Another lesson from Miss Manners

By Helena Rodriquez: Freedom Newspapers

I may not exactly be Miss Manners, but when it comes to social etiquette, I’ve got a few things to say. I’ll call these Helena’s mannerisms.

When someone sneezes, any proper, caring individual should say “Bless you!” If the person sneezes again, it is only proper to sigh and say bless you again. If they sneeze again, then say “All right already!” However, if it is me sneezing a third time (I tend to sneeze in threes), then another bless you is in order. An eyerolling for the inconvenience would be acceptable in this situation. Also, if someone sneezes in an alto or tenor voice, then the “bless you” should also be in alto or tenor.

According to Helena’s mannerisms, when a person burps or toots, they are also obligated to say excuse me. In my books of manners, there is an added part to this “excuse me” clause in fine print just for teenagers.

The person saying excuse me should say it just as loud as the alleged burp or toot. None of this mumble jumble my daughter Laura tries to pass off in whispers. When she lets out one of her long winding Dr Pepper burps in a rhythmic a cappella style (she does have talent), I look at her waiting for the two magic words. When I don’t hear them, which I usually don’t, then I yell at her, and she tries to tell me that she did say excuse me.

Parents, this is not acceptable! Let me repeat, the “excuse me” must be as loud as the burp!

When it comes to tooting, a.k.a. “letting the windy,” there’s an exception to the rule in Helena’s mannerisms. Should an incident like this occur, the alleged perpetrator should first look around and find someone else to cast the blame on. Just direct your eyes toward one person. Others will catch on and look at that person too, thus shifting the blame to the innocent bystander or bysitter. If this does not work, then see clause A above, and say “excuse me” in a tone as loud as the alleged act and try to ignore the snickers.

Helena’s mannerisms also apply when interacting with others of the human species on line. For starters, DO NOT EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, E-MAIL YOUR BOSS IN ALL CAPS! This is equivalent to shouting. The exception would be if you have a conscious or subconscious desire to get fired, or if you have a perfectly orchestrated plan for a grand finale, which ends with something like, “Take this job and shove it!”

Just like when talking face to face, also monitor your words carefully when you e-mail someone. One thing I’ve learned (add this to your list of Helena’s mannerisms), is that the more important the person, the fewer words you use in your e-mail. The less important they are, then blab blab blab all you want. E-mail them your shopping list, your family history, your junk e-mail and the Web site to your personal blog. Note: DON’T GIVE YOUR BOSS THE ADDRESS TO YOUR PERSONAL BLOG!

I’ve learned that the “more important the person, shorter the message” rule applies especially when e-mailing college professors and bosses. I’d write a long e-mail explaining something in detail only to get a reply no longer than five words like: “No!,” “Sounds good” or “I’ll get back to you!”

Now I make these e-mails to important people as short as possible (this operates like the Miranda warning, anything you say can be used against you, so keep it short).

Your e-mail to the CEO should read something like: “Need talk budget, figures don’t add, your place or mine?” Or to the professor who refuses to respond to an e-mail in more than five words, “Dog ate homework. Request extension!” or “Didn’t make class, got pulled over.” Save the long story and refer them to a copy of the citation on or attach a digital photo of the train that held you up.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: