Ask a Dilettante – Mind Your Manners

I am at a coffee shop right now, and I just saw a man go into the bathroom carrying his newspaper. And there aren’t stalls. It’s just a one-room, one-person-at-a-time bathroom. I was both repelled by such blatant behavior and confused. What is proper public bathroom etiquette?

It’s quite simple, really. If one must use the facilities in public, one must not enjoy the process as if one were at home. Anyone can be caught with their pants down, so to speak, but there’s no reason to take the paper with you as if you’re using your own bathroom. And really, most public bathrooms are not places you want to get comfortable in and take a load off. Generally, you’re in, you’re out and that’s that. You were right to be repelled.

I’m going out of town this week, and I hate to fly. I’m really tall, and every time the person in front of me puts their seat back, it hits my knees. Can you give me any tips on how I can make my trip more comfortable?

If you’re not afraid of being a little selfish, you could always buy a set of Knee Defenders. This product disables the recline feature on airplane seats. Of course, if you use this product you’re sacrificing the comfort of the person in front of you, but, hey, that’s not your problem now is it? This is America, dammit. Dilettante is particularly drawn to the accompanying “courtesy card” that explains to the unfortunate who is sitting in front of you just why the seat won’t recline. How courteous!

My girlfriend is dragging me to a dinner party that her uptight parents are giving for their crotchety old friends. I’m sure they’ll be picking at every little thing I do, so my girlfriend decided to give me a crash course on table etiquette. Not that I care, but I would like to get through the night without my girlfriend riding my ass, so could you clarify the placement of silverware at the end of the meal? She says you’re supposed to cross the knife and fork; I say you’re supposed to put them next to your plate.

Once you’ve used a utensil, it should never again touch the table but should remain on your plate for the duration of the meal or that course. But this doesn’t mean that your girlfriend is correct. She’s not. When you are done with your meal, place the knife and fork next to each other and across the plate, with the sharp ends pointing to the upper left at ten or eleven o’clock. For the record, I have a feeling the placement of your silverware is one of the last things your hosts will notice.

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]