A few basics to make life a little more civilized.
In my office I keep an old book named Manners for Moderns. It was published in 1938 and “it has to do with everyday people and their everyday doings,” which is why I like it. Some of the book’s advice still applies, but most sections are dated to the point of cuteness: “First and last dances are always with the girl you brought. So is the dance just before supper if that meal is served. No matter how much you like the girl…introduce her to some of the fellows you know.”
There you have it: At your next supper dance make sure your date twerks with your buddies, too.
Most manners books are dated and stuffy, and besides: I don’t know a lot of guys on the hunt for a good etiquette reference manual. But simple rules for “everyday people and their everyday doings” are important, even if we don’t call them “manners.” Here are ten things your average, everyday polite guy should do:
- Put your grocery cart away. Somebody needs it, and somebody else needs the parking space you left it in. Also, you could use that walk to the cart corral. I saw you sneaking extra Little Smokey samples.
- Use your turn signals. They aren’t for you, they’re for the rest of us. Guessing what I’m getting for Christmas is fun. Guessing what you’re doing at 70 mph? Not so much.
- Turn off your phone in the movie theater. That screen is really bright. I once sat behind a guy who brought a portable DVD player to the theater because he didn’t want to watch the same movie as the rest of his family, which brings us to –
- People before electronics. Don’t go somewhere with family or friends and spend the whole time staring at a little screen. Talk to your kid or your spouse (Note: Disregard this suggestion if your child or spouse is Rush Limbaugh). 4a. And put the phone away while you’re using the bathroom. That’s just gross.
- Open doors. One from the old school but it still applies, and I don’t just mean for women. Hold the door for anyone and everyone. It’s a small gesture but a tasteful one, and if someone opens your door —
- Say thank you. Another one from the golden era of politeness. A thank you takes less than a second, doesn’t cost a dime, and goes a long way toward perking up someone’s day. I say thanks to everyone except the guy writing me a speeding ticket.
- Be prepared at the security checkpoint. The new age of airport security isn’t new anymore. We all know what to do now, there’s no reason not to be ready by the time you get to the x-ray conveyor. Stick your belt and your pocket stuff in your carry-on, get your electronics ready, and at least untie your shoes. People are waiting. And don’t put yourself back together immediately on the other side of the scanners. Grab your stuff and —
- Get out of the way. Be at least moderately aware of your surroundings. There are lots of people in the world, and they’re all trying to get somewhere. Let other people use the sidewalk, too. Don’t park your cart sideways in aisle 8 and then stand in front of it while you comparison shop canned sloppy joe mix. That kind of thing.
- No Internet arguments. U R never going to change that troll’s mind with your mighty keyboard sword. Treat online conversations like in person conversations with a friend, or even better: Just don’t bite when the knucklehead in your social media circle throws out a baited line.
- Know what you want before you get to the counter. Whether you’re at the Golden Arches or the coffee joint, you have lots of time to figure out your order before you get to the cashier. That weird feeling on the back of your head? That’s the people behind you burning holes into you with their eyes while you try to construct the most complicated order possible.
There you go: Ten practical etiquette guidelines for this modern world. Manners aren’t about tipping top hats or how to properly set a table, but how to navigate your environment with the least resistance. Or something like that.
I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to cut this short and get to a supper dance. You don’t mind, do you? Thank you.