Soap is Cheap and Manners are Free

My Grandma always believed – and taught my Mom – poor people were as good as rich people as long as they were clean and had manners. She always said, “Soap is cheap and manners are free. If you’ve got those things, you can walk with anyone.”

We hated that as kids.  We were the only kids we knew who were expected to be at the dinner table at 5:00 pm sharp, hands washed with a conversation topic to discuss. We sat there and didn’t begin passing food until Grace was said. An elbow on the table was cured by a stern look from my Father and chewing with your mouth open produced a quizzical look from my Mom questioning how did you ever get to eat dinner with this family anyway? We never even thought about leaving the table until we were excused.

Fast forward – 1972. Because of some college speaking championships, I was taken to lunch at the world famous Sardi’s in Manhattan by a CBS Vice-President. I was 22-years old. After we were led to our reserved table, I looked down at my place setting. There were two damn forks on the left, an exotically rolled napkin in the middle, and two spoons and a knife on the right. My butter knife was resting comfortably on my bread plate.

I looked down and smiled. “Thank you, Nanny,” I said to myself as I sat down and nonchalantly placed the napkin on my lap. I earnestly looked at the Vice President and asked if he came there often.

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