February is informal Manners Month. It's informal for two reasons: 1) the government is kind of busy with the economy right now so petitioning them to endorse a new cause might be fruitless, and 2) it's being invented as I type.
Let's say we can't address all the opening of doors, tipping of hats, and typing in sentence case AS OPPOSED TO ALL CAPS that go into being a decently courteous creature. That would take a lot more words than you probably have time to read right now, and certainly more than this column can fit.
So, here are five quick etiquette tips I'm offering up for consumption. Your response may range from "No duh" to "I don't think Amy Vanderbilt would agree with that one." In any case, please spread them along:
1) Return a phone call with a phone call. Not an e-mail, and certainly not a text message, unless it's to say, "Call you in a minute." You and your bestie might share a certain telepathic bond that transcends these modes of communication, in which case returning a call with a text might be fine because you speak 800 times a day anyway. For everyone else, though, there's a closeness hierarchy at play. The live connection intrinsic to human speech can't be replicated by keyboards and screens. If someone makes the effort to talk to you on that level, but gets your voicemail instead, a certain message of disrespect is sent when you demote that effort to e-mail.
2) Reply to that lingering invite. Unless they're for weddings, invitations these days are pretty much limited to Facebook and Evite. For some of us, these are excessive and often unwanted. Does that mean it's okay to ignore them? I vote "no." First, if it's someone you really don't want to receive invites from, responding "no" will help him figure that out faster than not responding at all. Second, there is that wonderful "maybe" reply that has a nice way of conveying, "Hey, I probably won't be at your thing, but I'm not against the idea, and the future's not ours to see so I can't rule it out." Of course, with that choice you might get prompted closer to the birthday/improv show/dog christening you've been dodging for a definite response, but by then you might've changed your mind, or at least your "no" will not seem rude.
3) Ask before tagging. This is mostly a Facebook, Places and Foursquare tip. Not all of us have stalkers, but some of us don't like our whereabouts being made known to those we're not currently with. 'Cause what if Freak Girl is at the bar next door, and wants to join? Freak Girl loves her some Facebook, and pounces on any friends in a three-block radius.
4) Don't cancel. This is not entirely related to the invite advice above. It's just a generally good way to be. If you have to reschedule, that's one thing, and we all have times when we're legitimately sick or in a true bind. We also have times we're full of ourselves and just don't want to do whatever we'd committed to doing. Canceling on people not only sends the message that you don't think all that highly of them, it also increases your flake factor and erodes the greater concept of social commitment.
5) Assume goldfish memories when it comes to names. How many of us secretly die inside when we see a person who knows our name, but whose name we can't remember? If it's been a while since you've seen someone you met through some tertiary mean, and you think there's even a chance he won't recall your name, throw it out there just in case. He'll mostly likely reply, "Of course I remember you, Sue!" (except if your name's not Sue) but inside he might be feeling very relieved and thinking more of you for saving him that potential embarrassment.
Homer can be reached at email@example.com .