It seems that Sheridan Whiteside, the lead character in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner never quite got around to reading any of Post's advice. In the play, Whiteside is an obnoxious New York City radio personality who slips on a patch of ice outside the Ohio home of Ernest and Harriet Stanley. Though Whiteside was only supposed to be a dinner guest, his stay is extended when a doctor orders him to stay at the Stanley home until his injured hip is healed.
Rick Gwin, who plays Whiteside in Jacksonville State University's production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, helps us compare Whiteside and Post's views on etiquette. To see more of Whiteside and his extravagant mannerisms, check out the play, which will be performed tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center on the JSU campus.
PETS Emily Post: Never ask whether you may bring a pet along on a visit. Your host and hostess may be great dog-lovers, but they will probably not want a strange dog who may or may not get along with their own dog, and whose manners may or may not be the best.
Sheridan Whiteside: Bring in as many as possible, particularly things like penguins, octopi and cockroaches.
BEING A GUEST Post: No one, with the exception of closest friends and immediate family, should ever be an 'unexpected visitor.' Therefore do not make a visit without making your intentions know, and agree to a time convenient for both of you.
Whether it is easy or not, you must conform to the habits of the family with whom you are staying. You take your meals at their hours, you eat what is put before you.
Whiteside: (When a guest), invite as many people as you can and make sure you choose the menu yourself. I like my Crockfield Home for Convicts to come in shackles and chains.
INSULTS Post: There is no excuse for remarks of that nature, and you should make that clear. Every time you participate in ethnic, racial or other personally insulting conversations, whether comments are directly derogatory or said in the form of a joke, you are practicing a form of intolerance. This is not only extremely poor manners, it is implied acceptance of bigotry and prejudice. There is no place for this in your conversation or in our world.
Whiteside: I can curse anyone who gets in my way and not feel an ounce of guilt about it. I call my nurse and say she has the touch of a sex-starved cobra.
GOSSIP AND GETTING INVOLVED IN OTHERS' AFFAIRS Post: Conversation should not be about someone else, especially in a group, even a group of close friends.
Whiteside: I have my finger in everybody's pie, because I'm the most intelligent and most qualified of anyone there. And by the far the most famous.
COMMUNICATIONS Post: It is not polite to assume it is all right with your host or hostess to have your calls directed to their home. Before automatically forwarding your calls, check with your host and make sure he doesn't mind, for everyone calling you will be rung though to your host's telephone number. And it is your host, not you, who will be answering the telephone each time it rings.
When you do receive calls at someone else's home, keep them brief and to the point. It is discourteous to tie up someone else's telephone with your lengthy conversations.
Whiteside: I don't care (about receiving telephone calls, cables or posts) as long as it's for me. Everyone else can have their packages delivered to the back door.
ON ETIQUETTE Post: Good taste or bad is revealed in everything we are, do, or have. Our speech, manners, dress, and household goods — and even our friends — are evidences of the propriety of our taste. Rules of etiquette are nothing more than sign-posts by which we are guided to the goal of good taste.
Whiteside: I think everyone should follow proper etiquette as long as they are around me, because I'm as close to American royalty as you can get.