Etiquette. Though it is music-making that brings us dollars, it is the gentlemanly art of etiquette that makes us men. And were the Lord to smite us two gentlemen, withering our musical hands with his heavenly blazes, we would still, I’m sure, make our daily journey to the park; not to fiddle with our instruments, but simply to greet ladies with jolly waves of our shrunken stubs. Good day, ma’am! I wave my stub at you! To be sure, there would be precious little money in this stub-waving. But, we could hold our chins high, knowing that we spend our days in demonstration of impeccable manners.
But precisely what is etiquette, friends? And perhaps of greater importance, how is it best taught? We could offer a sober listing of rules here. (Keep the waistband of your trousers at or above the hipbones, etc.) But that would do precious little to stem the mucky tide of vulgar behavior we encounter during our afternoon performances.
Instead, let us instruct by example. In the next few installments, we intend to describe several situations recently encountered by The Gentlemen. Following each description, we shall offer you, the reader, a variety of choices for “the most appropriate action.” We’ll then describe what actually occurred and critique or praise the etiquette of the players involved. This sounds fun, doesn’t it? Indeed.
Lesson One: You are a tourist, perhaps a Midwesterner or maybe a Swede, strolling through Central Park with your family. You come upon two finely dressed Gentlemen, delighting passersby with song. How pleasant! Yet, your time with them is to be short as your youngest child insists upon a visit to the famed Central Park carousel. But where is this carousel? Alas, you are lost! You should…
(a) Quietly scold your children for their insolence and reward the performing Gentlemen with a dollar (or perhaps two for wearing such handsome dress on such a steamy afternoon).
(b) Interrupt the performing Gentlemen’s song for directions, listen distractedly as said Gentlemen direct you (between verses), then proceed along your way posthaste, leaving the Gentlemen uncompensated for their musical and navigational efforts.
(c) Perform a lively traditional dance, inciting riotous, rhythmic applause from your fellow passersby.
Answer: Did you choose (a)? Or perhaps (c)? Ah, dear reader, you are a friend indeed! And we Gentlemen hope to encounter you in the park one day! It is indeed a gross breach of etiquette to interrupt a performance.
Sadly, it is (b) that occurred, and has occurred several times since. And while we first countered such vulgarity with polite and thorough directions (all given mid-song), we have since concluded that this perhaps reinforces unacceptable behaviors. Now, when interrupted we offer the interrupter a brief lesson in etiquette: Smiling, we beckon him forward, as if to whisper the requested directions in his ear. When his face is but inches from ours, we offer him a hearty taste of our two man kazooing, delivered most violently into his aural canal. The desired effect is temporary deafness and permanent contrition. But we must often settle for a shocked recoil and some vulgar language. Lesson learned!
On a happier note, The Gentlemen assume that (a) has occurred innumerable times, reinforcing the ancient gentlemanly maxim that the best etiquette often goes unnoticed. And we are most pleased to report that a sweaty jogging person recently paused along his route to offer us the aforementioned lively traditional dance. Though, we did not approve of this man’s sticky and soiled “active wear,” The Gentlemen nevertheless salute his enthusiasm. Cheers to you, sweaty jogging person!
Hugs & Kisses,
S. Andy Bean