Gibberish: Etiquette for moderns

This was the message I was connected to last week when I phoned a residential number.

Bear in mind, Twinkle Little Star was playing in the background throughout the entire voicemail.

“Hellooo there! This is Tillie Twinkle, and her entire family, Trevor Twinkle, Sparkle Twinkle, Moonie Twinkle, and of course our beloved Corgi, Tinkle Twinkle. (I thought Sparkle and Moonie were the dogs till then.)

We Twinkles are all just shining out with love, and so very eager to hear the lovely message that you are going to leave us after the sound of the wind chimes. So thank you oodles for calling and please be sure and have a stardust filled day.”

I spent nearly five and a half minutes listening to this, in order to leave a 15 second message.

Now I know the Twinkles were just trying to brighten up the world one voicemail at a time.

Therefore, some may feel that it was mean spirited of me to have to fight a desire to suggest, on their voice mail, that what I wanted most, was to help the Twinkles to individually and collectively see a few stars!!!

I didn’t give in to that urge. My sense of politeness stopped me, but only just.

However, the very next day, I dialed another number and again got voice mail. This time the message was brief and to the point.


An equal opportunity offender.

Frankly, just what should the polite response be to this very common message?

“Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line to maintain your call priority. Your call is important to us. Please…”

Several experiences with inanimate, electronic devices led me recently to contemplate the entire state of Manners in our Modern World.

Does anyone practice etiquette anymore?

Do most people even recognize the word?

Frankly, it’s become a confusing challenge just to try to be polite these days.

Let’s face it, in great-grandmother’s day the rules of Polite Society were few but firm.

Stand up straight.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Say please and thank you.

Don’t share what the dog did behind the bathroom door with casual visitors to your home.

Never put into your mouth the finger which, until very recently, was excavating in your left nostril.

These were the straight-forward rules for civilized and polite behaviour in Granny’s day.

But how can one behave in a mannerly manner in these modern and stressful times?

You may have noticed that many of today’s young people wear identical jeans and huge, body-enveloping hoodies, nearly always pulled far down, well over their faces.

Most also choose to fix their eyes only upon the phones growing out of their wrists, resorting to a series of random grunts as their only other form of communication. Consequently, it is occasionally difficult to know how to politely greet them.

I would like to recommend the following all-purpose, but genteel, approach.

“Good morning pleasant person of indeterminate sex, or possibly visiting extra-terrestrial being, how may I help you?”

In Great-Grandmother’s day, visitors walked up to your door and actually knocked, politely ‘calling on the family’, especially when a car ride or a special social outing planned.

Today, the modern visitor remains in his parked vehicle, engine running, in the driveway: a horn-based code has become the new social norm.

One honk means Dad.

Two honks means Mom.

Three honks – eldest child.

Four honks – next in line child.

Five honks – subsequent sibling.

Six honks – spontaneous confrontation with large and irate neighbour.

The mannerly way to handle oneself in mixed social gatherings, has become another issue in modern etiquette.

How does one politely strike up a conversation when faced with a roomful of strangers at say, the yearly family reunion?

The old “How do you do? My name is…” approach seems to be passé. Now, it appears, one is expected to come up with a memorable “opening line.”

Still, in the interests of etiquette, may I suggest that the following should never be employed as opening lines.

“So which wife is this again?”

“Wow! When’s the little bundle of joy due?” (Impolite, whether addressed to a voluptuous woman or a somewhat portly man.)

“Say, will ya look at this baby!” while holding out the same hand which has just caught a huge sneeze.

“Would you like to look at my scar?” (Do not reply. Just run.)

And let me leave you with this last small expression of modern etiquette, one I believe we can all practice as we face up to life in our stressful world.

When you find yourself trapped in cut-throat traffic, it is best to use all your fingers when waving at your fellow drivers. There.

Since you’re here…

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