Thursday, March 1, 2007

Etiquette Lessons... How rude!

What started out as a well-intentioned lesson on table etiquette soon became quite a disaster. The university brought in an etiquette expert to offer valuable advice at a dinner set up to allow soon-to-be-graduated students a chance to mix, mingle and network. However, it resulted in a dinner that was hard to enjoy. What sort of etiquette is that?

The seniors sat there, decked out in business attire, upright in their chairs, and unfolded their starched white napkins. Easy enough. As the speaker proceeded, they learned how to pass the rolls and what fork to use with the salad. No salad knife? Don't use one. Oh, and sit in your chair from the left. It's a little late for that, don't you think? What about putting sugar in your tea? Half the glasses had already been sweetened and stirred. So when they were told what to do with the empty paper packets, there was a nervous laughter and scuffle to discreetly correct their mistake. Did she also offer advice on how to become unembarrassed in front of your adult mentor who was supposed to be offering you tips on your career?

It's one thing to give etiquette lessons to seniors; in fact, it's a good idea. But to do it with mentors there risks embarrassing the students as well as the adults who have also violated the etiquette rules. It made the room self-conscious, which is definitely not polite etiquette. It also lasted too long; after 20 minutes, the meal could finally be enjoyed in peace and the networking actually began (though that was cut off by yet another speaker).

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