Hosting a Poker Night

Four playing cards and a cigar.

The essential equipment of a poker night.

The quintessential manly social event is the poker night. There’s gambling, booze, and rarely a feminine influence. Even better, it’s based around an activity rather than just socialising. I’m not going to get into how to play again. This time I’m going to talk about hosting the game. A poker night is a type of party and all the usual hosting etiquette applies.

The Simple Points

A poker night should be a casual affair centred entirely on the game. It’s one of the few parties where a t-shirt is undeniably appropriate. There’s no guest of or theme, it’s all about the poker. So, there shouldn’t be any other entertainment either. You don’t have to lay any money on the line if you don’t want, it’s perfectly acceptable to just play for fun.

Guest List

If you have regular poker nights then your guest list is predetermined, just invite the same guys as last time. If this is the first time, or even if your poker nights are few and far between, choosing who to invite is a harder choice. It’s best if everyone plays on the same level, but you don’t want to freeze out the rookies either. The hardest part is whittling it down. You’ll typically have no more than eight people playing each hand, so inviting more people means either splitting up to play multiple simultaneous games or people are forced to sit out. I’d say you should look to have eight players or however many can play at your table, whichever’s less.

Game Space

Obviously, you need a place to play. The best is a dedicated poker table in a room that’s decorated for such activities. If that’s not viable, you can use your dining room table, but not the kitchen. Besides your usual hosting duties, you’re also responsible for providing the cards and chips.

Food

Poker night is the time for the pub food. Chicken wings, nachos, and various deep fried appetizers are perfect fare for the occasion. This is also the time to break out the craft beer and your best scotch. If you don’t feel comfortable mixing drinks while you’re trying to play, don’t feel you have to. You’ll also want to either make sure serving food doesn’t take you away from the table too much, or get some help. If you get help, ask someone you live with or is also playing.

Stogies?

Cigars are a traditional part of the poker night, but you may not want to do any smoking. If you’re using a room you wouldn’t smoke in otherwise, then skip them. Same if anyone there doesn’t want to be around that. They have a right to clean air, you don’t have the right to smoke. If you decide to include cigars, you need to provide ashtrays. You can either provide decent quality cigars yourself, or expect everyone to bring their own. If you do provide them, one per person is plenty. Its important enough to reiterate, don’t force anyone to be around smoking or exclude anyone because they want clean air.

Visiting a Lutheran Church

Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church

A while back I wrote about how to be an outsider in church, but that was pretty generic. Today, I bring you some advice on the etiquette when visiting a Lutheran church, or at least a fairly traditional one.

What is Lutheran?

The definition of a Lutheran is one who follows the teachings of Martin Luther, not to be confused with Martin Luther King Jr. although he had some pretty good ideas too. Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic clergyman who objected to a number of the church’s doctrines. While Lutherans are the original Protestants, our service are more like Catholic services than those of many other Protestants. 

The Pastor

Lutheran services are typically led by the pastor. Some Lutheran churches have female pastors but most are still men, especially in more traditional churches. Lutheran pastors typically dress similarly to Catholic priests, but are often husbands and fathers as well. The pastor is the most elaborately dressed of those in conspicuous attire. The other common people to dress conspicuously are vicars, who are student pastors, and acolytes, teenagers and young adults that help with the service. 

Liturgy

The most traditional form of Lutheran service is the liturgy, a structured and prewritten service. The exact form of the liturgy varies between synods, churches, and even weeks. The liturgy may be projected on a screen, printed in the bulletin, or in the hymnal. If it’s in the hymnal then the pastor will most like direct you to the correct page. There’s quite a bit of call and response in a typical liturgy but if you pay attention you should have no difficulty figuring out what you should be saying. Usually the liturgy begins with the pastor entering the sanctuary and ends with him leaving. 

Music

Music is a central component of many Lutheran services. Portions of the liturgy are often sung or chanted but there’s more music than that, most notably during communion and immediately before the sermon. The hymn before the sermon is known as the sermon hymn or the hymn of the day and is thematically related to the sermon. Lutherans view music as an important teaching tool so the choices of songs is usually quite significant. Traditional hymns are quite common in Lutheran churches, but more contemporary songs are also far from unheard of. 

Communion

Communion is a central element in most Lutheran services. If any of this advice is useful, then you shouldn’t be taking communion. 

Lutheran communion typically involves going up to the front of the church where they kneel at a railing, and eat a wafer and drink a sip of wine. While they’re waiting, everyone else sings. Ushers move down the aisles and direct people to go up. The people will usually wait at the front of the pews until directed to go up to the rail by another usher. They stand at the rail until the pastor holds out his hands and they kneel. After taking communion the pastor will dismiss them and they return to their seats.

Most people stay in their seats when not taking communion but some go up to the rail and cross their arms in front of them. If you go up to the rail, the pastor pray a blessing for you instead. Lutheran children don’t take communion, so all young children that go up for communion receive a blessing. 

Where to Sit

It’s a common joke that to be a good Lutheran one must always sit at the back. It’s a joke but it does have a grain of truth so sitting at the front is likely to draw attention to you as an outsider. There are two unspoken rules but they hardly even need to be mentioned; sit in the congregation and don’t sit anywhere that isn’t facing the altar, these are reserved for people with formal roles in the service.

Special Events

There are two main events that happen during Lutheran services and warrant inviting others to; baptisms and confirmations. Lutheran baptisms mark a person initially joining the church, so it’s usually infants that are baptized, but adults and older children are also baptized on occasion and all are equally celebrated. Confirmation is essentially the graduation into full membership in the church, and typically follows a period of instruction.  It’s usually teenagers that get confirmed, but adults do on occasion as well, as was my case. 

Act Like a Visitor

The most important thing to remember when visiting a Lutheran church is the same as when you visit anywhere; act like a visitor. Most Lutheran churches are very welcoming so long as you show the appropriate respect. You’ve entered their space so it isn’t the place to oppose their beliefs or question their motivations. Be respectful and open minded, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

The Update to Phone Etiquette

Manual phone switchboardEditor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Telephones have been around, in some form or another for over a century and there have been several notable advancements in the technology during that time. Most have those advances forced a change in the etiquette, except the last time it needed to. When cell phones entered common use the old etiquette could still be followed but it no longer fits. 

The Evolution of Phones

To understand the etiquette of phones, one must understand how the technology and the etiquette have evolved since Alexander Graham Bell said “Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.” In 1876. The core features of phone technology haven’t appreciably changed since then but the routing has changed enormously. 

The Party Line

The first phone system in many communities was a party line. Party lines consist of two connections. The first rings the bells on all the phones in the community when a handle is turned on any of them. A second connection carries the voice signal to all the phones on the network at once, if someone picks up the receiver. Party lines were inexpensive, lacking the need for complicated routing equipment or paid staff, and allowed many people to participate in the same conversation but they provided no possibility for privacy and inherently had a limited capacity, to the point that they could only serve a small community. 

Typically people were expected to only pick up the phone if they intended to participate in the conversation, although many people eavesdropped anyway. It was also expected that conversations be kept brief, so others could also use the line. It’s also when the expectation started that an incoming call never be ignored. 

Operators

The first major improvement technology was the switchboard. One to one calls became the norm, with human beings (usually women) routing the call. Besides the obvious benefit to privacy, switchboards allowed for long distance calls and the operators could render assistance, like retrying busy lines and helping to track down individuals. 

Mostly the etiquette didn’t change, but now people were expected to be considerate of the operators. Better yet, people back then were actually respectful. The long time it sometimes took to connect calls even forced people to be patient. 

Automated Exchanges

I grouped all of these together because they all had the same effect on etiquette. The role of the operator was eliminated along with all its benefits. Calls now connected quickly, even between continents. It also brought about the end of accountability because anonymity became possible. For that reason, hanging up on a call in progress became acceptable. 

Call Screening

With the advent of caller id and the answering machine, it became possible to identify callers before answering again. This was also the first time the etiquette didn’t fully update. It was still seen as extreme to not answer. 

Mobile Phones

When mobile phones, most notably cell phones, came on the scene people were always near a phone for the first time, but the etiquette didn’t update at all. 

The New Etiquette

With our society’s failure to update phone etiquette, we’ve ended up with some pretty aggravating and sometimes dangerous situations. 

Answering is Optional

It’s entirely acceptable to not answer the phone for any reason. The assumption must be that when someone doesn’t answer it’s because it would be inappropriate or unwise.

The Physically Present Take Priority

It’s never acceptable to ignore the people around you to answer the phone. Only answer the phone in social settings when you believe it will be a genuine emergency or some other “DEFCON 1” type situation. 

Move Away to Talk

Go as far away from others as you reasonably can to talk on the phone. Nobody else wants to listen to your conversation so don’t force them too. 

Use Speakerphone Sparingly

It’s only appropriate to use speakerphone when nothing else is practical. Using speakerphone as an alternative to holding the phone or to allow many people to participate are the appropriate options. That said, the other side has the right to know who can hear them. 

Don’t Make Calls That You Shouldn’t Expect To Be Answered

I’ve explored when to make phone calls before, so I won’t again. If you’re making a phone call when you shouldn’t then you can’t expect it to be answered. Also, if the other party’s caller id doesn’t accurately identify you or the party you represent you are lying to them and calling them becomes malicious.

Don’t Assume Anyone is Perpetually Available

A trend has appeared that people think they have the right to a prompt response to a phone call placed to a business at any time, day or night. They don’t. Only call business lines during regular business hours and expect specific people to be entirely unreachable while on holiday, unless you’ve been personally told otherwise. 


That’s my idea of how phone etiquette needs to be updated. If you have any ideas of your own, drop them in the comments.

Drink Like a Man

Alcohol has become an ugly thing. Instead of nursing a glass of fine cognac or Sauvignon blanc while discussing the important affairs of the day, we go on pub crawls where we drink cheap beer and make complete asses of ourselves. Perhaps it’s an after effect of American prohibition but to so many now drinking is not seen as something classy but inherently boorish and irresponsible. I’m going to delve inside what it means to drink like a man. 

Keep Your Wits About You 

Stoicism and composure are among the most manly virtues but too much drink can destroy them both. Everyone has a limit when it comes to alcohol and it’s entirely your responsibility not to exceed it. Never drink to the point that your dignity is in danger. If you’re starting to act more boorish than is appropriate, it’s time to stop drinking.

Respect Your Responsibilities

Sometimes you’ll find yourself in the presence of adult refreshments but still have responsibilities, like hosting or driving. In those cases your responsibilities come first. You don’t have to completely abstain but you need to still be able to meet those responsibilities. 

Plan to Get Home Safe

You often hear about the need to plan a safe ride home when you drink, and I wholeheartedly agree with that assertion. Your choice as to whether or not you drink must never effect your chances of getting home safely. It doesn’t matter what your plan is, so long as it keeps you safe. Just don’t rely on anyone else unless you’re absolutely certain it won’t cause any problems. 

Drink for the Enjoyment of the Beverage

Most people now choose to drink for the intoxicant effect of alcohol, but that couldn’t be much less manly. A man drinks to enjoy the taste of the beverage and the camaraderie those around him. When someone drinks to get drunk they tend to drink the cheap stuff, that pretty much tastes like turpentine, but when you drink for the enjoyment of it you soon discover the bold and intricate flavours of quality libations. There’s only one way to find drinks you truly enjoy. 

Learn About It

What’s the difference between Canadian and Tennessee whiskey? What is a session ale? Where are the best wines made? These are the kinds of questions you can answer if you educate yourself a little. Even better, you’ll find yourself more appreciative of the qualities of your drink if you understand the intricacies that went into making it and will open up a new topic of conversation. 

Avoid Drinking Alone

If your wife greets you with a martini at the end of a hard day or you like to sit down with a cigar and a glass of scotch to reflect at the end of the week, that’s fine but drinking should be primarily social. Never be the only one drinking at a social function never go out to drink unless you’ll be with friends. 

It’s Fine to be a Teetotaler 

Whether it’s you or someone else who chooses not to drink, it’s a perfectly acceptable and manly choice. You must respect and even endorse their choice. Never push drinks on anyone, especially your date. If you choose not to drink and you have a considerate host, you’ll still have some delicious drink options.

Conclusion

Drinking like a man really comes down to two words, drink responsibly. If the only lasting effect of a night of drinking is the memory of a delightful evening, you drank like a man.

Funerals: The Most Somber of Somber Occasions

Cemetery

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Slave or King, rich or poor, good or evil, death eventually comes for us all. There’s no getting around it. Our families die. Our friends die. Our heroes die. We die. It’s not something we like to think about but it’s an inevitability. We will all face death. We will all lose those we love. Despite the inevitability of them, we rarely discuss funerals. 

Funerals are a part of every culture, although they may vary extensively. Death is an irrevocable change so we all must come to terms with it when it happens. A funeral may be chance to commiserate a loss or celebrate a life. 

Funerary Customs

Every culture, sub-culture, and religion has funerary customs, such as the black veils of Latin America, the twenty-one gun salute of military funerals, and the Jewish use of stones. Before attending a funeral you’ll want to familiarise yourself with those customs. A distant family member is usually the best place to start. They’ll likely be familiar with the customs but won’t be too busy or distraught to help you. You can also feel free to incorporate customs from your own culture so long as they don’t conflict in any way with the family’s. You’re also exempt from any customs that run contrary to your own beliefs and are under no obligation to sacrifice your own needs. 

From this point on I’ll be writing from a purely North American Christian perspective. If anything conflicts with your own customs, then your customs are right. 

How to Dress

Funerals are part of why you should have multiple suits. Funerals are best kept an informal affair, but custom certainly trumps that. Typically a man should wear black suit, preferably with a white shirt and black tie. Pocket are completely acceptable but be sure to leave all the cheery colours and flamboyant patterns at home. Also, be sure to remove your hat in the church and at the gravesite. 

Ladies should wear simple black outfits. Again, leave the cheery colours and flamboyant patterns at home. A funeral is also an excellent place to break out a hat with a veil. There’s no need for ladies to ever remove their hats. 

It’s only appropriate to wear uniforms at military, police, or firefighter funerals, and even then only if you are or once wear a part of such an organisation. There’s no need to remove uniform headdress at the gravesite but it should still be taken off in the church. 

Itinerary

Like many events, funerals have a traditional itinerary. They usually start with a viewing the night before. This is a casual service that’s open to the public but usually attended only by those who were particularly close to the deceased or their family. A second family viewing is often held immediately before the service. The former is typically at a funeral home and the latter is usually at the church. 

The main component of a funeral is the service. The service usually takes place at the deceased’ church or at the gravesite. If the main service is at a church then there’s usually a second shorter service at the grave. The deceased’ religious views are usually very appparent at the service and can even be a full church service. Regardless of the church, conduct yourself appropriately for a visitor there. When the gravesite is some distance from the church, mourners travel to the grave in a ceremonial procession. 

Funerals will commonly end with a simple meal. To many, it’s the beginning of life without the deceased. It’s a good time to catch up with friends and family, and share give your condolences to the family. It’s also the time when a funeral ceases to be somber. 

Procession

The typical funeral procession is led by the hearse and includes all the mourners driving at slow speeds. The vehicles generally have their hazard lights turned on so other motorists know that they’re part of a funeral procession. It used to be the norm to turn on the headlights but, with the prevalence of daytime running lights, this is no longer effective. 

Wakes

In some western cultures it’s common for funerals to celebrate the deceased’s life more than mourn their passing. This usually takes the form of a party. In those cases, the etiquette of a similar party held some other purpose applies. 

Sympathy Notes

If you can’t attend a funeral or don’t get a chance to speak with the family, then you may want to send them a sympathy note. Actually writing the note has plenty of its own etiquette but it should always be hand written and sent or delivered within a few days of the funeral. If you deliver it in person, don’t expect an invitation to come in. Grieving people often feel asocial and you need to respect that. 

Future Remembrance

Few people deserve to be forgotten. The good should be venerated forever and the evil should remain a cautionary tale. Consider attending an All Saints Day service and possibly visiting the grave periodically. 

How to Properly Address Others

Man tipping his hat.Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

We don’t often think about how to properly address others, and as a result we tend to be quite rude. We often assume we should be on a first name basis as soon as we meet someone. We don’t even consider what we’re saying to people with how we address them. I’m hoping I can give you some useful guidance here.

Who you’re speaking to is, of course, of central importance. When you’re addressing VIPs, they often have special styles of address you need to know. Fortunately, most people are given the opportunity to ask about protocol before they meet these people, so you can easily find out how to address them. Everyone else is simple. 

Most people are to be addressed by a combination of their name and a salutation. If you don’t know a man’s name you can address him as “Sir” and if you don’t know a woman’s name you can address her as “Ma’am.” Some people will address young women as “Miss” but I would discourage it because it makes an assumption about her that she’s likely to interpret as negative. The best way to address someone before you know what would be appropriate is to use “Mr.”/”Mrs.”/”Miss”/”Ms.” followed by their last name. “Mr.” Is typical for men, “Mrs.” is for married women, “Miss” is for unmarried women, and “Ms.” is for women whose marital status is unknown. If you’d like to address young boys as “Master” that would be acceptable as well. 

People like armed forces members and police are best addressed by rank instead of using “Mr.”/”Mrs.”/”Miss”/”Ms.” Don’t use rank alone if you don’t know the relevant protocol. 

Clergy usually have other ways to be addressed. Protestant pastors are usually addressed with “Pastor” or “Reverend” in place of “Mr.” and Catholic clergy are typically addressed with “Father” for priests, “Brother” for monks, or “Sister” for nuns, both are sometimes addressed using these titles alone. “Professors,” “Doctors” and other academic figures use these titles to be addressed similarly to clergy. Choosing not to use these titles shows a lack of respect for the person or qualifications.

Until you are told otherwise, you should address others in the most formal way you can. Once they establish their preferences it becomes acceptable to address them as such when it isn’t too casual. For example, if your friend John Smith prefers to be called “John” then you should call him that around the poker table but you should still call him “Mr. Smith” when you meet him at a wedding. Later on in an event it always becomes appropriate to address others more casually. Formality really only applies to greeting and introductions. If someone is your superior in some way, such as age or rank, then you may want to consider addressing them formally regardless of their preference. 

Showing Respect in Passing

Drawing of a Victorian man tipping his hat.
Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

These days we tend to walk through the streets with our heads down, afraid to interact with anybody. Why? It’s probably because we don’t know how to show the proper respect in momentary interactions and can’t expect to get it in return. There’s not much you can do about the latter, but this article should fix the former. 

The most important rule is to always give strangers the benefit of the doubt. Only an infinitesimal number of people are dangerous, although far more aren’t respectable. Of course, this doesn’t give much practical guidance but it’s a good starting point. 

You also can’t assume your business is more important than anyone else’s. You don’t know what they’re doing. For all you know, they’re on their way to present the perfect solution to crime, although that’s pretty unlikely. Don’t expect others to wait unnecessarily for you or to yield the right of way to you for no reason. 

If someone speaks to you, reply respectfully but don’t allow idle conversation with strangers to interfere with anyone’s business. If someone makes a request if you that only requires a brief pause then it’s advisable to oblige them, and it’s never a bad idea to give someone genuine help. Although you shouldn’t help people if it’s just going to make you feel good, so don’t give money to panhandlers since it’s most likely to be used to support a drug habit or a avoid contributing to society. 

If you make eye contact with someone in public then it’s extremely disrespectful to not acknowledge them. A nod of the head to a fellow man, a quick smile to a lady, or a wave is adequate, but if you’re wearing a hat you have better options. Touch the brim to acknowledge a fellow man or momentarily lift the hat to acknowledge a lady. If one of you is in the military or some other uniformed civil service then a salute may be appropriate, depending on local customs. 

Your speech around others must always be respectful, free of crude language and topics. Also, try to speak in the local language so people know your words aren’t disrespectful, and keep private topics in private. If you feel the need to play music then it needs to be inaudible or away from where others are likely to be, unless you’re busking. 

Those are all the rules that come to my mind for being respectful in superficial interactions. If you have recommended rules of your own or feel you can elaborate on mine, leave a comment.