With all the disquiet happening in the US and and throughout the world, whether from fears of another stock market bubble imploding or national security woes, or personal whys and wherefores related to various forms of angst, we sometimes find ourselves hankering back to memories of a simpler time where structure in our lives equated to stability and safety.
It was the little things like daily routines and how you behaved or spoke a certain way because of societal proprieties and etiquette codes. While you could behave like a ruffian at home, when you were in polite society, you remembered the manners and politeness taught you by your parents and other senior relatives, as well as schooling. How you behaved toward colleagues, friends and strangers, both verbally and in deportment, was a considered an indicator of your background and that you were “civilized,” as mother used to say, as opposed to “wild-child” or other boorish behavior.
Earlier this week, I was invited to a business lunch by a client representative of a company that provides the digital platform for my employer’s email communications. A pleasant young man, millennial, who resides in the ‘hip’ Lincoln Park area of Chicago.
The lunch began nicely enough until I noticed that the little things such as table manners, were either not taught to, or were subsequently disregarded by, subject representative as unnecessary and/or too staid as part of the Old World order.
Merely observing while continuing to speak pleasantries or business, I found myself trying to decide if I was having lunch with a Neanderthal or a three year old. Verdict: three year old in millennial clothing. And, biting my tongue from saying:
“Sir, a bread and butter plate is exactly that. For bread AND butter. You do not use your knife to continually hack off pieces of butter from the serving plate and spread them directly onto your roll.”
“Sir, you do not hold a fork and spoon as though you are holding a trowel.”
“Sir, when ordering a bowl of soup, you utilize a spoon with which to eat your soup. You do not place your spoon down and then proceed to lift the bowl to your mouth and drink from it.”
“Sir, do not order carpaccio, if you do not know how to eat it. It is not chop suey.”
“Sir, please do not apply your “Chapstick” at the table. Apply it while you are sitting in the privacy of your car, or remove yourself to the men’s room.”
What was the most problematic of the entire luncheon, was that this young man was completely oblivious to his table manners; he probably drinks directly from the milk carton at home. I think of the poor girl who is going to get stuck with him, unless she has manners just like his.
Yes, it’s times like these that I’m glad I’m a product of the ancient times when when all else failed, you had your resolve and standards to see you through.