October 28, 2015

Not a Thing!

We often host friends for dinner, and have learned that not everyone shares our bathroom habits. What is a polite and kind way to ask guests to close the toilet lid before they flush?

Speaking of insecurity and fury born of ignorance, I had no idea that closing the lid before flushing was a thing. But a quick Internet search showed me for the barbarian I am. Many sources confirm that lid-up flushing disperses “polluted water vapor” all over the place in a bacterial free-for-all. So, thanks for the edification, Sarah. As for your concern, try a little sign: “Lid down before flushing, please.” You don’t want to talk about this at the table. And unless my parents skipped a seminal lesson in not being gross, I don’t believe this practice is widely observed, though it should be.

I eagerly read this question in the New York Times, not so much for the interesting and disgusting issue of lowering the toilet lid before flushing, but because it raises another current issue that has been on my mind. That is, the proliferation of friends and acquaintances who take offense due to transgressions of etiquette known only to themselves.

Was this always a problem? My understanding is that all rules of behavior fall under the rubric of the "golden rule" and specific minutia of etiquette simply codify that. The minutia may very from culture to culture but the intent is the same. (My beloved boss used to say that etiquette is the lubricant of social intercourse. That is about as good a description as any.) Now friends and acquaintances seem to be making up their own rules, then griping about transgressions.

I have a friend who posts her upcoming schedule, then complains that people don't respond to say that they are coming or not to events she has announced. "Huh?" I replied, when chastised. I thought it was a social media blast; I had no idea these updates were meant as invitations. 

Another friend, and I hope this is an anomaly, prefers being told that you would rather stick sharp objects in your eyes that accompany him. Frankly, I thought saying, "No thank you" or "I am sorry but I am busy" was polite and sufficient, but it begs the follow-up question, "Why can't you go?" Then I am forced to say that I would rather stick sharp objects in my eyes. That feels a bit rude. We had a bit of a go-round on this issue, but I stand by my original answer. A rule that says one must provide a satisfactory excuse to the person who makes the invitation: not a thing!

A former friend made a habit of this type of thing. He would silently seethe over perceived rudeness, then cut the perpetrator off without a word. Before I was cut off, I ventured that it was unlikely that the former friends had any idea why they had been ex-communicated. If there is a lesson in this, it has been many years since I was ousted and I still don't know why.

But I have a guess that it is NOT A THING!