Conversation guide more pertinent than ever

The road trip continues.

For now, we’ve stopped for a week or so in College Station, Texas, in order to spend some time with our granddaughter.

This planned stop on the way to New Orleans has involved large quantities of time taking her to see the local sights and carting her to other places where we can easily coax smiles and laughter out of her.

Not that such is at all difficult to do. Our recipe usually begins with “purchase either ice cream or cotton candy” (of which we, too, partake) and, after that, it’s a cinch.

Too, we’ve found that she likes museums and we found one near Navasota, Texas. And, there, I found the idea for this column. This time, the inspiration came from some words found in a South Texas washroom.

Minor aside: Write a column and, after a few years of often facing a deadline with nothing popping into your head, you’ll discover that you take your ideas — gratefully — from wherever you can find them.

This washroom was located in the Star of the Republic Museum — on the site where Texas declared its independence.

Having been in countless washrooms on the planet, I can attest to the fact that many have words of wit, wisdom, worthlessness, and what have you “unofficially” inscribed on their walls — though not many (if any) are fit for public consumption.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find something that not only caught my interest, but also seemed worth sharing.

The following is posted on a small placard in said washroom and comes from “The Young Man’s Guide,” written by T.R. Marvin in 1847. I believe that his words ring as true today as they did more than 160 years ago:

1. Never weary your company by talking too long or too frequently.

2. Always look people in the face when you address them, and generally when they are speaking to you.

3. Attend to a person who is addressing you. Inattention marks a trifling mind, and is a most unpardonable piece of rudeness. It is even an affront; for it is the same thing as saying that the remarks are not worth your attention.

4. Do not interrupt the person who is speaking by saying “yes,” “no,” or “ahem,” at every sentence. It is the most useless thing that can be. An occasional assent, either by word or action, may well be enough; but even a nod of assent is sometimes repeated till it becomes disgusting.

5. Remember that every person in a company likes to be a hero of that company. Never, therefore, engross the whole conversation to yourself.

6. Learn to sit or stand still while another is speaking to you. You will not, of course, be so rude as to dig in the earth with your feet, or take your penknife from your pocket and pair your nails; but there are a great many other little movements which are scarcely less clownish.

7. Never anticipate for another or “help him out” as it is called. This is quite a rude affair, and should be avoided. Let him conclude his story for himself. It is time enough for you to make corrections or additions afterward, if you deem his account defective. It is also a piece of impoliteness to interrupt another in his remarks.

8. Say as little of yourself and your friends as possible.

9. Make it a rule never to accuse, without due consideration, any body or association of men.

10. Never try to appear more wise or learned than the rest of the company. Not that you should affect ignorance; but endeavor to remain within your own proper sphere.

It seems that “Simon and Garfunkel” may have missed something when they sang that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls” though I’m not sure how they would’ve worked “washroom walls” into that lyric. Still, it’s funny how good advice never seems to go out of date.

Worrisome, however, is the fact that, though not out of date, such advice, it seems, is far too often ignored or never taught at all. Worse, if taught, never learned.

They say that Texas is different. Having spent some time here, I can readily attest to the truth behind that statement.

But, good advice mounted on a placard in a public washroom?

You have to admire that.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to:

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