Building Blocks (Proper Etiquette)

‘Proper’ etiquette is at the hands of the doer, and judged by the observer.  Let’s think about how we have displayed ‘proper’ etiquette, and, thus, how our characters have.

In 1968, while attending a national college gathering in New York City, a friend and I were ready to order lunch at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  At the time, be it stage, screen, magazines, etc., the Waldorf, was at the height of ‘sophistication’.   As we waited to order our food, I noticed a cockroach crawl out from behind the flower vase and start walking across the table.  I looked at my friend, my friend looked at me…what was the proper etiquette?  I was 21, which is far too old to jump up from the table and yell ‘there’s a cockroach’ to alert the staff.  Thus, I did what a real gentleman would do; not to smash the bug and mess up the tablecloth, I simply used an upside down ashtray to entrap the bug.  For some reason food was now history, and no staff member would stop by our table.  As we left the restaurant without ordering, I quietly mentioned to the maître d’ that an “unwanted visitor” was at our table.

On a hot summer day, twenty-four-year-old Steve was in Rome, at the Vatican City, talking to a small group of international male tourists of my age.  Two 19-20 year old girls approached us, and asked if we could assist them.  Not properly dressed to enter the Vatican, they asked if we would form a barrier; so they could change clothes between us and a wall.  Exercising proper etiquette we said yes; and, facing towards the Vatican, we became a dressing room screen.  When I told my friends back home about this experience, the women laughed, “good manners”; while the guys, “why didn’t you look!”

Proper etiquette also involves when not to laugh 🙂  One afternoon at the family pet specialty supply store, teenage Steve was crouched down behind a glass showcase doing some restocking.  I noticed that an elderly lady customer had approached the showcase, and was looking at me through the glass.  Seeing that she had caught my attention, “Young man, do you have balls?”  My ‘take a second to put the world in perspective’ etiquette thankfully overtook any instantaneous comic response.  However, my Mom, who was a few feet away, had overheard, and politely responded for me, “I hope he does.”  Of course, exercising business etiquette, my Mom quickly turned away to hide her silent laughter.  I took advantage of the break in eye-to-eye contact to regather my ‘composure’, and said “yes ma’am” to the customer; and I stood and pointed to the showcase that displayed dog toys.

How have you displayed ‘proper’ etiquette?

Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.


Building Blocks (Mishaps do happen!)

Unfortunately mishaps do happen; however, as our characters grow older, their mishap realism can become lost in antiquity.  Realistically, brief conversations between age groups may not be as comprehendible as we want them to be.  Let’s think about what has happened in our lives, and think about how quickly different generations can visualize the incident.

For example, when I was asked by a ten year old how I got a scar on my lower arm, I replied that I scraped my arm on a sharp rabbit ear.  “Rabbit’s ears are not sharp!”  “It’s slang for a TV antenna.”  “What’s a TV antenna?”

What are some ‘common’ mishaps that could baffle our older or younger generation readers?

Our kitchen trash compactor ate my watch!:  With curbside compost and recycling pickup becoming available in more and more communities, the trash compactor is becoming history.

I spilled water/soda/beer/wine on my floppy disk!:  The first floppy disks were developed in the late 1960s.  Today, computers were rarely manufactured with installed floppy disk drives.

I can’t call her; the dang party-line is tying up the phone!:  Party line (multiparty line, shared service line, party wire) is a local loop telephone circuit that is shared by multiple telephone service subscribers.  Party line systems were widely used to provide telephone service, starting with the first commercial switchboards in 1878.  A majority of Bell System subscribers in the mid-20th century in the United States and Canada were serviced by party lines.  One of the last manual telephone exchanges with party lines was in Australia, and was closed down in 1986.

He tripped over the milk bottle the milkman left in front of the door.:  Yes, in some places milkmen/women do still deliver milk to residences.  However, younger readers think of grocery stores, Walmarts, and WaWa type retailers.  In the early-1950s, a wonderful innovation helped my family to keep the delivered milk from spoiling; an insulated box on the back porch.

She was late because she forgot to wind her wristwatch.:  Since 1923,  when John Harwood, a watch repairer from Bolton, England, introduced the first commercial self-winding watch, hand cranking one’s wristwatch has become a rarity today.

Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.