The first in a series of guest posts by our etiquette expert R.M. Banks.
Some questions require a prompt answer. Others are rhetorical. Some are neither.
At the end of the labouring day, you slide from the pneumatic swivel chair, into the patented rainproof, and around the corner into the White Hart or Red Lion. There you are greeted by the friendly scowls of your regular drinking college and promptly put the oesophagus to work on 568ml of the publican’s finest. After you have expressed your satisfaction — in my experience, a long “Aaaaaaaaaaaah!” is hard to beat — you are fair game to be drawn into conversation.
“What was the name of the bloke,” says the IT consultant from Cheam with a mouthful of dry-roasted, “who was in Logan’s Run? The blonde feller with the rubbery lips.”
“Ah-hah!” you ejaculate, and reach at once for the pocket on your Oxford bags where nests the smartphone. Wikipedia is bookmarked from the homepage — an answer is but seconds away.
But cease! You have gravely mistake your legume-chewing interrogator’s purpose, and are about to commit a faux pas.
Do you suppose that the inquisitive consumer of peanuts is not aware of the existence of the internet? Is that not, indeed, lying in a pool of Strongbow cider on the bar before the questioner, a Samsung Galaxy S5 with all the trimmings?
The question, you ass, was intended to provoke something along the lines of a debate, only without any nutritional content.
Let me put it another way: as with hiking, reaching the destination is not the point, and, in fact, the terminus is to be given the swerve for as long as the feet hold out.
By all means suggest “Charlton Heston?” or perhaps “Simon MacCorkindale?”. Throw in a “Simon Ward?” if the mood flags. But, at all costs, avoid speaking Michael York’s name at least until last orders have been called.
And next time, leave your smartphone tied to a post outside.