To The Manners Born

The Swearing Lady has put together a rather amusing guide to being Irish. (Don’t click on the link, mother, it’s full of dirty words)

I have a few of my own humble suggestions, restricted to the area of manners and everyday protocol, as this can be puzzling to visitors:

1. When walking down a footpath, make sure you zig-zag as much as possible so oncoming pedestrians are kept guessing until the last second;

2. If you see someone you know while out walking, but you don’t know them well enough to stop and hold a conversation beyond meaningless platitudes (“Out for a walk, what?”), feign distraction by suddenly espying a winged unicorn flying at 10,000 feet. Alternatively, feign an absence automatism.

3. If driving, accelerate if you see any pedestrians pondering whether or not to cross the street (you are assisting them in making their decision);

4. If you are in the unhappy predicament of standing a queue in a supermarket (an unfortunate relic of British rule), and the cashier opens another till, assume that the person in front of you in your queue is more than happy to continue waiting there, then dart across to the other till like a defrocked cardinal. Once safely established at the other till, if others look on in mild indignation, become engrossed by how much chewing gum wrapper design has changed down the decades;

5. Whilst the custom of saying hello to neighbours -a relic of pre-modern society- is still observed, there is no need to pester foreign-looking people with this;

6. Be very sensitive to the needs of pregnant women and old people on public transport. You may think it polite to give them your seat, but bear in mind that they might have trouble getting up again, and you cannot rely on others to help them up once you get off. Do not acknowledge their existence in any way. They will only get embarrassed.

7. Be very sensitive to passengers descending from trains and buses. Do not acknowledge their existence in any way. They will only get embarrassed. It is customary to block their path, thus preventing them from falling and breaking their neck;

8. On the street, when people say ‘sorry’, as they very often do, there is no need to say ‘I forgive you’ in response.

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September 2006

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