Tag Archives: Etiquette

The Audacity of Dopes

Reports of bad human behavior are nothing new, particularly here.  But once in awhile there are behaviors so novel, so compelling, they really do warrant a tale.

Picture if you will a 250 year old inn, nestled in the Berkshires.  It is a grand home festooned with an expansive porch, (blessedly outfitted daily with afternoon tea.)  The cultivated gardens burst forth under the watchful eye of a colonial era church, which adorably bongs out the hour.  Inside, there is an extensive library and dozens of board games and puzzles lining the walls of an enormous living room.

There is a sitting room at the entrance to the dining room.  Guests gather after a groggy trip to the coffee bar.  They await their gourmet 3-course breakfast while perusing the inn’s newspapers.  There is a very quiet rustic elegance to the inn.  Guests are quiet yet friendly.

So there I was, coffee in hand, alone in the sitting room, looking fruitlessly for the front section of the paper.  (For those who are not familiar with news delivered on “paper” the front section is the meat of the issue.)  I looked high, I looked low.  The inn manager was engaged in the search as well.  An hour and three cups of coffee later, I had made my way through every other section of the New York paper, the entirety of the local paper, 2 catalogs of cotton drapey clothes and successfully ignored the towering stack of Gourmet magazines.  By this time I was joined by others looking for the paper as well.  It was then that a woman walked out of the dining room (with her companion) holding what looked suspiciously like the front section of the newspaper under her arm.  I called out a modulated; “excuse me, is that the front section of the paper?”  Her answer?  “Yes, I’m not done with it.”  My look must have expressed what my sputtering brain could not.  She looked at me and with just a hint of sarcasm (yet, no apparent irony) said; “why?  is it yours?”  She then went upstairs to her room.  With the communal paper.

Now I admit, I didn’t even consider using my indoor voice when commenting with my fellow aghast guests.  I think I might have even been a wee snide.

Look, we all want what we want when we want it.  That is the human condition.  But sometimes those impulses erode into truly antisocial behavior (like hiding a newspaper at your breakfast table so that no one but you can have it and you’ll be assured your private bedroom date with it after your repast.) But I have to ask myself, if one is that anti-social or anti-communal, what is one doing in an inn?  Surely there are 5-star hotels or campers which would better serve.

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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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I’ll Have What She’s Having

Have you noticed the latest fall-out from the “restaurant as theatre” syndrome?  It seems now an expectation that the selection and consumption of food should be a communal experience.  Forks fly and plates are shuttled back and forth in an attempt to “try” as many menu items as possible.  To me this is somewhat tantamount to talking during a performance.  Please be quiet and please remove your fork from my plate.  I’d like to enjoy what I’ve selected without interruption please.

I am not anti-communal dining.  I enjoy a good potluck or buffet.  However there is something intrinsically self indulgent about dining out.  Perhaps it is just my emotional make-up that makes me relish having someone prepare something for me that I know I’ll enjoy.  I’m not interested in experiencing other people’s personal tastes or selections.  I would like just 30 minutes or so to enjoy exactly what I asked for.  Considering how rarely I dine out, I don’t feel too Veruka Salt saying this.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I’ve never been that great at group endeavors.  I failed at the one-week session of Girl Scout day camp, begging my mother to allow me to quit.  I was asked to leave Brownies after being inconsolable upon learning there would be no actual brownies.  The very idea of a sorority made my chest constrict.  I never did the “summer share.”  In fact my number one goal as a young adult was to rid myself of roommates and live alone.
Before one makes the logical conclusion; “sociopath!!!!” let me assure you, I am very socially functional and a good little sharer.  I toss books, clothes, shoes and advice, hither and yon.  I take great pleasure in the daily opportunities there are for human kindness.
But when it comes to mealtime, I’m not sure I’ve ever graduated past the Bread and Jam for Frances phase of life.  I (and my sister for that matter) could eat the same thing everyday for the remainder of our solid food lifetimes.  My packed lunchbox is as exciting to me as a Faberge Egg.  All morning I look forward to the predictable contents.  And for the record, I have been known to share some of it as well.

I’m just not that interested in what others choose to eat.  Make no mistake, I am thrilled to be invited to a homemade meal or catered affair.  I am not harboring any Howard Hughes idiosyncrasies about what I ingest.  It’s just that when I dine out, if it isn’t too much to ask, I’d rather not have the table turn into a giant lazy susan.  All personal food choices aside, isn’t it simply more civilized to not play Red Rover, Red Rover over a white tablecloth?

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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