Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Franco's Rules

You landed the invite, now make sure you follow the unwritten code

I realize that I am definitely not in the prose caliber of the wonderful and witty Miss Manners, who writes for a syndicated column about etiquette. But never let it be said that I can't blunder around on my own in that field, especially when it comes to what people do, don't do, or should do in restaurants. So, this is my second attempt to write about my own personal code of conduct for social survival. I plunge ahead with a prayer that nobody catches me using a salad fork to enjoy Café Milano's tiramisu.

• If you are at a seated dinner and assigned to a certain table, stay put. You insult the guests at your table if you leave to sit elsewhere. In Washington, someone you have abandoned could, after the next election, become a member of the Cabinet, the Supreme Court or the First Lady's social secretary (in which case you can probably forget going to the White House.)

• If you are invited to a complimentary dinner at a restaurant, tip generously. The waiters are working just as hard as if you were paying, and they will love you forever.

• When squeezing past a table, face the people who are sitting down, use eye contact and apologize. Don't show your posterior.

• I don't know why, but in American culture, it is acceptable for women to apply lip gloss or lip balm at the table-but it is poor etiquette to put on lipstick. So don't.

• Blackball your Blackberry. Peeking at it too often sends an unmistakable signal that people miles away (or the ball scores) are more important than those across the table. Exception: medical doctors and assistants to President Bush.

• Flip your cellular phone to vibrate, tuck it someplace where it can give you a thrill, and enjoy your evening! Excuse yourself from the table to return any calls.

• What i f an inf luent ial person at the next table keeps on answering his or her cellular in a loud voice? Send them an anonymous note stating that if they don't cease, you won't ever contribute to one of their charitable or political events again.

• Retire to the restrooms to recapture that dazzling dental pizazz. Café Milano does not supply toothpicks at the table–for good reason.

• If you have a trade or gift certificate and don't want to display it at the table when the check comes around, give it, or at least show it, to the maître d' or your waiter when you first arrive. Don't wait until the bill comes-in case there are questions about possible limitations or restrictions on the certificate.

• There is nothing more disconcerting than having your credit card (damaged or not) rejected. What to do? Leave your BMW keys? Order a slice of humble pie? Weep? Yes to all three. But really, if you don't own a backup credit card, write a check and leave your business card, or, if you are a regular, ask the manager to run a private tab and promise to come back the next day with payment. This is a town the thrives on gossip, so be sure to always protect your financial reputation.

"There is nothing more disconcerting than having your credit card (damaged or not) rejected. What to do? Leave your BMW keys? Order a slice of humble pie? Weep? Yes to all three."
Franco Nuschese

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