Civility: Manners do matter at the dinner table

As many of you are aware, I spend a lot of time over coffee or iced tea at Del’s and Kix on 66. You also know I have been a “people watcher” forever and have learned much although I’d rather not see a lot of what can be seen today.

At one time, people were very careful to use good manners and to see that their children behaved well while eating without scattering their food in all directions.
Earlier this week, I had been watching a “high chair case” as food was tossed around and could imagine that I’d soon be seeing the servers cleaning the area before the next customers could be served.

Much to my surprise, the young mother moved the high chair away from the table and began picking up all the food on the floor and cleaning that side of the table as well. Because I hadn’t seen such activity in more years than I can count, I felt compelled to speak to the young mother and to compliment her on her actions.

She seemed rather surprised as she replied that she wasn’t about to let someone else clean up after her child because that was her job. What a pleasant experience!

As I watch the servers working so hard to see that all of us have our food and to be sure that we are satisfied, I am embarrassed to see them having to do all the extra work provided by ill-mannered customers.

Of course, any of us can have an accident and upset a glass of water, thus causing extra work, but we are upset with ourselves and are most thankful to have the help of a server. We also know that children are a little more apt to have accidents than are adults, but they shouldn’t be allowed to pitch their food around without having to pick it up themselves or without having their parents do that chore until the children are big enough to do it themselves.

Quite often, those of us seated around our table talk about what would have happened to us had we been so messy at a meal, especially if we were in public. Most of us can’t even remember that our parents made a lot of noise about our manners, but we know they taught us along the way and also that they set examples for us to follow. We didn’t eat out very often in our youth, but when we did, we had better be on our best behavior. Also, when we ate in other people’s homes, we had jolly well practice those table manners.

I feel fairly certain I might not be writing this column or even breathing had I not practiced those manners, and my parents weren’t even violent. I do remember Mother becoming just a bit upset when I decided to copy one of our neighbors near the canyons as he ate with his knife. I was so fascinated to see how he could fill that blade with beans and get it to his mouth in short order that I just had to try.

Mother didn’t say as word when she saw what was happening because she wasn’t about to embarrass that neighbor, but she nearly pinched a piece out of my leg as she ever so gently removed my knife from my plate. Later, I heard a few words and decided just to watch in the future and to practice when no one else was in sight.

I simply don’t want to believe that parents aren’t as interested in teaching their children manners today as ours were yesterday.
On the other hand, maybe they just expect to have those patient servers clean up after them, in which case, they need to do a little thinking and a lot of extra tipping.