I remember the 1960’s and the way American culture changed during the Viet Nam era.  I remember when manners and etiquette were considered too old-fashioned and everyone was encouraged to do their own thing.  I say it’s time to find another Amy Vanderbilt and bring back proper decorum.

Recently I had two bad experiences while eating on the road.  One was at a Golden Corral on the Alabama Georgia border.  We ducked in for a quick lunch while on an antiquing binge, and I watched this girl go up to the salad bar and put sliced pickles into a bowl.  Then to my utter disbelief, she picked up the pickles out of the bowl, licked them, and put them back into the container on the salad bar.  I found a waitress, told her what happened, and she promptly took up the container and refilled it.  She then stayed near enough to the bar to keep an eye on the child who kept returning without adult supervision and assist her, whether she wanted it or not, to make certain she didn’t do it again.

I was dumbstruck that any child in the U.S. could be raised with such total lack of respect for others, but pleased that the waitress took the matter seriously and did all in her power to rectify the situation.

Last weekend we rode the motorcycles over to Meridian, Mississippi and I saw the same scenario replayed at Ryan’s.  A girl about 10’ish walked up to the salad bar and filled a bowl with peaches, placed her hand over the fruit, and poured the juice back into the container.  I watched her then dump the contents of the bowl back into the container and move on to the container of pineapple and do the same thing.  From there she literally skipped to the hot bar and was playing in the food there as well.  It quickly became obvious she was not eating the food, but handling it playing in it, totally unsupervised by her mother.

I told the waitresses what was happening and one said she’d tell the manager to replace the food.  I don’t know whether any of them relayed the message to the manager or not, but the food was never replaced.  After about 15 minutes with no one making any effort to remedy the situation we left and you can bet the farm we won’t go back.

What has happened to America that we’re willing to allow such behavior?  We post messages in rest rooms that employees must wash their hands, yet children are allowed to spoil food others are expected to eat.  Who knows where these kids’ hands have been or how long since they were washed?  Because I find this behavior so repulsive I’ve vowed to report it to the health department any time I see it, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.

NOTE:  Amy Vanderbilt (1908-1974) was America’s leading authority on etiquette.  Her book has been edited and is still in circulation today.

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