Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 29, 2014

Manners and courtesy remain important no matter where one dines

— I tap my foot on the brake pedal with frustration. The car is in “park” but the mind is racing with annoyance. At this moment, a grasshopper flitting through the backyard has more patience than me.

It’s lunchtime, and I am at my customary drive-through for my routine cup of coffee. The line ahead of me is long, which is no problem — if the drivers would obey the rules of drive-through etiquette.

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Let’s be clear: The drive-through is not for those who want to pause and reflect on the plethora of menu options or those who want to ponder and debate the merits of a fish sandwich versus a deluxe wrap stuffed with veggies.

It’s supposed to be quick, simple and easy — “large coffee, black,” “sweet iced-tea” or a “double cheeseburger with fries.” We know what we want and how to order it. There should be no lollygagging or aimless menu meandering.

On this day, a driver is perusing, questioning and special ordering. Arrgh! Does she not know it’s impolite to order more than $20 in items off the $1 value menu in the drive-through?

Then, at the window, she starts asking about coupons.

Double-arrgh! This is conversation is meant for an in-restaurant, face-to-face visit.

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I grew up in a world in which manners during meals were important. Mom kept us well fed with a variety of home cooked dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we, in return, gave her the respect she was due.

Our table may have been filled with five kids, two grandparents and a hungry dad, but we always said “thank you,” “yes ma’am” and “please” — a word especially important when it came to passing a bowl of yummy, buttery mashed potatoes.

Nowadays, I have to wonder if parents continue to instill in their children the importance of respectful gestures. Or are many adults teaching kids rudeness and disdain by their very own actions?

On this day in the drive-through, I think about manners and courtesy — especially when I hear the tone being taken with the clerk.

Really? Who gets nasty with the person serving his or her food?

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I am a young teen, and the linen napkin in my lap seems ridiculous. On this day I would prefer take-out pizza, but instead I am subjected to a formal dining lesson.

My mother and aunt are teaching me proper etiquette. I am learning about silverware — small forks, big forks, knives and spoons — appropriate glassware, plate size and serving basics. Who knew dinner could be so complicated.

In a distracted moment, I rest my elbows on the table. Raised eyebrows spur me to quickly move them to the appropriate place by my side.

Hearing about the differences in various glasses, plates and bowls I wonder if I will ever enjoy a meal served with so many rules.

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Placing my order at an upscale resort, I request the beef, well done. I know that it will arrive at my table still pink inside, but I put aside my picky eating habits for the moment and consume three-fourths of the food on my plate. The sweet potato gratin on the side was a new dish that I surprisingly enjoyed.

Despite my aversion to pink meat of any type, I know that it is impolite not to partake of a meal. My mom and aunt taught me well.

I may prefer the informality of the kitchen table, but I can feel at ease at a formal dinner — a gift for which I am forever thankful.

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Back at the drive-through, I again begin to think about manners. I hear the tone being taken with the clerks and wonder when the basics — “Please,” “Thank you” — evaporated from our vocabulary.

Fast food may not be formal, but everyday people skills should still exist.

Simple courtesies can go a long way in our day-to-day existence, and they certainly make days a little brighter for those we encounter.

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Before pulling out of the drive-through the clerk tells me to have a good day — this despite the orneriness of the motorist before me. I smile in return, and silently commend all the workers for having the patience of a saint.

Lunch may be on-the-go, but I still place a paper napkin in my lap before pulling out of the parking lot. On a scale of one to 10, the basic chicken-wrap comes nowhere near the fancy beef dinner of a few weeks prior, yet it satisfies the hunger.

Even better, it’s not pink inside.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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