Friday, April 24, 2015


Around here, it's almost noon.

Pretty soon, the phone will ring.

I've learned my lesson, but that doesn't mean I won't react like Pavlov's dog, mentally salivating to pick up and be, perhaps, surprised or delighted.

Yes, I will pick it up, but I am in training now.

Now, when the phone rings at noon, I pick it up and say nothing. In return, I will receive a great blank of noiselessness. The voice-activated advertising spiel at the other end is not capable of coping. After thirty seconds, I will hang up.

The federal "do not call" option available on the Internet does not work perfectly or even well. I still get these junk calls. As with spam email, I wish in vain that no one could get through if there is no return address or phone number. Why should I want to be contacted by someone who refuses to extend the same courtesy to me?

Does it all boil down to courtesy?

Does courtesy still exist? I'm not sure. Since the world is moving too fast these days or I am moving too slow, I have felt forced to create my own Emily Post book of etiquette.

I grew up learning which glass or fork to use first when at an over-dressed dinner table. This information has precisely zero relevance in the world I currently inhabit. I opened doors for women, walked nearer the curb when accompanying a woman along some American sidewalk, learned how to kiss a woman's hand when in Army language classes, and how to fawn in various decorous ways when in the presence of my superiors.

Some of it was phony-baloney courtesy and some of it oiled the social wheels. It was good stuff to know even if you never used it.

But now?

Now, when an email opens with "Dear Friend," I am brought up short: Would any real friend address me as "friend?" What's the matter with the name by which my friends all know me? And why, when the writer has addressed the email to me, is there no usable return address? These days, a "friend" is no longer a friend, but rather someone to hold at arm's length.

Or delete without reading further. It was pretty discourteous at one time, but in the era of Facebook when people ask to be "friended" it's obvious that a friend is made of thinner tea -- an acquaintance, perhaps, or perhaps not even that since the connection only exists in an imaginative ether.

Is it discourteous to dismiss insistent introductions that begin "Dearest in Christ?" Actually, I don't mind those quite as much, mostly because of the ludicrous quality: If someone chooses to play the religion card, well, hell, I'm mostly a Buddhist. And the Nigerian petitioners who promise me a slice of $27 million ... well, at least their scams are out in the open.

The courtesies of the past do rise up from time to time. I don't ask even my sons why they insist on what I think of as the Yasser Arafat look -- three days worth of whiskers that somehow never turns into an honest beard. Nor do I bristle quite as much when every mother's son uses the word "issue" when they mean "problem" or lards his or her lingo with TED-talk cliches like "going forward."

Where I grew up, a reasonable command of English was a small courtesy.

And there are a hundred other ways in which I try to remain courteous without sinking into the Downton Abbey quicksand of refined class warfare. My latest version of Emily Post is not yet ready for publication.

Perhaps it never will be.

I do refuse to believe Facebook et al. do much more than emphasize the separation between perfectly nice people who lack the gumption to find perfectly good friends. And I decline to imagine that news media are in business to inform the nation's citizenry.

But I prefer to be as courteous as I can.

I can still kiss your ring if you insist, but I would prefer not to kiss your ...

Well, perhaps it would be discourteous to name.


  1. My dear, dear friend,

    I have very similar issues with life too. We can laugh, but i recommend a helmet as well.

    Yours in christ,
    Prince of all Nigerian cousins you haven't met

  2. "This is Brittany from credit card services....." CLICK!