The first rule of the Toronto Club is: you do not talk about the Toronto Club.
Actually, I have no idea if that’s one of the rules, since pretty much everything about the Toronto Club is a secret — even the rules themselves. I learned this the hard way. “What is this place?” my cab driver asked, as we pulled up to the unmarked building at York and Wellington. “It’s a private club,” I replied. “Probably the most exclusive one in the city, maybe in the country.”
This came as a surprise. “I thought it was a church,” he said. “I’m always dropping off old people here.”
The cabbie wasn’t impressed, but I was eager to be the lunch guest of one of the club’s long-standing members. I’ve been to my share of fancy places, so you’d think I’d know what I was doing. Nope. Here are a few of the rules I quickly learned.
Rule number two: you can’t use your phone. And I mean at all. Not when you’re alone in the lobby, waiting for your host or just checking your email.
Rule number three: if you enter the dining room and see someone you know (like a managing partner or a retired judge), you do not say hello. Even if you’re glad to see them and it seems like it would be rude not to. Got that?
Rule number four: no business. You can’t discuss one lick of the things you were actually hoping to when you arranged this lunch in the first place. You come for the calf’s liver and stay for the polite conversation. If you thought it was going to be more productive than that, You Were Wrong.
Rule number five: no pens allowed. You cannot, may not, will not so much as lean toward your purse for a pen to write something interesting down that you don’t want to forget. No pens. No siree.
And how did I learn these rules? I broke them. And each time I did, my host (a senior partner at a large Bay Street firm, if you must know) was quick to point out my inappropriate behaviour. But from that humiliation (and totally unproductive lunch), a story idea for Precedent was born.
In this issue, our assistant editor, Lisa Coxon, interviews two etiquette experts to get the lowdown on how to confidently dine with someone more senior than you — no matter where you are (“Lunching above your weight”). Etiquette can be a minefield.
But don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
So, is rule number one of the Toronto Club that you do not talk about the Toronto Club? I guess I’m about to find out.
Publisher & Editor
More from the Fall Issue:
Photo of Melissa by Mckenzie James