Saturday, December 29, 2012

How quickly they forget

I have to admit that at times it can be frustrating living in a rural community.
As denizens of a big city we were surrounded by subtle touches of elegance.

Hand-polished door hardware.
Shop windows washed every morning.
Perfectly planted window boxes.
Doormen in full regalia.
Sidewalks and streets swept daily.
A silver bowl of cashews at the bar.
Post wine drop apologies (and new linen).
Roses in silver bud vases.
The politely genteel rest room attendant.
A re-folded napkin awaiting your return.
Post entree strokes of a crumb knife.
Groceries delivered to your door.

Most urbanites take these everyday luxuries for granted.
Sadly, they just don't exist in Lewistown. But years ago they did.
The question is where did they go and why?

We all know that Americans have lowered their standards dramatically.

Visit any airport and watch the parade of degradation pass by. In my younger days one dressed to the nines when traveling. What you wore defined who you were. Yesterday after a visit to her local
mega mall, a shocked friend called to say
"How can they wear 
 that out in public"?

The fact is that this problem is pervasive in every city across America. Beyond specific Manhattan zip codes, Frank and I often lament the loss of finesse. Ultimately I've concluded that our collective challenge is
21st century casualization.

I don't think the problem is laziness.
Rather I am convinced that our collective challenge is ignorance. 
Without education and inspiration - 
how would one know that what one was doing is incorrect? 
The fact is it's just as easy to do things correctly. 
And... it makes it easier for others.

Part of our holiday was a celebratory family dinner in a private room at a local fine dining establishment. Upon sitting down everyone was confused. The cause was simply due to the forks being set to the right versus left. 

Whose fault was that?
Blame cannot be placed on our delightful waitress.
She had gone above and beyond to plan our menu and wine options.
Sadly, nobody had ever taught her how to set a table. 
And just as sadly, 
I did not take the time to pull her aside and give her some friendly advice.

Obviously we are confused.
Somewhere along the way we forgot the purpose of manners and standards.
Most people connote them as symbols of snobbery and exclusivity.
The fact is their true purpose is to provide structure and context.
When everybody plays by the rules - everybody wins!
I'm not suggesting that we return to the world of Lady Grantham. 

However I do strongly suggest that 
we be kind and courteous to each other.
And that requires a little extra effort.
Why not try it?  Your guests will enjoy being pampered. 
And... they might learn something they can pass along.
The next time 
you serve coffee... 
put the CREAM 
(not skim) 

Not only is it pretty.

It enables one 
to push the "use by" date 
to the extreme!

The next time you serve cocktails...
provide your guests 
with a proper cocktail napkin.

Not only will all table surfaces thank you.
After the fourth Martini, 
chances are your guests may need to dab their lips.

The next time your waiter errs...
give them some friendly advice.

You see they really care.
And they want to do their best.

So why not give them 
more than just cash?

A helpful "tip" can mean the difference 
between slinging hash in a slop house 
or serving caviar at Le Bernadin.

"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
 Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
 Just walk beside me and be my friend."
                                                     Albert Camus