07/12/04 — OPINION -- Etiquette and manners

View Archive

OPINION -- Etiquette and manners

By Gene Price
Published in News on July 12, 2004 1:56 PM

BEAUFORT - A newcomer to the neighborhood had just completed “swimming the cut” and was proclaimed a “bona fide” member of our Taylor’s Creek Aquatic Team. The “team” swims down the creek at near-high tide each day during the warm season.

The new member was told she now qualified to wear the “official cap” and could choose from those on the picnic table where the traditional watermelon was being sliced. Some caps are solid material, others mesh-topped.

Without hesitation, she selected the nearest.

“Mother taught me as a child that when I was offered cookies, I should take the one closest to me on the tray,” she smiled.

That conveyed an interesting lesson. It teaches a child not to appear to be “picky” — critically selective.

I don’t know if Emily Post has anything to say on the subject. But it occurred to me that good manners need not be limited to what might be written on the subject of proper etiquette.

Consequently, I suspect Ms. Post would have loved Mr. Norman Gilden of my old Elizabeth City mill district neighborhood. Back during the 1930s, “Mr. Norman” drove an ice truck to the coastal and outer banks villages. The truck carried several 300-pound cakes of ice that would be picked and broken into selected sizes.

The trips took all day and there were no restaurants. But Mr. Norman was an engaging fellow and frequently was invited to have “dinner” — the noonday meal — with families on his route.

On one occasion, he was served a heaping helping of collard greens, ham hock and new potatoes.

As he began eating, Mr. Norman suddenly discovered a big green worm in his collards.

To eat around the worm or decline to eat the collards altogether was unthinkable. Mr. Norman secretly rolled the worm in a collard leaf, slipped it into his mouth and manfully gulped it down in one swallow.

But the seven-year-old sitting beside him had witnessed the noble effort. “Gee, Mom,” he squealed in amazement and admiration, “Mr. Norman just ‘et’ a whole worm!”

Whereupon, Mr. Norman, his stomach palpitating in protest, managed an appreciative smile and with a wave of his hand assured the lady of the house, “Really, Mam, I like ‘em!”

Mr. Norman probably knew nothing about “proper etiquette,” but he had fine manners.