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The Book of Crime Wave Etiquette
Excerpts from Collier's, The National Weekly (Jan. 2, '26)
H. I. Phillips
HOULD a highwayman be compelled to ask for a second helping? Is it necessary for a cigar-store clerk to rise when a lady bandit enters? Under what circumstances is the steel vest proper for formal wear?
Should a bank robber be asked to have a chair while waiting for a confederate to arrive?
When a flock of stick-up men are shooting up a hotel should the house detective keep on their right or left?
Is the trench helmet proper for evening wear on the streets of the average American city?
Is gray or black the correct color for a habitual criminal to wear when, facing the court for the 33rd assault with intent to kill, he asks to be left off on account of defective glands?
These are all important questions in present-day life. That any person who has lived over a month in any highly civilized community has not found the right answers seems incredible, yet the daily crime-wave bulletins reveal staggering ignorance on some of the fundamental points of conduct during robberies, holdups and promiscuous blackjackings.
A few years ago if a man made a very poor showing while being robbed he would have had lack of experience as an excuse. Today he would have no excuse. There are few residents of the United States who haven't been 'stuck up" a half dozen times during the past few years, and those who have escaped have certainly had the opportunity of watching others being robbed.
Consequently the man who is confronted by thugs today and is at a loss how to act is bound to feel the deepest humiliation. It is to avoid
such embarrassment that the following rules of Crime Wave Etiquette are issued.
How to Receive Burglars in the Home. This is a subject upon which there is much debate in every household. Tradition in the old days required that when a noise was heard in the night a husband should hop gingerly out of bed, take a flashlight in one hand, a malacca, stick or umbrella in the other, and go exploring in his nightgown. During the past few years, however, any such course has been shown to be quite foolhardy. The revised rules of etiquette covering burglars in the home require that when a husband hears a noise he overlook it and say nothing.
If his wife hears it the conventions specify she should nudge him and whisper, "Edgar, what was that?" Edgar's reply should be, "You'll never find out from me, dear."
If the noise persists the wife may say, "Edgar, you must do something." To which he should reply: "Woman, would you have me, a gentleman of refinement, go down and talk with a burglar to whom I have never been introduced? What would people say?"
Very likely a chair will drop or a lamp will fall on the floor at this point. Then is the time for both husband and wife to cease their joint debate and pull the covers up over their heads. This is the course recommended by the best authorities. It is possible the burglars may get into a bedroom, but it is entirely unlikely they will get into a bed. If they do, they are no gentlemen.
How a Bejeweled Lady Should Go About Meeting a Thief. It is not always easy for a lady to meet a thief, although it is much easier today than it used to be. An advertisement in
the personal columns is often resorted to in such cases. The following is almost certain to bring results:
"Lady who has $100,000 worth of jewels will exchange same for firstpage story in newspapers and photograph in bathing suit in the tabloids."
If more immediate results are desired, the lady may get them by wearing all her jewelry to any night club and sitting in a strong light. In case there are many other women there who sparkle like Christmas trees and afford competition, attention may be attracted if the lady will take a few diamond bracelets off her wrists and throw them up in the air, after the fashion of a child playing with a ball. After an hour or so, she may feel certain her case has been noted by the visiting bandits, at least one of whom will follow her to the lobby of her hotel, fire several shots to scatter the bell boys and elevator men, and then inquire, "Am I late?"
The lady will reply, "No, the morning papers don't go to press for two hours. Here's the stuff. I should worry; it's insured." Then she should scream, swoon into a Louis XIV chair and wait to be interviewed.
When a Gentleman Meets a Gunman on the Street. It should be remembered always that the modern gunman is a busy man. He has a certain amount of work to be done each day, and he is held responsible for its completion. Naturally he hasn't much time to make himself known to his victims in advance. He is willing to take them as they come and feels that they should be similarly democratic. Consequently he will announce himself with but a word or two. It won't be so much what he says as how he says it.
"Stick 'em up!" is a favorite expression and is indorsed by discriminating students of banditry as most fitting. Etiquette requires that the victim smile feebly and raise both hands over his head. It is not necessary to remove one's hat. No conversation is called for, but the victim
may, at his discretion, help pass time by a few remarks of a gener nature such as "The customer is alwa right," "If you don't find what y want, ask for it," or "Well, what go is money, anyway, if a feller ain't his health?" It is not necessary shake hands with the gunman befo leaving. In the upper set the gunm sometimes adds "Glad to have mett you."
If the holdup takes place in a b city, it is optional with the vict whether he shall lower his hands aft this particular gunman has finish with him or keep them up for the ne one. In cities like New York and Cl cago most citizens prefer to ke their hands up continuously while the main streets so that no matt how many gunmen are encounter time will be saved.
The Etiquette of the Court Arraig ment, Etc. Well-established precede requires that a judge and jury assur from the start that the crime wa in America is due primarily to def tive glands. It has now been fai well recognized by our criminal cou that glandular ailments, coupled wi the distressing fact he was compell to leave school when only 36 yea old, are responsible for a man's cri nal impulses.
The well-bred judge should be p ticularly considerate to a prison especially if he has shot one or m persons. The usual procedure is release him on a nominal bond once and invite him to return for tr when he has saved up enough mo to get five reputable physicians testify that his impulse to rob kill is due to the fact that a lo incisor and one upper bicuspid pressing on an auxiliary nerve of honor system.
After this has been so stated accepted the court should apologize the prisoner for keeping him a from his work, invite him to lu and give him money to see a dentist.