Chivalry in the Time of Zombies
Holding the door open for a lady, standing up when being introduced to elders, bringing a small hostess gift when invited to the house of a friend… these are all things that we think of as chivalrous. And they are, to an extent, but they are examples of codes of behavior more firmly rooted in the Victorian tradition. The term “chivalry” basically came about to mean the ideal qualities of a medieval knight –- valor, courage, loyalty, honor, and a respect for the comfort and welfare of others. Chivalry, the knightly code, is a bit arbitrary and abstract of an idea, while the rules governing specific manners and mannerisms can be quite rigid. Both sets of guidelines have the same goal at heart, though.
Making others feel at comfortable and at ease is key. The laws of chivalry started as a way to keep knights, the warrior class (essentially the thugs of the middle ages), from wreaking havoc upon those less fortunate, and less armed than themselves. The sets of manners that sprung from the overlying chivalrous idea, though, tend to modify themselves to best fit their particular era. Personally, I hate when I’m milling in the lobby, waiting for an elevator, and when one finally arrives, having some guy who’s much closer to the door stand back and swoosh me on in first. Hate that with a passion! But it’s quicker and easier and far less of a fuss to just go. Same with the opening of doors; sure, I can do it myself but if someone wants to do it for me I’ll let them. It gets me on my way much more quickly, and in a double-door situation, I’m in a great place to open the next door for them.
This is all well and good — until the Zombie Apocalypse starts.
Just because there are legions of undead walking the earth and causing a ruckus is no reason for manners to go out the window. Denise Dinyon, gift-giving and etiquette expert for Lenox China, posits the following 10 tips for gracious living. I have adapted them to fit the extenuating circumstances of a Zombie Apocalypse. Her rules are in boldface; my reasons for upholding them are not.
1. Turn the cell phone off — completely — during a luncheon meeting, social function, or on public transportation. While it has not been scientifically proven, zombies seem to have a keen sense of hearing. They just seem to know when you’re calling your mom to give her a heartening word or tearful goodbye. If you must contact a loved one, set your keypad to silent and be brief. ILY-TTFN may not be the thoughtfully romantic message you want to convey, but believe me, it’ll do.
2. Hold the door — whether male or female, hold open a door you have just passed through for the person behind you. Also be prepared to bar the door shut and defend your side of it.
3. Bring a gift for the hostess — preferably one that doesn’t require her to drop everything she is doing. During a Zombie Apocalypse, acceptable gifts can include concussion grenades, double-headed axes, and bottles of 5-hour energy. That stuff is great for when you need to stay alert. If bringing a physical gift is out of the question, at least be prepared to chip in with some manual labor. Building barricades and fortifying one’s home is hard, and in the words of John Heywood, “many hands make light work.”
4. Keep to the right — on the sidewalk, in stairwells. Zombies do not travel in an orderly fashion, and to avoid being confused with a member of the walking undead, it’s best to take all necessary precautions. This is especially important if you have been recently in bedraggling circumstances and find yourself a bit on the unkempt side.
5. Say please and thank you — to waiters, flight attendants, store clerks, cab drivers — the little things go a long way. Just because times are a little bit wonky is no reason to be rude. Every human out there is a potential ally and it’s best to keep as many people as you can on your good side.
6. Circulate at a party or social gathering — whether hostess or guest, the people, not the food or drink, should be your main focus. Learning about your fellow survivors is important. Small personal details like who is a champion archer, who won gold medals in college track, and who can make a 2-way radio out of common household appliances, are vital now. Also notice whose flesh would most likely be the most marbled and tender. You know, in case of emergency.
7. Keep food or drink, briefcases or files in your left hand — keep your right hand free for handshakes. Or delivering decapitating blows. Whichever.
8. Stamp and address thank you notes in advance — when you know they will be needed, then fill them out and drop them in the mail after attending an event or receiving a gift or favor and you’ll be done. Okay, this one can probably go by the wayside. But if someone does go out of their way to save your life, eye contact and a heartfelt “thank you” are the least you can do.
9. Make eye contact and offer a warm smile — in every situation, this sets people at ease. And again, it will help you from being confused with a zombie.
10. Be perceptive — survey a situation and always use your best judgment. In the words of Kenny Rogers, “you got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” A Zombie Apocalypse is not an every-man-for-himself situation; it will take teamwork to survive and rebuild. So start making those connections now. And be polite about it.