Ethical behavior is a tricky subject, one I’d suggest not raising when you’re waiting in line to buy the deep-fat fried pickles at the Iowa State Fair. There are many reasons for this advice, but the most obvious is such a conversation will detract from the religious experience of worshipping the pickle in all its glory (believe me, there is a pickle under all that delicious breading).
However, isn’t it a safe time to talk about manners? Since manners are the cushion for all our pushing and shoving and bumping against each other, perhaps we should give them a nod. And what better place to study manners than the Iowa State Fair.
As we all know from our school days, if you want to measure the degree a group displays manners, go to the lunch room. That’s what I did. I stood in many a food line and I’m here to report: no one shoved, no one was upset, no one cut in line, and everyone was smiling. Bizarre but true.
This was particularly surprising when you think that manners are learned behavior. You just don’t have manners because of a winning personality. You all remember: Sister Timothy Mary told you that if you pushed Billy one more time she would break your left kneecap so as to spare your right for genuflecting. Iowans clearly learned that lesson. Time and again folks at the Fair would apologize for being in my way, for slowing me down, for not making my day just a little bit brighter. Really. Go see for yourself.
On top of this wonderful behavior at the food concessions, you know Iowans are well-mannered when only the most obscure manners need to be posted by a sign. For example, there is no sign about trampling across a flower bed at the Fair. We all know not to do that. But what about cows on the sidewalk?
We might need a sign for that. And I’m here to attest that there was nary a cow or even a pig on the sidewalk. So there you go.
Further evidence of Iowa manners requires a detour to the Olympics. I’m referring to the greatest manners moment in London. You might have missed it. Gabby Douglas, the daughter adopted by Iowa, was waiting to see if she won the gold medal for all-around in gymnastics. The camera showed her sitting on the mat, one leg tucked in an every-girl teenage pose. Next to her was her coach, Liang Chow, from West Des Moines. Liang Chow correctly saw that his young student was not being properly respectful of the moment in her relaxed manner of sitting. He whispered to her and she immediately jumped off the mat and stood tall waiting for the results. Amazing. Instead of looking at the point total to see whether his student won the gold medal, this coach was concerned that Gabby show good manners. She did. When it was announced she had won, she now looked to Liang Chow, and he directed her back up onto the mat to acknowledge the accolades. Wow. That was manners and that was a manners teacher. That’s what’s expected of an Iowan.
Liang Chow won no award. So, in recognition of his excellent work in the field of manners, he is bestowed the original deep-fat fried food from the State Fair: the cheese curd.
I’d have offered the butter-on-a-stick, but my son ate it.
Now was that good manners?