Through Thom Tinted Lenses

January 24, 2010

21ST CENTURY ETIQUETTE by Thom Reese

Filed under: culture,entertainment,humor,Politically correct,society,Uncategorized — Thom Reese @ 5:56 am

I’m not what you would call an etiquette guru. I never met Emily Post, didn’t read her rule book, and wouldn’t be opposed to wearing chartreuse sneakers to a formal affair. I don’t care to which side of the plate my napkin sits. I’m simply thrilled if it’s relatively spot-free and well within reach. The order of the silverware is superfluous. And as to caring that someone had the audacity to wear white after a certain date of the year? Really, is there nothing more pressing in this world? To me, it all smacks of far too much time on the hands.

“I’m so terribly bored,” says the queen with an exasperated sigh. “Perhaps a beheading would brighten my day.”

“Oh, I’m sure we can come up with something better than that,” says the man with the nearest head. “Suppose you sign an edict declaring in which order everyone should set their silverware.”

“Hmmm,” hmmms the queen. “Can I tell them where to put those little salady thingy forks?”

“You most certainly can,” smiles the man still in possession of his head.

And so it goes.

Let’s be honest, we live in an informal time. In fact, we have a whole day of the week dedicated to just that – casual Friday. Would it be improper etiquette to wear a suit on casual Friday?

Over all, I’m happy with the trend. Neck ties are strangely akin to hangman’s nooses. And an excess of formality brings with it a certain level of disingenuousness, a social aloofness birthed in the trivialness of triviality. I think, work-related attire aside, people shouldn’t be held to the fashion foibles of strangers.

That said, a lack of formality in fashion or dining protocol is a benign offence. No one is injured if I wear my favorite jeans to church or Payless flip-flops to dinner at Chateau Blah-Blah-Blah. But when we allow the same attitude to extend to our relations with fellow human beings, we can find ourselves smelling of month-old sushi.

Our anything-goes-look-at-me-I’m-free society has been used by some as an excuse to be outright rude. A simple “thank you” or “pardon me” often seems as foreign as if spoken by a strange little alien boy named Beaver Cleaver. Cashiers stand chatting with co-workers while checking orders, never once acknowledging the customer. Of course, the customer is most likely jabbering away on a cell phone, oblivious to the fact that another living breathing human being is standing before him or her providing a needed service. As to the formality of titles, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t refer to me as Mr. Reese. I’d rather be called Thom. But a, “Get outta the way you lumbering hunk a #@%*$!!!” rarely brightens my day.

Speaking of expletives:

Yep, you have the right to use them. The restrictions of yesteryear have become rather elastic with regards to the topic. But I believe there’s still a place for sensitivity. Blurting out a string of four-letter treats to a complete stranger in a public place is still considered offensive by some. Especially when children are present. Does anyone really need a T-shirt with the “F bomb” emblazoned on it for all to see? And if so, does it need to be worn to the grocery store – really? Just as it would be inappropriate to show The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to a toddler, it’s also less-than-genius to spew a litany of expletives before that same impressionable child. At the very least, this decision should be left to the child’s parents, not to complete strangers.

I was at a convenience store recently and a young man approached the counter. A mother with a small child was in line behind him as he said, “Gimmie those #$@!% Marlboros ya #@%#* *&%#@!”

Yeah, the guy had class.

As adults, we have freedoms. But there is a level of responsibility and common sense that tags along for the ride. And if truth be told, there are over 500,000 words in the English language. Does anyone really need to use the same word repeatedly in every sentence?

“What the @%$# do these @%$# think they’re @%$# doin’?” Yes, it takes amazing mental agility to utter such a sentence.

But for those who feel the imperative to express every frustration with every utterance, I propose a compromise. When in public, when in the presence of children, how about finding some alternate expressions? Be creative. Replace the “F bomb” with a sports term. “Get the line-of-scrimmage outta my face you stupid pop-fly-to-deep-center-field.”

Or maybe we could substitute song titles for our favorite expletives.

“What the Do-Wah-Diddy-Diddy-Dumm-Diddy-Do do you think you’re doing?”

“Get the Boogie-Woogie-Bugle-Boy-of-Company-B away from me, you Achy-Breaky-Heart.”

“You know what, buddy? You’re full a The-Best-of-My-Love!”

Okay, silly, yes. But, it makes my point. I’m not trying to take away any freedoms here. That’s not my place. I’m just asking for a little social sensitivity in an it’s-all-about-me society. Be aware of others around you. Be courteous, not just in choice of language, but in attitude as well. Say “thank you” to a cashier. Acknowledge the person next to you on the bus. Through it all, be yourself. Be imaginative. Show off your own special flare. I think the era’s primary cultural dictate could be to express oneself to the extent that it doesn’t infringe on another’s rights or happiness.

Thom Reese is a Las Vegas based writer whose weekly radio show, 21st Century Audio Theatre, previously aired on the 50,000 watt KDWN. Fourteen of Thom’s audio dramas will be released by Speaking Volumes Quality Audio Books throughout 2010. Thom studied comedy writing at The Second City and works in market research for CBS Broadcasting.

Copyright 2010 Thom Reese All Rights Reserved.

“Through Thom Tinted Lenses” is posted weekly. If you enjoy these blogs, please subscribe using the button to the right and share the link with your friends. Comments are welcome.

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9 Comments »

  1. Hi Thom,

    You’ve caught today’s lack of social responsibility perfectly. Sensitivity and respect go a long way for all age groups. Maybe you need to offer an on-air contest plus start a Facebook group whose challenge is to substitute swear words and uncouth language with something more original. Could be fun. Of course there would have to be a prize for the winner too.

    Bravo!!

    Bonnie

    Comment by Bonnie Toews — January 24, 2010 @ 9:04 am | Reply

  2. You got that right. I’m all for the casual attire in most places and even in church for God doesn’t care what we wear to church as long as we are there.

    But on the same note, you are right, people are so glued to their cell phones that don’t acknowledge the people around them. Sometimes a friendly thank you goes much further than a quick customer.

    However I have one real flaw here, at Wally world when I’m shopping and someone needs by or someone else is in a huge hurry, I do not feel I should move my buggy out of the way for them to do what they want. Mainly because I’ll go around another isle if I have to. Or I’ll wait. waiting is a virtue no one seems to be able to afford these days. My children say I’m rude when it comes to that. But I’m old and a little respect for that would go a long way with me. I realize just because I have gray hair that everyone isn’t going to be kind, but if I’m in line first, can’t someone else wait just a little.

    I really don’t like the fact that most kids don’t respect old people any longer. They think we don’t know anything because we were born in the dinosaur ages. But if we were, we have the facts, not them.

    With the casual attire came the casual attitudes, and this part isn’t good. It is strange that once we let our defenses down an become humans we aspire to reach the gutter sometimes. Why must we go to such extremes? Why can’t we simply be happy that men don’t have to wear ties any longer and women don’t have to wear girdles. Throw the girdle away, but must we cast the bras too? Yuck!

    Where is that mid road?

    And while we are talking about it, how about the fast food industry. The first words out of the little girls mouth, “for here or to go”? Well, must I decide where I’ll sit before I decide what I’ll eat? It all gets to be a bit much. And what happens when you order something not on the menu, pure chaos. Instead of that “for here or to go” What happened to, “Good evening, good to see you again, will you be dining with us or taking it with you, sir?: kInd of thing. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant experience.

    You are so right Thom…a little curtesy goes a long way.
    Blessings to you and yours
    Rita Hestand

    Comment by Rita Hestand — January 24, 2010 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  3. I always try to be polite and not swear in public (I’m still working not swearing in private; it’s a bad habit). It does amaze me sometimes how rude people can be and how a little politeness can cheer someone’s day.

    Comment by A. F. Stewart — January 24, 2010 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  4. I love your wit, Thom, and you really make a great point here. I had to laugh out loud at your creative replacement of common curst words–in my mind’s eye, suddenly Ned Flanders had taken over your blog post. 😉

    Comment by L. Lane — January 24, 2010 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

  5. hey thom,
    how true is this !! people just need to slow down and treat other people with just a little human decency !!!!

    Comment by patty green — January 24, 2010 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  6. Why is it that almost every human on the planet thinks they are the only one and the most important one. I for one do not care to here the foul language that comes from a trash mouth. People just have no respect for the strangers around them. As for etiquette I am a big fan of Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt always trying to rember which fork to start with first.

    Keep em coming Thom.

    Comment by Matt — January 24, 2010 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

  7. Love it Thom. And you used some of the nicer 500,000 words in the English language to do so. But, I fear this trend will continue until more people like you stand up and say, enough. Kind of like the guy on Idol did with Pants on the Ground. It’s stupid and he said so. Thanks Thom.

    Comment by Wanda M. Argersinger — January 25, 2010 @ 5:22 am | Reply

  8. They can have my right to drop the F-bomb in front of God almighty himself AND his Children when they pry it off my cold dead tounge!

    Nice Blog Thom! Actually chuckled a few times.

    Comment by Brad — January 25, 2010 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  9. Thom,

    I think what you are talking about is it no longer “cool” to be civilized. Have you noticed? We have gotten away from the notion of people as being “spiritual beings” different from the animals. Yes we are all animals but humans should be above dogs and other animals. I work with a girl who acts just like my Rottweiler Alma. She used to bother me but now that I have accepted the fact that she is just like my dog Alma, I am able to accept that she does not want to take the high road in life and is satisfied with behaving like a Rottweiler. I am being sarcastic I know but that is honestly how I feel. I am like you I have had enough and I want the trend to go back to civility and with people would aspire to becoming more civilized not less.

    Comment by Nancy — January 25, 2010 @ 10:29 am | Reply


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