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Archive for August, 2010

Janet’s Etiquette For the New Century

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Move over Miss Manners. It has come to my attention that in all the hubbub of the Internet, iPods and iPads, Androids and Blackberries, Tea Parties and Blue Dogs— plus for most people, lack of growing up in a small community—people have forgotten their damned manners. Like swearing in public, goddamn it! Oh. Sorry. Anyway, here are some helpful tips on dealing with modern society.

Tip Number One: Screaming is not an effective method of communication. Unless you’re talking to a half-deaf person. Or you’re at a rock concert. Seriously, who decided screaming was a way to get your point across? Other than my family? It never works. Especially in my family. The din gets progressively louder until no one can hear a word anyone says. Oh. I just had an epiphany. Okay, in the case of Periats, it’s probably a hard-wired self-defense mechanism. However, in public, screaming is completely unnecessary unless a building is on fire. All screaming does is make the screamer look like an idiot and make all their points suspect. The more calm you are, the more you focus on the logic of your points rather than the raw emotion behind them, the greater the likelihood you will be heard. But today Town Hall Meetings have become Town Hall Shout Fests and nothing will be accomplished unless WE ALL CALM DOWN!!! Oh. Sorry.

Tip Number Two: Calling people names is not an effective method of persuasion. When debating subjects like immigration, taxation and health care, one should avoid bellowing things like: “Commie pinko fags, burn in hell!*” Instead try: “Commie pinko fags, burn in heck!” Remember, you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Tip Number Three: Say “thank you” when someone opens a door for you. There’s a Princess Manufacturing Plant somewhere nearby that spits out little girls (between eighteen and twenty-six years of age) who think they are entitled to EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you how many young women I’ve opened doors for who proudly shove their nose high in the air and walk by me without deigning to acknowledge my kindness. I always want to run after them and go “Can we do that again? So this time I can slam that door on your stupid Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses?” I don’t understand the Pouty Posing Precious Princess Phenomenon. Why would you raise your daughter to treat the public like they’re her subjects? This is bound to end in disaster for the girl. Because while I get a bit testy when a Princess strides by me like they’re on a red carpet instead of walking into Barnes and Nobel, I worry more about them. With their expectations, they are doomed to a life of disappointment. Bitter little girls turn into bitter old women. A writer friend of mine, Ann Fischer, put it perfectly: spoiled Princesses grow up to be Evil Queens.

Tip Number Four: Say hi when you catch someone’s eyes. Unless he’s wearing a trenchcoat and is carrying a forty-ounce beer in a paper sack. Or is your ex-husband. Or you’re an eye surgeon and the nurse just tossed you an organ transplant (apologies, couldn’t resist). Saying hi is not a lifetime commitment. It’s merely acknowledging that a fellow human has crossed your path. I say hi to nearly everyone I pass on my walks. This has made me umpteen friends and got me lots of free zucchini (Thanks to Frank on Shafter). But don’t be hurt if people don’t say hi back. Count yourself lucky. These are the people you want culled from your herd. It’s nice that they identify themselves so early in the game. Potential Downside: you may make the mistake of saying hi to a crazy person. Like I did to the Crazy Hat Lady who wanders my neighborhood. But she’s another column. And she’s mostly harmless. Unless she’s carrying her umbrella…

Tip Number Five: People in person take precedent over people on the phone. I had a friend over for dinner a while back. I’d just laid out some appetizers and the person’s phone rang. “Oh, I have to get this.” Stood up, answered the cell. “Hey, how are you? Oh, not much.” Then they wandered outside and talked for a half an hour. I stood there with my mouth hanging open. Not much? Aside from being upset that I’d wasted time cooking dinner for the boor, I was worried I’d suddenly become boring. My self-image is this: I’m a one-woman entertainment factory that cooks. I’m funny. I’m vivacious. I’m charming. I’m delusional about how funny, vivacious and charming I am. What’s not to like? I finally realized that the problem was not me (there goes that delusional stuff again), the issue was my idiot of a friend who has no sense of priorities.

While my ignorant friend was an extreme case, I can’t tell you how many of my family members spend time at a family event talking on their cells and text messaging their friends instead of talking to one another. Why would they come all that way and not want to talk to…Oh. Wait.  I’m having another epiphany. Bad example. Let’s go back to my “friend.” The questions that come to mind are: Why did you bother coming? Why aren’t you hanging out with the people you’re talking to instead of me? And when you are hanging out with your phone buddy, do you call other people?

In the future there will be no face-to-face contact between humans. We’ll all be staring at our iPads, talking via videophone to the person sitting next to us.

©2010, Janet Periat

*Actual quote shouted at my friend during a health care demonstration.

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