How To Get Along

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I have decided some of you, well, most of you really, have been neglecting your manners while in public and it is high time that I correct your obvious societal failures so that once again Canadians will be able to mingle with our betters, the snobs of Great Britain. Hence, I offer you a guide to follow:

DON’T: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct and Speech 

Some time ago, some kind soul lent me this book and as is my custom I tossed it on a pile of must-reads that resides in what passes for my office, a pile that has since grown to fill all the available space and now invades the hall. Unfortunately, I forgot which kind soul that was and it joins a myriad of borrowed and stolen tomes that Mary warns must go, or I will.

I admit that some of the suggestions I will be offering to you most of the fall and well on into winter may seem a trifle out of date since this book was printed by Ward, Lock, & Co., Limited, of London and Melbourne  in 1922. Let us then soldier on.

Some of these rules you would never break, such as don’t eat soup from the end of the spoon, but from the side and don’t gurgle, or draw in your breath, or make other noises when eating soup. (You will note there is nothing here to stop you from lifting the bowl and swilling it down as you usually do. Although later in the book it suggests you don’t drink tea from a saucer, that however has already been solved by the Horton’s et all by doing away with the saucer altogether.)

Don’t masticate your food with your mouth open. Not only that but I was told as a teenager masticating may cause blindness and insanity.

Before we move on, one rule I found somewhat confusing and perhaps is out of date is don’t drink too much wine. Most hosts and hostesses will feel slighted if even a drop of wine remains, not only in the carafe and the bottle, but also in the wine rack. We have friends who feel obligated to also soak up any liqueurs handy or hidden. Drinking and driving is not a problem since they usually wake up in the morning behind the couch or on the front lawn.

Oh, I almost forgot, if you are a house guest don’t come to breakfast in deshabille. A woman’s morning toilet should be simple, but fresh and tasteful, and her hair not in curlpapers. A gentleman should wear his morning suit, and never his dressing gown. And I might add Bra and panties for madame and for monsieur jockey shorts are acceptable but only if clean and freshly laundered.

So much for dining, either as a guest or a host, we must move on. How does one behave in public? There are several warnings about expectorating which I could care less about, but spitting, that is another matter, as is sneezing and blowing one’s nose. If you happen to be with someone who suddenly sneezes a good line is “Did you get any on you?” If one simply must blow his or her nose, do so, but dispose of the tissue quietly and with some decorum. I find tossing it behind the couch or shoving it between the cushions is acceptable especially if the family is not known for fastidious housekeeping.

Don’t keep carrying your hands to your face, pulling your moustache, adjusting your hair, or otherwise fingering yourself – especially that one.

Don’t whisper in company. If what you wish to say cannot be spoken aloud, reserve it for another occasion. If a colleague’s fly is open or milady’s dress is tucked into the top of her underpants after leaving the washroom they will know soon enough by the snickering.

Don’t be long-winded especially if one is writing a column about manners and is trying to stretch the topic out until long into the Christmas season.

Now this one is important and cannot be expressed too often. Don’t fail in proper attention to elderly people. Young persons are often scandalously neglectful of the aged, especially if they are deaf or otherwise afflicted. And I might add, short – even if they claim to be 5’6” and everyone knows the little squirt is only 5’5” and seems to be getting shorter every day. Nothing shows a better heart or a sense of true politeness than kindly attention to those advanced in years.

Coming up, how to treat your inferiors. Although in my case I have yet to find any.

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