Uncle Joe gives more free advice

Friday, June 10, 2005

Most everyone with hair as gray as mine remembers parents -- mothers especially -- who used that look or raised their voices or even swatted us from time to time in an effort to pound some manners into our hides.

We were all taught to be polite, respect our elders, say please and thank you, call our teachers "sir" and "ma'am," chew with our mouths closed, keep our shirts tucked in, let girls go first, cover our mouths when we cough and not pick our noses.

Those are the basics. And I'm sure parents today try to pass along a sense of decorum to their children. I know they do, because I get glimpses of the results occasionally. At the same time, I wonder why there are so many hellions at large.

And it's not just here in the good old USA. When I travel to other places I see what I call loose threads in the fabric of an orderly society that is getting more tattered every year.

Meanwhile, my contemporaries are troubled with real-life situations that apparently never came up when their parents were still in charge. I see them wrestle with their dilemmas. I know personal conflict when I see it.

Which is why God (and others) let me write this column.

I am here to help.

Here are a couple of frequently raised issues. I will do my best to offer wisdom and guidance befitting my advanced experience as an observer of the world around us.

The last piece of white meat: You're at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and you've had a hankering for fried chicken that just won't go away. As you approach the pile of chicken on the buffet, you see there's only one piece of white meat left. Other diners are edging toward the chicken. And you remember that your wife, who loves white meat, hasn't made it this far along the buffet yet.

What do you do?

Let's examine the facts: This is much like the experience you had as a child when the preacher and his family came home for Sunday dinner. Heaping platters of food are consumed. There is just one drumstick left. But you're still hungry. As you reach for the chicken plate, your mother gives you that look and says, "Joey, you know it's not polite to take the last piece of chicken. Pastor Jones might still be hungry."

Hungry? After five pieces of chicken, two mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy, a dozen biscuits, two huge scoops of string beans, a whole row of wilted lettuce and gosh only knows how many sweet pickles, and the preacher is still hungry? If he ate that drumstick, he would explode.

The corollary to this situation is this: There is one drumstick left, but this time it's just family sitting around the dining room table. You get up to loosen your belt, and your mother says, "What, you don't like my chicken?"

Uncle Joe's advice: Go for the white meat. Not a single starving Chinese tyke is ever going to know.

Entering a restroom: This one may only apply to guys. You are about to enter a restroom because you drank the whole 64-ounce soft drink you picked up at the drive-through on the way to work. Just as you reach for the door, your good friend and colleague is coming out with hands barely moist from the make-believe wash-up.

Who goes first?

No need to examine the facts.

Uncle Joe's advice: Never stand in the way of inbound traffic at a restroom. Never.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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