Note: Thirty-two years ago this week, I wrote my first etiquette column for the Belleville News Democrat. At the time, I had been advertising in the News-Democrat my six-week etiquette classes for young girls at the St. Clair Square. Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl took an interest in knowing more about these classes. He reviewed my background; we had a meeting and he asked me if I would write a sample column. I chose telephone etiquette and it apparently was well received. My weekly columns began. My heartfelt thanks to Pat, for approaching me and interviewing me with his idea, selling it to the higher echelon, and to all my faithful readers who have continued to support me. It has truly been a wonderful experience. Now, on to hopefully many more columns.
Q: A couple of my colleague girlfriends and I like to go out for a glass of wine now and then to a sports bar or upscale restaurant bar. We like to sit at the bar because we get served faster and can actually eat there as well. One of my girlfriends is all about name brand shoes, clothes, and purses. She drives me crazy by placing her big Coach, DKNY, or Michael Kors purse on the bar — like hey there, look at MY expensive name-brand purse! She even draped her name-brand shawl on the bar last week, next to her purse. I personally think this looks stupid, and besides, it takes up a lot of room. Before I tell her she shouldn’t do that, I wanted to verify with you that it is totally improper.
A. You are correct. A purse, of any size, name brand or not, never goes on a bar or a table in a restaurant. It is placed on your lap, underneath your chair or under the table, between your back and the back of the chair (or bar stool), or, if there is a ledge large enough underneath the bar in front of the bar stool, place it there. Some bars now have purse hooks underneath the bar which can also be used to hold a purse if it has a strap.
A purse should also not be draped over the back of your chair, or bar stool for two reasons: One: It can get in the way of people and waiters passing by the back of the chair and fall on the floor, possibly causing someone to trip and fall. Two: In a crowd of people, it is far too easy for someone to slip a hand through the strap and steal it without anyone ever realizing it.
Q: I am a waitress in a very nice restaurant. I get so infuriated after I serve the beverages, and ask if my customers are ready to order, there is always one, or sometimes two of them, with their heads bent over and their eyes on their Iphone, or even texting. I think that is so rude. Sometimes, I would honestly like to scream at them to pay attention. The others order and they are still not even looking at me, like they are totally in a different world — I guess they are. So, at this point, I say, "Excuse me, may I have your order?" Then, of course, it takes another minute or two for them to either look at the menu again or remember what they want. Like I have all the time in the world and don't have other tables I'm trying to get to. Is there anything else I can do? Hopefully, if you print this, more people will realize they shouldn't be doing this. I wish restaurants could put up a big sign that says: No cell phones please once you are seated. Guess that's not going to happen, though.
A: I totally can understand your frustration and yes, what you are enduring is very rude. The sign you mention, although a good one, I agree, is probably not going to happen because it would surely offend some customer who would feel his or her rights were being violated, etc. Your patience, professionalism, and polite request are very appropriate.
Q: What is your say on white after Labor Day? I have a white jacket, lined. I can’t wear it in 100-degree weather, but maybe in air-conditioned places.
A: The old etiquette rule was “no white, especially shoes and purse, after Labor Day.” That rule has been bent a bit, especially in locations where heat indices remain in the 80s and 90s through September and even October, and in warmer states such as Florida and California, and of course, Hawaii. The bottom line is: If you feel comfortable wearing it, as you say, “in air-conditioned places” during high-degree weather, wear it. Personally, I would look forward to saving it and wearing it next spring instead.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to email@example.com.