Things are beginning to crawl back to normal (actually, crawling is the next step, things are some way behind that yet), but already I am wondering if I – and the rest of us – need a refresher course in good manners. For so long have we been spending time at home in minimum wear and maximum hair, that we need a formal guide to what is done and what is not.
For example, is it done to sit with your feet on the sofa? Can I bring and listen to my own music? Should I wait till dinner is laid out or can I walk into the kitchen and help myself? Can I tell a joke-teller loudly that he is not funny and needs to leave immediately? Is it acceptable to get rid of my garbage by leaving it in my host’s house? We need all help if we are to get through the difficult early days of normalcy.
Some help has arrived in the form of a survey reported in the British newspaper The Sun. No, I can’t put my feet on the sofa (the second most terrible thing to do), nor can I bring a dog to the party without asking (No. 4).
Personally, I have no objection to people putting their feet on the sofa if they are swathed in bandages or if the guest is Batman, but you can’t bring a dog to my parties, so don’t even ask.
A new rule for our times is that you should wait for at least 50 minutes before asking for your host’s Wi-Fi password. This is intriguing. Why 50, why not a full, round hour? What is expected to happen in those ten extra minutes. On the other hand, why wait that long? Why not walk in with a cheery, "Hello old friend, what’s your Wi-Fi password?" And then tell him half of yours just to put him at ease. Like that old song with the challenging line: "You tell me all your secrets and I’ll tell you some of mine."
When I visit a friend, I have no compulsion to go upstairs without asking (No. 3), and I’d hate for a guest of mine to do so. Nor have I an urge to check out the family medicine chest (No. 5).
The biggest no-no is to wipe greasy hands on the sofa. I once saw this happen at a party. The host came running and started shouting as if I had run away with the crown jewels. And my hands weren’t all that greasy to begin with anyway. I had to go upstairs without asking and look through the medicine chest after leaving the toilet seat up (No. 9).