Etiquette: why stop at forks?
Enough already. Who cares what fork I'm supposed to be using?
Apparently a lot of people care. Or at least enough young people have been convinced they should care that a number of colleges and universities in Milwaukee have started holding etiquette classes for students headed out for job interview lunches and dinners.
I could barely contain myself upon seeing a Journal Sentinel story about this trend, and a picture that ran with the story. The young man in the photo, who was supposed to be learning manners, was holding his fork in the wrong hand, unless he was dining in a tiny French cafe. Trust me here. There's an American way and a European (read: snooty) way.
The idea behind these classes is to teach job hunters how to act if they have to go out for dinner or lunch with the human resources person. Wiping your hands on your tie is frowned upon.
I see no reason, however, to limit this to meals. Think of all the opportunities these kids are missing. People who do the hiring could put kids in a lot of different situations.
Suppose the boss is a dog lover and among your duties will be to accompany him and Fido on afternoon walks. Can you cover your hand with a plastic grocery bag and make the pickup and turn it inside out without smearing it around? Do you know enough not to tie the bag closed after the first pickup in case Fido decides once is not enough?
What if the boss is a big public transportation guy and wants to see how you do on a bus? Do you know you need exact change? If you hand the driver $50, hoping to impress the boss it will have the opposite effect. If you sit in the first row and stay seated when three elderly nuns get on board, your job is out the window.
Going to a sporting event is a common situation. Do you know the don'ts for a football game? Only one clothing item in team colors. Dyed animal fur is prohibited. No face paint. No foam fingers that indicate No. 1. No foam anything. If you wear a team jersey it's got to be someone who is with the team now. Nobody who played 20 years ago, no matter how good. No shouting about the referee's mother. No holding a beer in each hand and a chili dog with extra cheese and peppers on your lap. No wild, excessive high-fiving everyone in reach after a two yard gain on first down.
There is perhaps no job interview scenario more common than the famous "Night on the Town."
This test normally involves several stops and thus, many opportunities for major social error.
First stop is a strip club. Don't try to convince the bouncer you really are a VIP Club member but you left your card at home. Just pay the $25 cover for you and your boss. Don't rush to get seats right next to the stage where you have to break your neck to see what's going on (or coming off) up there. When the tip-walk starts and you put your only bill, a fiver, in the g-string, don't ask the dancer for $4 change.
Don't even think of buying a lap dance for your boss from the bartender who is obviously a former stripper who quit the year before you were born and has since devoted herself to Pringles and that nacho cheese dip in glass jars you get at convenience stores. And finally when the boss says it's time to move on don't complain that you haven't set up dates for both of you for "later." Pick up your money and go.
The final stop is often a karaoke bar which can be fraught with peril. First of all, the drinks are extra strong to make it easier to separate sane people from their inhibitions. The first thing to be aware of is the regular crowd, the people who do karaoke five or six nights a week. They will all be sitting at the same table. There is a strong smell of Brut and hairspray. Every time one of them sings the rest applaud like crazed monkeys. If you don't clap for them they might kill you.
It's okay to just watch the action. But beware of those drinks. What you want to avoid is grabbing the microphone at the end of the evening and shouting "Who wants to do the Olivia Newton John part in 'Summer Nights' with me?" and an off-duty jackhammer operator name Jayson volunteers and you try those dirty John Travolta moves on him and Jayson punches your lights out. The boss walks out, leaving you on the floor. No job. Not even a second interview.
Just think what young job seekers could learn if we had classes in all this stuff as well as that cutting the steak business.
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