The Pillow Book of Prudence…
On etiquette. I was prompted to think on etiquette when my social media profile page was interfered with. On the nature of those people who think it amusing to create software that intrudes on someone’s life. Which led me to think about lack of etiquette in other areas. Most notably mobile phones.
I once belonged to a social embroidery group and some of the partakers felt it was quite fine to allow their phones to ring as we all sat chatting and stitching. That it was perfectly in order to take the calls in front of everyone and to talk and then finish the call without a word of apology. Are these people so self- important that they cannot turn their phones off for the hour or two they spend in the company of others? Do they think the world will stop turning if the phone switches to message-bank? Do they believe we want or need to hear their every word?
I have had holidays where I have mingled with a group of women on the beach. Many of them found it necessary to take their mobile phones. What makes it necessary? The fact that a loved one might be sick? That an emergency requires their attention? That may be so, but it never ever happened. Instead, the soporific sounds of the waves, of seabirds, and even of watery silence was destroyed by the every present ‘ring’ and then the awful conversation thereafter.
In this second week of February, I was prompted to think back to my mother’s generation. Who found it polite and politic to concentrate their attention wholly on their hostess or their friends. I was reminded that even earlier, perhaps in Jane Austen’s day for example, people would attend others most often only on invitation and then between set hours and following a standard code of behaviour by the received and the receiver. And whilst the rigorous nature of such a thing has relaxed, has it not relaxed so far as to be simple bad manners?
I can see that I belong in an era when invitations where sent, where they were responded to in writing, where manners made the man (and woman), where diffidence and lack of ego were much appreciated in a person and where black, my friends, was only worn when one was in mourning.
Lady mesmered, I can’t help thinking that etiquette boils down to empathy, plain and simple : do as you would be done by. The lack of it makes the world a poorer place for everyone.
I groaned when I read the news that mobile phones will soon be allowed on board aircraft. A plane journey is just about the only respite you get from the constant ring tones and hectoring voices. And the other side of the coin is that you are now expected to be available instantly, twenty four hours a day. I hate it, but get hauled over the coals if I ever turn my phone off when I am out.
PS. I understand where you are coming from, on the subject of black. But I must confess to a bit of a soft spot for it, myself.
I have a mobile pone which i leave in the glove-box of my car, as its essentially for roadside emergencies. I never give my mobile number to anyone if I can help it and I prefer all phone messages to go to my landline to the answering machine. I figure if people want me badly enough they will leave a message or send me an email.
I loathe flying anyway and to be captured in such a small space with loud voices would be a torture tantamount to waterboarding!
The black thing arose out of winter. I noticed in a time of grey skies and cold temps that everyone reverted to black. It implied lack of imagination to me (I was couch bound with injury and it took little to fire me up) and only made the depressive nature of those grim days even worse. There are divine subtle palettes of greys, taupes and browns that do just as well, with the added flare of a softly toned scarf or wrap thrown in. Thus I decided the Pillowbook should always mention black … somewhere.
I had to laugh at your note about BLACK! I’d like to suggest something differently. It’s our individualism and Loss of awareness of others that makes for this behaviour with modern technology. And admittedly the technology is extremely alluring in taking us away from our immediate environment. It doesn’t happen often but I will remove myself from company and profusely apologize when in the rare occasion my cell rings. I have been at fault holding a RL conversation which I’ve interrupted to respond to one on twitter! like speaking with a bunch of friends at once!! Me BAD!!
I’m curious what the behavior with such technology is in other societies & cultures who still have a stronger sense of the collective and how their behavior affects people around them. It’s something we’ve lost in a huge way in the modern West!!
I notice via the media and through a reasonably multi-cultural experience that the lack of etiquette is worldwide. It’s sad and I think the sole reason is as you say, loss of awareness of others.
Generally speaking, the world has become a self-indulgent place. Our ancestors may have been sticks in the mud in so many ways but their code of etiquette gave people a way of conforming. Of course we know from all our reading that if the code was ignored it gave hurt to many individuals, not least the perpetrator, but a code is a code nevertheless and there’s nothing wrong with a polite set of rules.
That’s the Pillowbook’s view anyway.
It’s funny–all this lack of etiquette and “casual” atmosphere is supposed to, I assume, make life easier and more enjoyable. Yet, the rules were there for a reason–to make others feel at ease and well-treated. How much easier would it be to know you’re not offending someone if you agree on the same rules of conduct? I’ve been put off by friends answering calls while we’re spending time together–and having a happy little conversation, not just “Oh, yes, we’re meeting at six on Friday–I’m with a friend, will talk soon!” But–at the same time–there’s no real “rule” for how to behave in that situaiton (at least, we don’t all agree on it). So I might just as easily offend my chatty friend by saying “You know, let’s turn our phones off until we’re finished with lunch.” Sigh. We need to all agree on an etiquette manual…and teach it in schools.
I thought you would have an opinion on this, Rowenna. As a re-enactor, you would have a finely detailed knowledge of what was expected in previous generations.
I wish the rules did apply. With the embroidery group, I requested that the days at my house be mobile-free days. It went down like a lead-balloon and caused offence. So how to handle it ? I took my mobile phone to other’s houses and left it on. If by the strangest chance it rang (rare as hens’ teeth), I would ask the caller to hold, I would stand and excuse myself from the company, go out of the room or outside, take the call and then apologise on my return and resume my stitching. However, it was only an attempt at point-scoring on my part to be honest, and I am sure satisfied only myself as the others continued their rude behaviour. I no longer belong to the group as we parted company on issues of xenophobia (something else that disgusts the Pillow Book)
But have you noticed how doctors, dentists etc require phones to be switched off in waiting rooms? Perhaps that’s a start.
Amen and amen! We run a hunting lodge and meals around our table are an important element of a successful hunt. You can’t believe the number of calls some of our hunters get as most of them are high level businessmen from urban areas. They’ll sit there yakking away with conversation suspended for the rest of the table, and talk. And talk. And talk. Our son who guides the hunts finally asked his hunters to please silence or turn off phones during meals or at the very least, get up off their duffs and go outside to talk so they have privacy and the rest of the group can have peaceful conversation. A little common sense, please? And some manners, I beg of you?!!!
Fashion ettiquette: my Southern upbringing dictates that white shoes are not worn until Easter and after Labor Day. Ever. And guys take hats off when in the presence of ladies and in buildings. Always. Also, butt cracks were unheard of much less seen.
Ah NB, I love that your household is in the position of being able to MAKE the rules. Good for you!
I love the southern etiquette as well. Hat etiquette is a whole other thing, isn’t it? Maybe there’s a whole other post in that!
I’d like to say Australian country men doffed their hats as well, but these days I am not so sure!
One thing I will say about manners in general is that Hobart used to be an R and R port for the US aircraft carriers on their way home from the Gulf. The crew members’ manners were to die for. Whether that was instilled by the USN or their own family backgrounds I don’t know, but it was an absolute delight.
I’m pretty sure the USN “teaches” those good manners as the US Marines do. One of our cowboys, who has been w/us since he was in Jr High, joined the Marines a year ago. He comes back to visit us now with impeccable manners…Yes M’am, No Sir, hat removal, standing when I enter the room. He was no heathen as a teen but THIS young MAN is transformed! Thank you Marines!!
I basically have to threaten my students with grade penalties to get them to turn off their phones in lecture.
Now: I will say I never had a cell until about nine months ago when my mother became seriously ill, and I understand now how hard it is to turn off every single noise that thing makes. So I have more potential sympathy for interruptions. But I still warn everyone to turn them off at the beginning of every class.
Servetus, another rule-maker and I am so proud!
I have an aged mother (85) and the mobile would be switched on if conditions of her health demanded it. BUT what did our own mothers do about their mothers and their mothers before that?
As I am often out of receiving range, I have encouraged my mother to pursue the logistics of a ‘panic button’ which she will wear and which she presses in case of emergency. The Red Cross is immediately alerted and they ring her. If she hasn’t answered in a set time frame, they then send an ambulance.
If my mother was seriously ill and perhaps in hospital or being nursed at home, I would of course switch on my phone, but I would let whomever I was with know the circumstances beforehand and ask for their patience should the phone ring.
It all comes down, once again, to simple manners, doesn’t it?
Ah, mobile phones… the modern alternative to communication!
As opposed to actually speaking face-to-face, you mean?
I might add to cell phones and other lack of etiquette the bad manners of (at least Italian) teenagers. I was taught respect for others, they (and their parents) probably ignore what the word means…
Some and not others, Barb. I spent a day last week with a nine year old and a fourteen year old and was so impressed!
But I know the parents and can see they would make sure their children were polite, able to engage and would lack childish self-importance.
But there are others where the parents have left that valuable instruction behind. And the children are a nightmare.
The other day a man rushed past me into a store, and smacked the door in my face. I miss seeing those manners!
Another example: I was out with a friend recently and he kept checking his phone!
But I am realistic enough to realize there are some good things about this day and age. Women’s place in society for one.
I think I would have to call out “Excuse me!’ to that man.
As to the phone checking, I would have needed to say something, I am afraid!