I was telling a story the other day out at this semester’s  Home Depot language exchange.

More or less, I confessed how serious I tend to be when I am traveling in Mexico, so serious I have had people stop and tell me to smile.  I usually can’t smile until requested to as all of my energy is typically focused on rehearsing, in Spanish, what I want to ask, state, explain, try out.

Apparently, when I try to do this and walk simultaneously, the result is a focused, or worse, face.

Sometimes I am so focused on what I want or need that I forget to be polite. In Oaxaca, when I want to buy a kilo of cherries, I ought to say, “Good afternoon, how are you, might I please be able to have a kilo of cherries?”

Under stress though, I have caught myself blurting out the equivalent of only: “Cherries!” Of course, my face instantly turns a maraschino shade.

Most people understand that I am not as familiar with the words and customs and help me find my way.


Grandma Dorothy and Grandpa Grant used to have a book called Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of Manners for Polite Infants Inculcating Many Juvenile Virtues, etc. 

If H– and I we were misbehaving, Grandma Dorothy would not-so-playfully stamp us: Goops. And, at the label, we would modify our behavior immediately.

No one wants to be a Goop!

from the text’s introduction

Let me introduce a Race
Void of Beauty and Grace,
Extraordinary Creatures
With a Paucity of Features (this is describing the Goops).
Yet you’ll learn, if you are Bright,
Politeness from the Impolite.
When you’ve finished with the Book,…
Ask yourself, upon the Spot,
Are you Goop, or are you Not?
For, although it’s Fun to See them
It is Terrible to Be them!


The Goops make me think of the following manners call and response poem.

We say “Thank you.”

We say, “Please,”

And “excuse me,”

When we sneeze.

That’s the way

We do what’s right.

We have manners.

We’re polite.



Describe a time you (or your character) were shockingly “void of beauty and grace,” lacking politeness and brightness.


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