Sunday, February 18, 2007

Op-Ed: Pardon Moi?

By Amber Sutherland

Why am I a jerk?

I'm glad you asked, public. I‘ve been wondering why you’re a jerk for some time now. After months of analysis, I believe I have discovered that your supreme "jerkiness" is a combination of several key elements. I want you to take it slow, so what follows are two of the most glaring jerk factors I have discovered in my research.

First, you have a ridiculous e-mail address. When I have to send a letter to captainjerk@jerkspace.com, I don't bring my A, or Amber game, which is ordinarily characterized by respectful formality and what Nietzsche called "the spirit of gravity." I don't take you seriously, Mr. Captain, and as a result I send you an informal letter devoid of capitalized proper nouns and correct spelling. When you read this email you feel, even subconsciously, that you are being treated with the disregard normally reserved for a common pauper, which only abets to your jerky attitudes.

You are also too loud. Some people can be heard clear across the courtyard. If I wanted to know what is going on in your life, I would talk to you. Take a symbolic ride back to your formative years and channel your inside voice. The resulting mystery you affect may even make you appear enigmatic—and thus more appealing to others!

But, dear and darling jerks, lest you think Pardon Moi? is merely an excuse for this fair columnist to pass cruel and unusual judgments, allow me to assure you that this element is but a large part of my work. Another, much smaller but marginally important part is giving accolades to those of you who work tirelessly in the service of etiquette each and every day. You otherwise nameless, faceless people try to make life a little more pleasant for your friends and colleagues. I invite you to enjoy and be inspired by a new feature of this column, Great Moments in Etiquette History

This edition of Great Moments celebrates the brunette in my fiction class last semester, who leapt from her chair to fetch paper towels for a wayward student who spilled her coffee all over the table. Kudos, brunette. An honorary celebratory spirit goes to the short guy who let me hold the elevator on the fifth floor for well over a minute so I could wait for my travel companion. Bravo, short guy.

I also want to acknowledge those of you who have taken the time to write me with your etiquette questions and general praise. Your concerted efforts to improve your comportment are the first of many necessary steps to ridding yourself forever of your jerky ways.

Send your questions or great moments in etiquette nominations to Sutha907@newschool.edu

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