I have read Emily Post. What I mean by that: I have read most of the Post. I have the 17th Edition Emily Post’s Etiquette, ©2004 by Peggy Post. Here in the 21st century, many people may not know the finer points of etiquette, sure. But what about the basics?
One of the most valuable tidbits of wisdom I ever received from Post was something I remember reading decades ago: When you invite someone to an event, be direct and ask him if he would be available on the day and time of the event. For instance, you might say. “would you be available for dinner Friday night?” What we sometimes find ourselves saying is, “what are you doing Friday night?” The immediate problem with this is that you might be putting the person on the spot. He might be on the defensive and try to come up with an excuse. Worse, he is likely to blurt out, “nothing.” Oops. Now you know he’s available to join you in Laser Tag. What, you don’t like Laser Tag?
It’s easier on everyone to just come out with it. “Can you help me move? Oh, you have to clean you oven? Oh well, I understand?”
Now, to my point. Yes, I have one.
Every other month I make a trip to another city to visit someone who is unable to travel or leave her home. She cherishes these visits. I invited someone else to come with me, and he said he would be happy to go, since he is also a friend of hers. Weeks went by, and I gently reminded him that we would have to leave at 9:30 sharp, since it takes several hours to drive.
As the day approached, I called my friend to remind him to arrive at my house the night before so he could get up early (for him). He acknowledged the invitation, replied to my email, and he verbally responded.
So today, as I was expecting him to arrive, I called his house. Nobody knew where he was. Apparently, he had agreed to paint someone’s house or some shit. So, now I have to tell my friend that this person couldn’t be bothered to visit her, in kinder terms, if I can manage it.
What irks me about this is that this guy knew about this visit more than a month earlier. And he told me and my friend that he would be there. She was so excited at the prospect of seeing us both. And I know she will be disappointed. I have half a mind to tell her that he doesn’t really think it’s important to spend time with her. Actions speak louder than words, and in this case, the signals are very clear: he doesn’t care.
Actually, the problem is that he is not organized with time, and he doesn’t plan well. But I can’t help thinking that it’s just plain and simple a lack of consideration. If you say you will be somewhere on a certain day, please be there. Understandably, things happen, a flat tire, whatever. But have you ever noticed that there are some people who are just more reliable than others?
The rules of etiquette are not arbitrary rules made up by snobbish old ladies at tea parties. These rules help to set a benchmark for society, in particular, American society, enabling each of us to make everyone more comfortable in every situation, as much as possible. Common courtesy, as it was once called, is not so common, it would seem. Yeah, maybe I’m old-fashioned, if that’s even a thing anymore. But if your behavior pisses off most everyone you know, it might be time to take a look at this book. Please.