Etiquetteer at Random, Vol. 13, Issue 56

Inspired by an interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy, today Etiquetteer divulges a little about himself: My uniform: A crisply-pressed double-breasted suit, white shirt with French cuffs, a bright bow tie, polished leather shoes (wingtips unless traveling, then slip-ons). That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much is rather fond of garishly bright socks. I have to remonstrate with him constantly about it.

One thing that few people understand about etiquette is: that it's less about accessories (place cards, etc.) and more about the impact you have on other people, how respect for others - or at least acknowledgement of our common humanity - is displayed. On the other hand, one shows respect for others by taking the trouble to appear well dressed, which some would say is all about accessories.

The most overrated etiquette trend is: the phonestack. It maintains the focus on the phone, and not on the group or its conversation. Everyone needs to power down and enjoy each other's company without distraction from outside.

I stay in shape by: that's a dangerous assumption to make. I don't stay in shape.

One of my favorite gadgets is: A card case with two compartments that I got in New York for $12 at some little shop. I use one compartment for my cards, and the other for those I receive.

My preferred mode of transportation is: Any car someone else is driving!

My drink of choice is: during the summer, an Etiquetteer pink gin. Otherwise, a Charlie's Beacon, as will be served at Repeal Day. During the holidays, champagne with a bit of something like Aperol or St. Germain or Chambord added.

My most recent obsession is: Eric Helgar, a Polish singer of the interwar years.

One book everyone must read is: The Art of Worldly Wisdom, by Baltasar Gracian.

The world would not be the same without: air conditioning and refrigeration.

An etiquette rule that amazes me is: how it's all right for certain professional classes - doctors, politicians, and the clergy come to mind - to address everyone else by their first names, while we all need to address them by their titles. It can, and often does, appear condescending, especially when politicians do it. I would much rather see everyone addressed by their titles since we live in a Land where All are Created Equal.

One thing everyone should do more of is: reconsider how much stuff you carry around on your commute and eliminate everything you don't use that day. I've stopped toting a bag every day and it makes a great difference.

Another thing everyone should do more of is: enjoy a meal at home by candlelight, even if it's a pre-dawn winter breakfast.

The best toy for a child is: Hmm, what is a toy that will instill Perfect Propriety? And of course different children react differently to all toys. Rather than mention a specific toy, I'll say that the best toy for a child is something simple that doesn't throw everything at them, that allows them, encourages them to use their imaginations.

My favorite kitchen gadget is: Most people will expect me to say "the cook," but I live in what used to be called a "servantless household." The best answer is probably a garishly decorated stopper for a wine bottle.

My favorite pastime is: reading.

Another book everyone must read is: Entertaining Is Fun! by Dorothy Draper. This book captures the joie de vivre of the suburban postwar years, as well as a look at how etiquette was changing. Formal seated dinners were giving way to buffets, but Americans weren't yet ready to give up on black tie for evening events. And there are some frankly far-fetched, but nonetheless delightful, ideas for having a party at home.