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Seth Brown: Dr. Manners vs. the heatwave

Pedrin's Dairy Bar is open for season

Is dipping your french fries from Pedrin's Dairy Bar in a chocolate shake a no-no? Columnist Seth Brown, otherwise known as Dr. Manners, says of course not. What is frowned upon is telling people how to eat, Brown writes.

Are you ceaselessly bombarded with messages from congressional candidates wondering the appropriate way to eat local food? No? That’s because you’re not the world’s self-proclaimed foremost expert on manners.

But I, Dr. Manners, am a certified Doctor of Mannerology (D.M.) according to my business card. That’s why I’m the only person qualified to teach manners to the masses, and the best way to do that is to answer some letters from this week’s mailbag:

Dear Dr. Manners,

I have to have a lot of Zoom meetings for work, and it’s exceedingly hot in my office because we don’t have any working air conditioning. At this point I could lie on the asphalt in Park Square and fry eggs on my head to cool off. But since that would involve not being in the office, I’ve settled for drinking lots of water. Unfortunately, my boss has said that it’s unprofessional and bad manners to drink so much during a Zoom call. Is this true?

— Parched in Pittsfield

Dear Parched,

It’s certainly bad manners to get so drunk during a work call that it impacts your performance. It’s also arguably bad manners to drink liquor during a work call and not offer any to your co-workers, although with more people being germ conscious thanks to the ongoing pandemic, this is less true than before. But staying hydrated has been classified by scientists and nutritionists as very good, actually, and has even been shown to enhance workplace productivity.

More importantly, constantly coughing due to a dry throat or collapsing due to heat stroke are both considered very unprofessional. For this reason, Dr. Manners heartily recommends that you continue drinking water as necessary to stay hydrated. Just avoid blowing bubbles in it, and you’ll be fine.

———

Dear Dr. Manners,

Every summer (a period of time whose start point is defined as “whenever Pedrin’s Dairy Bar opens for the season”), my partner and I go to Pedrin’s for some fried seafood and frozen treats. She usually dips her french fries into her chocolate shake, which I think is totally weird and inappropriate. Wouldn’t you agree?

— Nettled in North Adams

Dear Nettled,

“Weird and inappropriate” is certainly a reasonable phrase to use in this case, albeit not for the dipping of fries into shakes (which is a time-honored tradition), but for the policing of how someone else chooses to eat their food. Shake fries aren’t particularly weird, especially when compared with the idea of someone trying to enforce decorum when you are eating fried clams and ice cream outside on a picnic table. In the immortal words of Bill Murray: “Lighten up, Francis.”

———

Dear Mr. Manners,

Last weekend we were enjoying a lovely dip in Benedict Pond, and I noted that some of the other swimmers were wearing swimsuits that left little to the imagination. Isn’t there some kind of understanding that people should dress more modestly when swimming in public?

— Modest in Monterey

Dear Modest,

First of all, it’s Dr. Manners. I didn’t spend four years studying mannerology to be called “Mr. Manners.” (Technically, I didn’t spend four years studying mannerology at all, but that’s beside the point.)

Secondly, if you think swimwear leaves little to the imagination, that just means that you lack imagination. Why, Dr. Manners can look at a bikini bottom and imagine that it contains a steak and cheese sub, a family of mice, electrical wires and a USB port, or even an anthropomorphic pants-wearing sponge. But if you don’t like to look at certain types of swimwear, then Dr. Manners strongly supports your choice to avert your eyes.

This is a trick learned after many years of disliking the way that most people dress, but realizing that rather than trying to enforce his personal preferences on his entire community, Dr. Manners should get over himself and mind his own business. You would be wise to do the same.

Seth Brown, D.M., is an award-winning humor writer, the author of “The Disapproval Of My Toaster,” and full of advice. His website is RisingPun.com.

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