People are more filled with righteous self-indignation than ever before, and traditional etiquette has gone the way of the dodo.
So Mr. Etiquette Guy has returned to answer all your etiquette questions and tell you that, yes, that jerk who cut in front of you at the supermarket checkout line is a terrible human being. Let’s check the mailbag.
“Dear Mr. Etiquette Guy, I am taking a car trip that will take several hours. I’ll be riding with my sister and her conspiracy theory-loving husband. He always spouts the latest anti-vax and racist conspiracy theories, and will never take the hint to just let it drop. I anticipate him yammering endlessly on about microchips and being suffocated by face masks How should I deal with him? Signed, Wish I Were Flying.”
Dear Fly-Wishing, Have you tried screeching at the top of your lungs, “Will you just shut the hell up, please?”
First, notice the “please.” That’s just good manners. You’re covered as long any high-decibel demand includes a “please.” If he doesn’t stop, stab him in the arm with a cheap pencil.
Wait, wait, hold on. According to Miss Manners, I may be slightly mistaken in some of my advice. First, don’t screech; it makes you sound unhinged.
Second, don’t stab your brother-in-law with a cheap pencil. Use a nice ballpoint or fountain pen instead, the kind you’d give as a graduation gift to a teenager you don’t like.
But you should still say “please.” Manners matter.
“Dear MEG, I work in an open office with several cubicles and a small kitchen area in one corner. Every day after lunch, one of my coworkers pops popcorn in the microwave. Not only does the whole office smell like popcorn until the end of the day, but she regularly leaves it on for too long and burns it. That means we all smell burnt popcorn for hours. What should I do? Signed, Loathes Popcorn Now”
Dear LoPoNo, First of all, please avoid the nuclear option — Get it? Because she uses a microwave? — and don’t get her fired. While that may seem satisfying at first, there’s no point in ruining someone’s life or career just because of a popcorn odor.
Now, if she were regularly heating up leftover fish, then all bets are off, and you would be more than justified in fabricating evidence of corporate espionage and light treason. But this is only popcorn, so practice a little restraint. There are a few ways you can handle this in a dignified manner.
First, try screeching, “Will you just shut the hell up, please?”
Wait, that’s from my last letter; don’t do that. Try screeching, “Will you stop microwaving popcorn, please?” Again, the “please” is critical. Remember, manners are what separate humans from animals.
Next, mark your territory. Microwave some garlic and Brussels sprouts to stake your claim on the kitchen.
If all else fails, put an Out Of Order sign on the microwave and unplug it.
“Yo, s’up bro! Me and my buddies—”
I’m going to stop you right there, Chad. I can already tell you wear your baseball cap backward and have a puka shell necklace. Whatever you’re going to ask, you’re in the wrong.
“Dear MEG: I’ve been invited to a very fancy dinner at my girlfriend’s house. Her family is very wealthy, with servants and everything. She told me we’ll be having a very complicated meal setting with several forks and spoons filling up the entire space. There will even be a dessert spoon. Where should I put my phone while we’re eating? Signed, Dazzled & Confused”
Dear Bedazzled, This is an excellent question for several reasons. For one thing, no one really sets fancy place settings anymore, so it’s good to see your girlfriend’s family keeping this formal-if-archaic tradition alive.
You’ll likely see a fish fork, salad fork, and dinner fork on the left; there will also be a dinner knife, fish knife, and soup spoon on the right. And very often, the napkin will be to the left of your fork.
Dining etiquette suggests that when you sit down, immediately place the napkin in your lap. This frees up space for you to set your phone. Face down, of course.
If there’s an important event, like, say, your favorite team has a game, prop your phone up against your water glass so you can secretly watch it during dinner. But be sure to keep the volume — and your voice — down. After all, one does not cheer loudly at a formal dinner with one’s future in-laws.
“Yo, bro. Why’d you diss me like that?”
Seriously, Chad. Lose the hat and puka necklace, and we’ll talk. And if anyone else has questions, please post them to my blog. In the meantime, be kind to each other and chew with your mouth closed.