Without anything thematic or cohesive to offer today, Etiquetteer holds forth on what is random and current: Last week Etiquetteer was delighted to speak to a group of college event planners, who raised the issue of what to do about uninvited guests (read: students) wandering in and helping themselves to refreshments. Let's face it: students may be brilliant and think fine thoughts and hold and develop solutions to all our most pressing societal problems, but they are also - depending on your Point of View - either Hungry and Impoverished or Thoughtless, Selfish, and Arrogant. This sort of Intrepid Grazing is most often seen at events that need to be held in big public spaces. Etiquetteer recommends keeping the refreshment tables covered with clean tablecloths until the start of the event and roping off the event space to keep Interlopers at bay. If you catch someone in the act, greet them heartily and offer to escort them to the registration table for their nametag, ask for an email address to add them to the list for the next event, or even scare the bejeebers out of them by mistaking them for the guest speaker.
Over the last month or so a couple news articles about public shaming attracted Etiquetteer's attention enough to be posted at Etiquetteer's presence on Facebook. The Internet has made it possible to shame someone globally in real time, which has already been seen with the posting of abusive voicemail messages, restaurant receipts with insensitive messages for waiters, and other such items. Etiquetteer deplores this use of the Internet, mostly because there's always a margin for error. For instance, the Los Angeles restaurant Red Medicine is tweeting the names of no-shows who didn't honor their reservations. Etiquetteer absolutely understands the frustration of the restaurateurs; no-show diners have a negative impact on revenue, always razor thin in the restaurant world. But there is always the possibility that a death or a medical emergency kept them from honoring the reservation. (Etiquetteer has been tempted, when party guests fail to attend a party, to send a funeral wreath the next day with the message "So sorry your untimely death kept you from joining the fun," but has been kept from such by actual knowledge of legitimate emergencies in the past.) A more Perfectly Proper policy for restaurants to implement would be to maintain a Do Not Reserve list of Diners Who Have Failed to Appear.
Etiquetteer would love to see more people do something for the economy by supporting their local stationers and increasing, resuming, or beginning their handwritten correspondence. Heaven knows that etiquette must change with the times. When customs become outworn, they must adapt or disappear. How many of you, for instance, still have "at home" days during the week or make "party calls" the day after a party? What handwritten letters and cards lack in speed and timeliness, they make up in thoughtfulness and the perception that one has made a special effort. And from a strictly nostalgic point of view, it is much more fun to go through a shoebox of old letters than it is to scan a computer screen of old email messages. While acknowledging the convenience of electronic communication, Etiquetteer dearly hopes that what is special and individual about handwritten correspondence will remain.
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