Saturday, August 6, 2011

Everything That's Wrong With Etiquette Guides

Yesterday Elina Shatkin published a post titled "Top 5 Food Festival Etiquette Rules" for LA Weekly.

The rules in question:
  1. Get Out of the Way! (i.e. after receiving food, don't eat directly in front of food booths so to obstruct path of those behind you)
  2. One Sample Per Person
  3. Don't Cut in Line
  4. Servers Are People Too
  5. Stay Home
When I say we need less etiquette and more awareness, this is exactly what I'm talking about. The overall message of the piece is "Pay attention to how your actions impact other people." At least, that should be the message, but it's obscured by pointing out individual, common scenarios that result from unawareness. With this approach of pointing out symptoms rather than discussing the cause, you could go on all day. To be sure, etiquette experts do just that, leaving us up to our necks in etiquette guides on everything from triathlon swim training to interacting with the disabled, while the uncivil behaviors that the guides purport to address continue, rampant.

Elina might as well have included a sixth rule that says, "If you're a lovable NBA mascot well-known for his 'spilled jumbo bag of popcorn' routine, and your're attending a food festival on a motorized bike, and if police stop you and ask you to dismount said bike, do not assault said officers." But we don't need that rule pointed out, either, because Benny should have known better, just as everyone attending L.A. food festivals should know that there are other people present, and that these other people are entitled to an equal share of resources.

We don't need to walk around trying to remember five different rules. We need to remain aware of one thing: "Everything I do impacts others. What kind of impact do I want to make?" If we can remain mindful of that one thing, we can attend food festivals, music festivals, baby-jumping festivals -- or meet the Queen Mum -- and come away smelling like a dew-laden rose. 

Up next: Everything's that's right with etiquette guides. 


  1. I hate it when people just stand in your way...

    ...I feel like screaming at them to move out of my way and have so far managed to keep that inside my head ;o)