How well did you behave at BookExpo America last year? You have the right to remain silent. Some of you were nice, I'm sure; others were naughty. You know who you are. Or maybe you don't recall.
National Etiquette Week seems an appropriate time to offer a little advice as you prepare for total immersion in the crowded aisles of the Javits Center, not to mention a crowded city filled with crowded restaurants/bars. The streets of Midtown Manhattan are tough, but BEA can be tougher, especially during the opening hours of the first day, with all the pushing and shoving; the shouting and grabbing; the toe-stomping and elbow-crashing. Oh, the humanity!
So we need some rules. We need to talk about your behavior. I could rain a little Emily Post down on your parade, but let's try historical perspective instead. I refer you to chapter 7 ("Behavior in Public") of my new favorite book, The Etiquette of To-day by Edith Bertha Ordway, which was published in 1913. The guide is probably an appropriate symbol of our industry-in-flux times, since a century after its publication, this digitized version exists in Google Books while bearing a stamp from the University of Michigan Libraries.
"The test of the depth of one's courtesy is found in one's attitude to strangers and the public at large," our new etiquette guru advises, raising a key question:
What would Edith do at BEA?
Getting there: "The dress for traveling should be plain and simple, suited to the need rather than elaborate. The effect of crumpled finery is so very unpleasant that no person of taste will make a display of it in a public conveyance."
Checking in: "The usual good manners of cultivated people, emphasized by the additional restraint which the presence of the public imposes, is a safe standard of etiquette in a hotel."
BEA/ABA conference sessions: "The loud-voiced, aggressive person, whose opinions are alone of vital moment in his estimation, and who will not yield a point in an argument, is much to be dreaded in any company, and effectually brings to an end any general conversation into which he intrudes."
Opening day on the floor: "Pushing, shoving and all like methods of getting people to move out of your way, or of getting ahead of others, are marks of great rudeness, and have a tendency to retard rather than aid one's progress through a crowd...."
Everyday behavior at BEA: "Never show hostility, nor permit people to quarrel with you. The irritability which crowded conditions aggravate makes it necessary to adhere, from principle, to the rule of strict good-will toward all."
Night life: "The considerate person will not enter even a public hotel late at night.... Those who are asleep deserve as great consideration as if they were awake, and more also."
Partying, a cautionary note: "It is not necessary to recognize in society a strictly business acquaintance unless you wish to do so."
Taxis: "In entering a carriage or automobile, one should step promptly, without either loitering or haste."
Paying attention all day long: "Straightforward attentiveness is the attitude of most profit and enjoyment in society.... The habit of a vacant or absent mind in company is a grave fault, and works greatly to the detriment of one's reputation for intelligence, in spite of all else that one may do to establish it."
Dining out, sexist edition: "In business life it is not good form to dine with your employer. This does not include a ban upon those business dinners, where there is a group of people, the majority of them men, with one or two unmarried business women of equal or superior business standing, who meet over the dinner table to talk of business problems."
BEA as an unusual circumstance: "The exchange of visiting cards with strangers, unless under unusual circumstances, is unwise and bad form."
Cell phone etiquette: "To converse in loud tones or talk of personal matters anywhere in public shows great lack of fine feeling and good breeding."
Final hours of the trade show: "It is a mark of good breeding to control or at least conceal one's moods, so that in company one always appears to be content, if not happy. It adds much to the happiness of others to give this impression, and is therefore generous as well as wise."
Etiquette "is the necessary colleague of intellectual ability in winning the farthest heights of success, and makes the plains of mediocre attainment habitable and pleasant," our guru advises. Behave yourself this year at BEA. Don't mess with Edith. --Published by Shelf Awareness, issue #1998.