The Guide to Hostage Etiquette

“The world runs on manners.” These were the words my aunt left me before being permanently interred at Arkham Asylum. I took them to heart. You might not know it from my past venom on this site, but I’ve strenuously applied social tact and grace to every other aspect of my life. I bring good manners to classrooms, restaurants, strip clubs, and hostage situations.

The last category requires a bit more training than the others. It’s difficult to remember to keep your smile when a failed bank robber sticks an uzi under your chin. But if you can’t stay civil under life-threatening duress, then you were never really civil at all, were you?

Ever since a crisis response team saved me and a classroom full of other overeducated Princeton students, I’ve realized that the world needs a guide to hostage-host relations. I’m here to fill that void.


Unlike most social situations, where one can nod politely and daydream about tennis players, a hostage situation demands your full attention. Your hosts will be screaming a constant stream of instructions, curses, and threats, and failing to listen may result in offense. As well as losing a kneecap. But that pales in comparison to the shame of a faux pas. Give your host the benefit of your full focus, and you’ll be rewarded with one less pistol whipping.


It’s important to pick up after yourself. Any slob can leave a mess of tears and viscera behind them, but a gentlemen leaves no trace of his trauma. Be sure to clean up the blood from any bullet or stab  wounds you may have accrued. Always use a coaster when taking one last drink before the end.

Escape Attempts

There is simply nothing ruder than leaving early. Your hosts went through a great deal of trouble and personal risk to arrange this event, and escaping is a huge insult. Is your life worth their feelings?

Your Fellow Guests

Keeping the other hostages safe is usually considered a priority. But it’s far more important to keep them proper. Emphasis the importance of the earlier lessons to the other hostages. Be assertive, but try not to speak out of turn. You must not become an improper monster in the quest to spread propriety.

You can score a few points by bringing some entertainment. A few board games or a Nintendo DS can make things easier for everyone. There’s nothing like a game of Settlers of Catan to turn a hostage situation into a bonding experience.

The Police

If your hosts are gracious or unlucky, you will eventually be released to the SWAT teams. It may be tempting to break down into unseemly celebratory dance or traumatized sobbing, but it’s important to maintain a cool, detached composure. The officers have likely had a long day negotiating or trading fire with your former captors, and don’t need a room full of unruly civilians to sour their day.

Preparation is everything. Heavy daily dosage of any number of over-the-counter pills can ensure that your always in the proper state of mind, should the worst happen.


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