Sunday, June 30, 2013

Miss Manners

When it comes to navigating the social maze, it helps to know someone who is omniscient.

After college, I had a roommate we affectionately called "Truck." 

Truck was petite and pretty, and had the most insanely beautiful eyes in the world.

Being a New Yorker, and having been raised by a very proper Austrian mother, Truck knew everything about correct behavior. When she moved to Seattle, she was much more sophisticated than anyone in our group of laid-back Seattle friends. It was like she was adult and the rest of us were still figuring things out.

And she knew obscure things for someone our age to know: She knew an oriental rug should have a pad; she knew burned food was carcinogenic; she knew how to COOK.  Her mom worked for a major publishing house in New York, so she was very well read. She had impeccable manners and a vast knowledge of etiquette. 

When we worked on a magazine together, some of the guys in our office called her Miss Manners. She took it all in good stride.

My parents taught me what was proper behavior—to always write thank you notes when a gift or courtesy was extended; table manners; to show respect, etc. But some other useful things my parents didn't think I needed to know, I learned from Truck.

In thinking of how much she taught me during our friendship, I realized sometimes it takes someone like Truck to teach you what is the right thing to do. Without the Trucks of the world, people haplessly make mistakes and sometimes even offend people simply because they don't know any better.

With information so readily accessible, one might think people in general would have a greater awareness, but sadly it seems to be just the opposite. It's appalling to send a wedding gift to someone and not receive even an email to say thanks. Or throwing dinner party and getting crickets when it comes to acknowledging the time, trouble and expense incurred on their behalf.

Maybe it's because some people feel they are entitled to all they receive and are under no obligation to acknowledge it.

It truly is a mystery to me.

Everyone enjoys being thanked. It is a matter of good manners. Truck knew all.


  1. Anonymous9:51 AM

    Favorite line: Maybe it's because some people feel they are entitled to all they receive and are under no obligation to acknowledge it.

    That is so true. Nice article.

    Cynthia Tveit ( and

    1. Hi, Anon,

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

      Most of the real-life people around me — family, childhood friends, professional colleagues — are courteous people.

      In terms of social media habitués, I've seen dogs who show more appreciation for what they are given.

      Again, thanks for your comment.


  2. I'm grateful for you Terri.

    I needed a Truck friend. It seems like Orange County kids were too busy clothes shopping to learn proper manners. Perhaps our over worked moms just didn't have time to teach us.

    Manners start from a heart overflowing with gratitude.

    1. Dear Jeanette,

      Thank you so much for your friendship over the years, and for taking the time to read and comment. It means so much to me!

      The Trucks of the world serve a great purpose. Sure, they can be a sort of pain because they demonstrate what neanderthals some of us can be :-) But at the same time, they can help elevate the quality of life. And good manners can go a long way to paving a path that has fewer bumps!

      Lots of love and my thanks again,


  3. Meagan3:21 AM

    Good Day All,

    My family life was difficult for sometime. So I went about building a family that worked for me. I am at once a free thinker and an anachronism. I can be so far on the left you can't see me with binocluars. Obversely sometimes my neck is so red you could paint the barn. I am a breathing oxymoron.

    My family I created consisted of Trucks as it turns out. They range from a university dean to outlaw bikers. They are not all beautiful to behold... outside. I however, find each of my eclectic group worth more than Paul Allen's fortune and wouldn't trade any of them for anything.

    My Trucks are loyal to a fault and are the keepers of knowledge that they have shared with me. I rely on them to keep me on the right plane. Should I slip and fall they will collectively or as an individual pick me up. Should my head suddenly fill with hot air... one of them will have a pin to relieve the pressure.

    You are lucky to have found a Truck at all. You are incredibly to find more than one. Sometimes they are camouflaged on discovery and you need to peel and dig a little to find that person. A couple of my trucks aren't particularly well mannered. However if you need to move across this country, they will be the first to help. On both ends of your trip. Select your criteria for Trucks with love and compassion and you shall recieve the same. FInding people with manners is easy. Finding peopple with heart and strength of character is substanially more difficult.

    Thank You for article Terri. It made me think of my "outfit." (mining parlance for a crew or work group) We as a group are aging and this year has been extremely painful loss wise as we are weakened by life. So go down to the Truck lot, wash them, touch and talk to them. Time and Trucks don't slow down.


    1. Dear Meagan,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story with me.

      You're fortunate to have surrounded yourself with a family of your own choosing. We all need people in our lives who not only have our backs, but also love and care for us enough to handle the sometimes tough task of setting us straight, or have the strength to hold us up when we falter.

      I've often said every person has a story. Most of the time we are too busy going from point A to point B to slow down long enough to even scratch the surface, let alone delving more deeply. Treasures abound in the form of wise, caring people if we are willing to let them in.

      I'm sure there are plenty of lunatics, too, but mostly I think people tend to attract the kind of person they are.

      I love your closing statement: "So go down to the Truck lot, wash them, touch and talk to them. Time and Trucks don't slow down."

      Thank you again, Meagan! Your comment meant a lot to me, and I appreciate the time and energy it took to write it.

      Warm regards,


  4. Every group needs a 'Truck' from time to time. It helps to spread and reinforce social norms and proper etiquette with beauty, style and grace. I am certain as you and your friends were learning from her, she too learned a great deal from you and your friends.
    We are fortunate that every so often, someone comes into our lives and leaves a positive and lasting impression. As her nicknames suggests, she left a large one on you.

    Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your life with us, it's stories like this, that helps our internet community grow a little stronger everyday.

    1. Dear Michael,

      I have been out of town for the past week and apologize for the delay in posting/replying. I loved finding your comment here upon my return! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond.

      Indeed, as I think of Truck, who, by the way, was named by my husband because her last name was "Mack," I'm reminded of lessons learned, as well as mistakes I made, during the course of our friendship.

      This blog post is a small tribute to her, wherever she is, expressing my belated appreciation for her friendship and support.

      The connection made through this exchange is very special to me. It moves our conversation from 140 characters to full sentences, and I'm very grateful to hear from you.

      Warm regards,


  5. Terri,
    Friendship and listening to others make the world better. We have so much to learn from each human being.
    Thank you for your warm acknowledgement of 'Miss Manners'.

    1. Dear François,

      Sincere thanks for reading this post and offering your response.

      In recent years, I've pined for a return to a time when people valued one another and acknowledged kindnesses.

      May I just say "thank you" once again, for taking time to read, and for posting a reply, and I wish you a wonderful weekend, too!

      Warm regards,