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.