What is the best aisle etiquette?
What is the best aisle etiquette?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: My wife thinks that when passing someone seated at the movies or church you should pass them by facing them, but I say it is more appropriate to pass them with your backside. Who has the better manners?
Mike Vaughn

A: It is rare, in the annals of etiquette, to find situations in which correct behavior undergoes a complete about-face, but this is the case with aisle scooting. The paragons of propriety once encouraged us to maneuver down a row in the manner you suggest, with your backside toward the faces of the fellow goers (church-, movie-, or other). But that has changed, and now it is recommended that we proceed ass-backwardly, which is to say, with the rear end toward the pulpit or screen, as your wife advocates. Why the change? The Texanist is unsure, and moreover, he is unwilling to offer his endorsement to the Mrs. Vaughn method. To begin with, to describe your wife’s modus operandi as “facing” the seated party is a misnomer. Unless your wife is a midget, it is not her face that she is presenting to the crowd. Though there is nothing pleasant about allowing a row of strangers to examine your butt, there is something altogether more awkward about drawing their attention, in such close quarters, to that area that lies opposite the butt, on the front side. Especially since, when proceeding by the Mrs. Vaughn technique, the passer may feel obliged to glance down and offer a tight-lipped smile, a mumbled “Pardon me,” or some other inelegant acknowledgment of the fact that she has just thrust her most private nether regions into the alarmed (or worse, intrigued) visage of an unknown party. Whereas if one follows the Mr. Vaughn approach, as the Texanist generally does, everyone involved in the unfortunate incident can simply ignore the indignity. There is another reason too. The Texanist recently found himself seated in the middle of a long aisle at a football stadium. Late in the game, the twelve Shiners he’d had caught up with him. When he returned from the urinal, there was precious little time on the clock, and a fourth-down-and-inches situation was unfolding. The game was on the line! All eyes were on the gridiron! Do you think the Texanist hesitated to sidle down the crowded row Mike Vaughn–style, watching the play unfold? He did not! And neither should you.

Q: We live out in the country and raise chickens as a hobby. This summer my husband added two turkeys to the mix, and now he wants to have one for Christmas dinner. The thing is, I named the turkeys a while back. Can we really make a meal out of Tom or Butterball? Is it okay to slaughter a family pet for Christmas dinner?
Name Withheld

A: The Texanist wonders if you are not stretching the definition of “pet” a bit here. Do Tom and Butterball fetch your slippers, guard against intruders, curl up at your feet while you watch the ten o’clock news, accompany you on brisk morning walks, or listen to you complain, when no one else is in the room, about how stamps keep getting more expensive every year? If they do, you and your husband are in possession of the two most talented turkeys in the history of the world and you should under no circumstances eat them. Take them on the road. Make a fortune. Retire to Boca. But if Tom and Butterball possess no such skills, the Texanist does not disapprove of your eating them. How could he? With what other end in mind would anyone acquire a pair of turkeys? If it makes it any easier, the Texanist is happy to supply the eulogy, to be read aloud when the meal is served: “Butterball came into our lives earlier this year after being purchased at the local feed and seed. Just a little poult in a cardboard box when he arrived, he quickly learned how to drink his water and eat his corn, which we provided for him in abundance in order to make him fat and juicy and delicious. He grew up so fast. We enjoyed his gobble most of the time, his cute little waddle, and the way he used to strut around his pen. Had he shown more ability as a family pet we might not be gathered here tonight to eat him, but such is life—when you’re a turkey. Butterball, we thank you and, for a short time at least, will sort of miss you. You were a good bird. A very good bird indeed.”

Q: My dogs were sprayed by a skunk (twice!), and it really stinks. I’ve heard that a tomato-juice bath is the surefire cure, but I’ve heard the same thing about vinegar. What do you do when you are sprayed by a skunk?
Jan Lyster

A: Forget the tomato juice and vinegar. They’re both outdated and best used for Bloody Marys and putting up pickles. Your predicament calls for one quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda, one teaspoon of liquid soap, and a clothespin. Place the clothespin on your nose, mix the rest in a bucket, and quickly soak your smelly but lovable beasts, letting them sit for a bit. Rinse well and voilà! The skunk odor is eliminated. They may not come out smelling like roses, but then, what wet dog does?

Q: I have noticed that Texas ladies don’t go to dance halls alone. They go in groups. But why is it that if you ask the blonde to dance first, the other ladies won’t dance with you (this doesn’t apply to Anhalt, as all the ladies are blond)? Good luck on this one. I will pray for you.
Jack Shanafelt
Lake McQueeney

A: Like foxes in a skulk, beavers in a colony, and bunnies in a herd, dance-bound women find safety in numbers. And when they are approached by a lone wolf such as yourself (the Texanist is just guessing), they will, at his first pass, assume a politely defensive posture (zone, 3-3-5, nickel, or prevent). In order to break these ranks and secure a partner, the lone wolf must be wily and smooth. Though the Texanist cannot be entirely sure what you are driving at with your question about “the blonde,” he thinks he has a pretty good idea. As a rule, the lone (and somewhat creepy) wolf should always endeavor to gain the group’s trust by first offering his paw to the shyest and most wallflowery member of the group, whatever her hair color. This is one of the most basic codes of dance hall behavior. Any wolf who instead attempts to pounce directly onto the sparkling blonde with the bright-red lips, low-cut blouse, painted-on jeans, and nose-burning tequila breath will usually find himself shut out of the skulk, colony, or herd. This wolf can usually be found at the end of the bar. Or back at his den with the blonde, who by this time will not seem so sparkly.