Monday, April 2, 2012

Etiquette for people who rarely consult etiquette books

            What if you’re at a formal dinner party and a fight breaks out among the guests?
            I normally side with the host, who probably has control of the security arrangements.
            What if you’re served a seafood course in which the seafood isn’t completely dead?
            First establish which fork to use because you’ll need some kind of weapon in case the thing comes after you. Then bellow heartily, “I’m the Gorton fisherman and I’m off for Nantucket,” and make for an exit.
            If you spill wine on your hostess’s expensive gown, what response is mandated?
            Find a way to check the label on the gown to ascertain whether it’s a knock-off. This can be awkward, but since one has already made a blithering idiot of oneself, what’s to lose?
            Is chicken properly eaten with the fingers?
            Chicken is normally eaten with the mouth.
            If the hostess flirts with you in full view of her husband, how do you respond?
            Don’t be manipulated. The hostess is using you to make her husband jealous. Try diverting attention by launching a donnybrook between your wife and the hostess. But be subtle. Do not say something like, “Two out of three falls. Winner take all.” You’ll want to retain the moral high ground, assuming there is any.
            If you receive a gift you don’t want – say a snapping turtle – is it acceptable to return the gift?
            Yes, if you want to be conventional about it. But why not up the ante? Your accompanying note could read, “Thanks for the turtle, but perhaps this Burmese python will say it better than any words of mine.”
            At the company picnic, you’re unexpectedly summoned by your boss to say a few words. You’ve just imbibed a quart of bourbon-laced lemonade. What do you do?
            Run for the nearest body of water, dive in and swim for the opposite shore. Later when asked why, announce that it was your tribute to Johnny Weissmuller who was the only really credible Tarzan. Nobody will buy this, but it’s probably better than any available alternative.
            After being someone’s houseguest, is it polite to send a thank-you note?
            Yes, absolutely. Reminds me of the time I accidentally put a Viagra order form in with the note. Embarrassing, although at 50 pills for $100, the price was right.
            Recently I attended a funeral on a very hot day and decided to wear Bermuda shorts. Is this attire acceptable?
            Maybe in Bermuda, but elsewhere it is perhaps as acceptable as a fungus sandwich.
            Speaking of funerals, what’s the best tone to strike if you’re asked to give the eulogy?
            The last time I spoke at a funeral I decided to eschew a boring eulogy in favor of doing 10 minutes of stand-up comedy. This was not well received, especially by the family of the deceased who tried to have me hauled away from the rostrum, which was unnecessary, as I’d have gone voluntarily if they’d been nicer about it.