. And, as a cowboy, to women.

Etiquette extends much farther than the simple boundaries with which I became acquainted; Emily Post never rented a room from us. And, truthfully, at points it seems pointless or at least silly.

Crossing one’s legs at the ankles when sitting down; I didn’t have to learn that one. Not putting one’s elbows on the dinner table, especially when using utensils; I admit having slipped more than once on that. Understanding and then correctly using the arrangement of utensils at a place setting; just what is the difference between a salad fork and a dessert fork, anyway?

Now, with virtually the entire world of upright walking humans owning cell phones, new rules are to be learned and followed.

People talking on cell phones deserve to have the door opened and held for them. Non-talkers should defer to the digitally chatty. Plus, this is a matter of safety: those on the phone are often distracted and may accidentally walk into a door, or a fountain, or you.

One should be seen and not heard in the presence of people talking on mobile devices. Previously, this, of course, was rule to be followed only by children. The digitally deficient (or temporarily quiet) have apparently been redefined as kiddies.

“Eavesdropping” on cell phone talkers is impolite and an invasion of their privacy. No matter how loudly that end of the conversation is voiced. Or how ridiculous its (end of the) content.

Muttering under one’s breath about the content of the one-sided conversation is hurtful. Probably an act of oppression. And an infringement on the rights of cell phoners.

I’m reminded of the old chestnut: my right to swing my arms ends where your nose begins.

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