Etiquette For the Rest of the Century

Will my vegetarian friends be offended if I serve large slabs ofnear-bleeding beef at my dinner party? How should I feel about callwaiting? Can I compost that old flowered couch? It's not easy being a consumer these days. The pressure tosimultaneously exhibit political correctness and proper etiquette cancause undue anxiety. The following list is meant to solve thisdilemma by providing updated rules of thumb for the '90s consumer: Banking/Teller Machines: There is yet no established polite distancefor standing in line behind somebody extracting money from anautomated teller machine. However, the emerging custom in most bigcities is approximately the length of a gun barrel -- especially forevening withdrawals. For most other areas and times of day the old bumper sticker adage"If you can read this, you're too damn close" applies to tellermachines. Cellular Phones: It is considered extremely tacky to call othercellular phone owners across the restaurant even though it ispossible. It is equally impolite to ask others to "leave the room"when you are taking a personal call on your car cellular phone.Answering Machines: If you become extremely annoyed at persons withanswering machines it is permissible to leave the message: "I thinkthis is the right address, Oh, well, since you're not home, we'lljust drop off that 800 pounds of manure you ordered in the driveway."Call Waiting: This is the electronic version of "I've got a pie inthe oven." It is a polite excuse to get out of a conversation withjust about anyone. If you are the person being put on hold, it isappropriate to give this person's phone number to the NationalAssociation of Pyramid Sales Telemarketers. Compost Piles: Whereas it would normally be considered obnoxious totalk about garbage at a social function involving food, compost pilescan be discussed and admired for their environmental attributes. Yourown Personal Landfill (PL) can be discussed at nearly all socialoccasions. For the inhibited, try these conversation starters: "Youought to see mine rot" or "Look at the steam rising off that baby"or, lastly, "The worms really love it."(Etiquette clarification: An old couch piled high with newspapersisn't recognized as a legitimate PL.)Smoking: If you still smoke, you are socially doomed. Take note thatit is now permissible for even grossly overweight people who spit,pick their nose in public and drive cars that get seven miles pergallon to verbally abuse smokers for their "nasty habit." Meat Eating: ringing a bowl of meatballs to a Sierra Club meeting maybe as repugnant as having a Happy Hour at an Alcoholics AnonymousMeeting. Vegetarianism has become a status symbol in some circles.You can break the ice at predominantly vegetarian social gatheringswith the statement: "Is that tofu or did somebody accidentally chopup a dish towel in the stir fry?" DINK Psuedofamilies: Due to the increased number of DINKs (DoubleIncome No Kids) it is now socially acceptable to substitute photosand humorous stories of your dog's Frisbee catching exploits in theabsence of baby pictures. However, if your friends' dog startssending your dog Christmas cards, somebody should seek professionalhelp. Recycling: Throwing an aluminum can into a trash can is likely todraw angry glances, so it is permissible to carry around empty cansin the back seat of your car, or in your pockets, backpack or purse.Empty beer cans in your car, however, will still be considered "opencontainers" in accordance with liquor laws. Fanny Packs: Never, ever compliment persons of either gender on theirfanny pack unless you are absolutely sure they're wearing one.

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