Remember that scene in Shawshank Redemption when the warden opens the solitary confinement door, and Andy squints against the blinding light? That was me the other day when I stepped outside and saw the Amazon delivery guy.
“Ehhh ehhh,” I said, the isolation of Phase 3 clearly having impacted my language skills. The chicken wing, lodged between my teeth, serving as both snack and toothpick, didn’t help my soft palette.
The driver eyed the grass, to avoid my mouth appendage, I assumed, until back inside, I caught a glimpse of my Neanderthal self. As it turned out, I’d also forgotten pants.
Manners and etiquette were never my strong point, but pandemic isolation has compromised my skills further. Still, as I know that soon I will venture into the weirdness of dining among potted plants in parking lots, I’ve decided to brush up on some etiquette rules. For those similarly afflicted, please feel free to partake of these self-reminders:
Being on time still matters. It’s wonderful we’ve been connecting to the cock-a-doodle-do of the rooster and buzz of evening cicadas, but restaurants need us to be in and out promptly, as they struggle to return to full occupancy. Besides, what fun is making a reservation if you can’t stress over being late for it?
Grooming in public is still not ok. This includes going on archeological digs with your toothpick.
It’s still important to steer away from inappropriate subjects during dinner conversation. These include religion, politics and the entire month of November 2020. Do yourself, and the rest of your table a favor: just don’t.
Manspreading is still gross.
Mansplaining even grosser.
So is womansplaining, for the record.
In short: no preaching. We are all happy to be out. But perhaps soliloquies are best left to Hamlet?
Holding a door open for someone is still polite. Unless that person is your gossipy neighbor you’ve been avoiding this entire pandemic. In which case, hiding behind your mask, pretending to be occupied by floor lint is perfectly acceptable.
Remember to use your fork, as the time for hand-scooping scrambled eggs into your mouth is over. You know what I’m talking about: that three-pronged instrument invented during the Byzantium era to not only make spaghetti eating easier, but civilize us? As a reminder, yours can be found to the left of your plate — water glass to your right. Remember ELDER? (Eat left, drink right).
Let the waiter come to you. I know, I know. We are excited. Someone else is bringing us food that someone else made. And best of all, someone else is going to clean it all up! It’s enough to make you want to wave your hand in the air and yell, hello? But, trust me, he sees us — along with the other five people in the parking lot. So use eye contact. Or in a pinch, what we like to tell our children, “magic words.”
Excuse me, please, thank you.
Ringing a bell? The Emily Post Institute deems these words “essential,” going so far as to imbue them with the “power to create positive interactions.”
I myself took them for a test run on the landscaper just yesterday.
Excuse me, would you mind please mowing that section behind the shed too? Thank you!
He plowed past, averting his eyes.
Turns out I’d remembered pants, but forgotten my top.
— Heather Siegel
Heather Siegel is the author of a memoir, The King & The Quirky: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, Domesticity, Feminism & Self , and her writing has appeared on Salon.com, in literary magazines and on various popular parenting and relationship websites.