Etiquette. What a fun and welcoming word, right? You know, that thing that makes us all tense up before walking into a new environment. Dinner at someone’s house or at a nice restaurant, wine tasting, or just being introduced to someone new. It’s a word that carries a lot of negative connotations.
Am I doing this right? Should I be eating this right now? Can I eat that? Why is that person looking at me? I don’t think I should have ate that. Should I say something academic-sounding right now? Is this the right colour tie? Would it bad to spit this out right now? -- All thoughts we may have experienced at one time or another. As if everyone else is read-up on some mysterious book about proper etiquette that’s been floating around, but just hasn't come our way.
When was the last time you read a guide about proper etiquette? If you said never, good. Because the reality is, we live in an age where etiquette isn’t written in stone and just isn’t really a thing any more.
On Prince Edward Island, we seem to be holding on to this idea that we should still use the etiquette our grandparents and their grandparents used. Things like which type of silverware to use for a certain dish, then how to place it on your plate when you’re finished. Or if you’re a man, letting a lady walk on the inside of a sidewalk. Or shutting yourself away for an amount of time if you’re in mourning. Or, of course, raising your pinky if you’re drinking tea.
If you are well versed on traditional etiquette, that’s fine. You can weave in and out of more refined societies in England or the American south. But let’s talk about modern etiquette on P.E.I..
When is it okay, or not okay to be on our cell phones--either texting, talking, or wasting time? By now many of us have experienced the frustration of trying to enjoy a meal with someone who is glued to their phone.
Vapers, stand-up. Is it appropriate to use e-cigarettes indoors? Or do you need to get your ass outside, four meters from any entrance like a dirty smoker? I actually like the smell of most vapes, to be honest, and couldn’t be bothered about where people use them.
AND LET’S NOT FORGET ABOUT ONLINE ETIQUETTE. We spend so much of our time online these days. Yet, some of us need to realize that the written word has many nuances that can drastically change our tone. You don’t have to yell all the time.
There are lots of other things in modern life that ticks us of. But because we don’t have conventional rules on how (or how not) to behave, we just need to hold-in that anger.
So here’s the bottom line.
Etiquette shouldn’t be a bunch of outdated rules from past generations. It should be an evolving set of conventions that we decide as a community about everyday things that might be a nuisance. Phone-etiquette, vaping-etiquette, online-etiquette, drive-thru etiquette, gaming-etiquette. The list goes on.
Islanders should be talking about what’s cool or not so cool in modern life. For once, this isn’t something for politicians to decide. This is outside their arena.
There should be no cop-outs. When Islanders say “oh, I’m just a redneck,” or “I’m just a hick,” it proves that we have neighbours who think they should be living according to someone else's rules passed down from on-high.
Perhaps we should even get away from the word etiquette. That’s what we know those outdated, elitist rules to be. If we go back further than that, we find that maxims might be a more applicable word.
Rules about etiquette go back to the time of the Egyptians in the 3rd century B.C.. At the time, the Maxims of Ptahhotep laid out the basic rules of how to act in a civilized society. Oddly enough, we can probably relate more to them than the silly rules of etiquette the British Empire laid out for us.
A few thousand years ago, the Egyptians’ etiquette was a lot easier to buy in to. Their rules were along the lines of: greed is the basis of all evil things in society, but being good to your friends and family is a noble thing. Or listening to others is the best thing to do. And, avoiding open conflict is usually for the best.
Those are wise words that have really withstood the trials of time, to say the least. Of course, Egyptians never had to deal with someone yelling into their cellphone at the table beside them.
Or did they...?
All Islanders can have a say in what kind of modern etiquette we need. Or better yet, have a say in outdated rules to throw by the wayside.
What do you think?