KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
Modern etiquette dictates that if two people start to speak at the same time, they both break off and, amidst a great deal of tedious, Mrs Doyle style after-you-ing, defer to each other. If you happen to be under 16, though, modern etiquette dictates that if two people begin to speak at the same time, they both shout ‘jinx!’ as quickly as possible, with whichever party is unfortunate enough to finish second in this jinx race banned from speaking again until the victor utters their name. If, by some chance, the silent party does speak before his name is called, he then owes his silencer, as it were, a Coke. I’m not sure if this is actually written down in Debrett’s, but I’d suggest that if it isn’t, then it is a grave omission indeed.
Manners evolve, of course. When I was growing up, the business of two people speaking at once was dealt with differently. There were two schools of thought: one held that both people should shout ‘pinch you, surprise me, what day will it be?’, while administering a pinch to the other person. Whoever finished last would then be obliged to nominate a day on which they would ‘surprise’ the other person (presumably, in a pleasant, welcome way). Almost inevitably, though, the surpriser would respond to this kind invitation by shouting out ‘now!’ and then roaring. We had no internet then: we had to make our own fun.
The second way of dealing with the thorny two-people-speaking-at- once issue involved both people shouting ‘jinx!’ – so far, so con- ventional – and the jinxed party then being unable to speak until they had seen a P&T van pass them. There are a million reasons why this practice wouldn’t work today. But back then, orange P&T vans were everywhere – a reflection of both an erratic telephone system and a thriving postal one – and so it didn’t usually take long for one to pass. I should also point out that I grew up very close to a P&T depot, and so if a jinxed person needed to speak urgently, they could just wander down St Peter’s Road. Nowadays though, youngsters
The jinxed person couldn’t speak until they had seen an orange P&T van go by. We had no internet, we had to make our own fun
tend not to gather on neighbourhood garden walls, where vans might pass in the first place. If the experience of my children is anything to go by, most modern jinxes are administered in living rooms, where young men gather to look silently at their phones in company, and no vans of any sort venture past.
Farting is a different ball game entirely. Girls, of course, don’t fart at all, but when I was growing up, if one slipped out in, say, the company of family, the correct etiquette was to call out ‘ taxi’. Failure to do so usually resulted in a sibling roaring ‘sixer!’ and giving six punches to the forearm of the fartee. I note that amongst The Boy’s peers, a similar practice is observed today: to wit, the farter shouts a prophylactic ‘taxi’, while his companions rush to shout ‘pubs’. If the pubs people prevail, then the farter must name three pubs while his companions merrily punch him. Oh, how these longer nights fly.
While I am still down with modern manners, we will shortly arrive at another dilemma – what on Earth are you supposed to say when you knock on a neighbour’s door on Hallowe’en night? When I was young, the only line in town was ‘help the Hallowe’en party’, even though the party mentioned never materialised. Then the odious ‘trick or treat’ arrived – to my mind, an even worse lie than the Hallowe’en party business, on the basis that I have yet to encounter a young reveller who’s actually got a trick prepared up his shiny sleeve. Our house did get egged one year, though I don’t recall it being a result of our inviting a trick or treater to give us his best shot. In any event, in recent years, I’ve noticed our young seasonal callers tend to say nothing at all, which is even more depressing than the Simpsons-esque approach to a festival that is, after all, Irish. So this year, let’s encourage the little folk to speak up, preferably all at once. Then you and I can roar ‘jinx’ at them, and then eat the contents of their goodie bags in glorious silence, until such time as a P&T van passes by.