Friday, August 10, 2007

This week in Everyday Etiquette

I've been wanting to start a weekly series on everyday etiquette for ages. This may seem strange on a blog devoted to children's literature, but, if you ask me, children's books and everyday social behavior are connected Here's why: Besides an attention and love for language and form, what a reader learns most from reading is how to inhabit--or come close to inhabiting--the world of an other. When you watch TV or a film, you are merely a voyeur. The situation and story may be interesting, but you are still watching.

Lately, I've noticed that the courtesy I've been used to can't always be guaranteed in a public place. I don't know if this is because I am already an old crank, because we don't have the same standards of behavior we once did, or because we don't read--we don't align with an other--the same way we used to.

One thing I love about blogging is its interactivity and the common courtesy of the kidlitosphere. I know when I pose an everyday etiquette question*, I'll get the truth--good or bad--from you. Let's play:

Suppose you are an average-sized, average-aged woman assigned to a middle seat on an airplane. The flight is approximately 3 hours long and you're on a standard American carrier. To your right is a polite man in his 50s. He uses the armrest next to the window and kindly allows you the armrest next to him without a word. To your left in the aisle seat is a large, ponytailed man in his 20s. Not only does he take your armrest, but his elbow extends into your seat. Moreover, he extends his leg (in shorts and sandals) into your seat area--an area clearly marked by the luggage holder and seat boundaries.

What do you do?
*I use the term "everyday etiquette" because I am not interested in questions of "white after labor day" or gloves.

Everyday Etiquette will take place on Wednesdays hereafter.