Last evening I was a guest at a fancy-smancy (aka black tie) military dinner that was very well attended and chock full of many generations of service people and their guests. As I anticipated, this event spawned the fodder for today’s post. Here’s why.
Yesterday I was introduced to some of the protocol that the military (this event was Army) has established and which of those time-honored traditions still remain. Believe me when I say that this civilian almost committed quite a few faux-pas; sigh. Okay, let’s address this:
I was the guest of the second most senior ranking official in the room, so naturally that meant that I was seated at the ‘head’ table (“go big or go home”, baby); but, little did my unruly ass know that that carried quite the responsibility! Let’s start with my choice of cocktail. Well, no cocktail for this lady, I am a beer drinker; and, I prefer my beer ice cold and straight from the bottle, if you please. Well, you should have seen the server’s face! He leaned over and whispered to me, “Sorry, I can’t do that”. Ha-ha. I kinda-sorta knew that; just really wanted to see how he would have handled it. I got a glass and pretended to be a proper lady J
So now I’m a few beers in and am in need of satisfying my other appetite – sitting wondering why we have not been served dinner. Guess what I was explained – not one of our asses was getting any food until the #1 arrived! What?!? Yep… no head honcho, no muncho! WTH! Okay, when I wrapped my head around that, I then obnoxiously (in my mind) started to chart the time-line; see, cause this event was touted to begin at 6pm and here is was after 9pm! So I’m thinking, knowing that we can’t eat without your presence, either you just don’t give a damn, or, you’re using this opportunity to remind everyone just how damned big your dick is! Hahaha. Wow!
So, we waited. And, while we waited, with now a few glass-encased beers in me, I decided, shit, I’ll dance! You guessed it – dancing not slated to happen yet; and especially not from a lady at the ‘head’ table! I almost lost it then! And, sure did ask my friends to please let’s move to one of the less restrictive tables J . So when “His Dickness” (only in reference to the afore-mentioned; he was a very nice man) arrived, we were served. Food was okay. Sigh. Then, the speech; then I was allowed to shake my ass.
By this time, it’s close to midnight; folks are tired (and probably still hungry), so the place started to empty. That’s when I learned of yet another protocol; and one that quite a few military broke last evening. I was speaking with the host at that time – so no one should have left until he did! Yes sir; in the military (similarly when at a function with other Heads of State), it is considered quite poor form to leave prior to their leaving. And, the more I think about this one in particular, I both understand and appreciate it. How rude they were last night! And, I can only imagine the dressing down that will be coming down! When I asked the question about what happens if either the honoree or the ranked official preferred to stay for a lengthy period of time, I was told that it is then their responsibility to announce their intention to do so and give permission to anyone who would like to leave before they do. Protocol.
Believe it or not, the reason all this resonated with me was not solely from a rules and regulations basis; what it did was highlight to me the value in honor and respect. A culture such as this one establishes and reinforces not only the fact that there is such a thing as hierarchy; but it forces us to acknowledge and live up to what we should have been taught at a very young age – respect. The military has its protocols – civilians (should have) its etiquette. You know what that is – it’s the guideline that lets us know what is acceptable – in public.
See, it’s important I think that I say “in public”, because quite frankly, I could care less what you do and how you conduct yourself when in the privacy of your own space. However, when you place yourself in the company of others, conducting oneself in a manner that is deemed non-offensive and respectful should be implemented! Sadly, I think as a society many have turned their backs on the importance of not only holding oneself to such standards; but certainly in rearing our children in a like manner. The shame of this is, most of us do not then accept the responsibility that our actions bar us from entry into the paths of life we desire. What protocols and etiquette do is place us in a much better position to not only interact with persons from myriad cultures and walks-of-life; but it also helps to increase our ability to inoffensively navigate by infusing us with a capacity for neutrality when applicable.
So even as I ate very late, was forced to sip my beer from a glass (as opposed to throwing my head back) and had to schedule shaking my ass, I absolutely appreciated being in an environment that has long-since established a behavior and standard for itself that is meant to not only honor its uniform and those who wear it, but extended to and expected the same from everyone around. Quite the education!