Dear Miss Manners: At the end of a most enjoyable dining experience, with excellent food and service, something happened that caused me great concern. My mother-in-law chastised us for a simple gesture of gratitude - that after paying our bill and tipping, we saw our waiter at the door when we were leaving and said "Thank you."
She said, "You don't thank those people because they are your servants, and you just tell them good night."I had never heard of such a thing. Is this gesture of thanks impolite?
Gentle Reader: Oh, just what Miss Manners needs. A little helper in the etiquette field, who makes it her job to run around stamping out whatever residual courtesy may be left.
Your mother-in-law has perverted the rule that it is not obligatory to thank people for every gesture - thank you for bringing the rolls, thank you for clearing the soup, etc. - into a prohibition on spontaneous politeness.
Be sure and thank her for Miss Manners. And send her over for a little talk the next time she complains of how hard it is to get devoted servants nowadays.
Dear Miss Manners: I work in a toll booth, and I would like your opinion on dealing with thoughtless, inconsiderate people.
Is it not an act of thoughtlessness when a driver wants to pay his fee of $1 with a $100 or $20 bill or must hold up traffic while looking for change? Some people actually get upset because I must call for change and make them wait.
Most people realize that they must pay a fee when exiting, and most have money already and do not require my giving them a lot of change. But for those few that give me a large bill for a small fee, am I not justified in giving them the small change other people (many customers empty their ashtrays of coins into my hand) have given to me?
Gentle Reader: Miss Manners hopes those people who empty their ashtrays into your hand are nonsmokers.
She mentions this merely to remind you that while the sort of thoughtlessness you encounter is a tremendous nuisance to you and to other drivers, there are worse kinds. And that the Oops People ("Oops, it never occurred to me that a toll booth is not a bank") are more likely to improve from polite lessons than the more actively selfish types.
She is happy to do her part by drawing the problems they cause to their attention. And she condones your subtly doing so by giving them all that metal from other people's ashtrays.
Money is money, as they would no doubt argue if you protested against their handing you vast bills.
Dear Miss Manners: We have an every-other-weekend visitation with my husband's 10-year-old son by a previous marriage, and I do everything I can to make the visits go well, including meal planning, grocery shopping and cleanup after the child leaves.
My husband seems to think that I do not need any notice - or very little - regarding changes in the visitation schedule. I have asked for a week, or at least two days' notice - which I seldom get. He says the child should be able to go freely between homes.
I say if I'm going to play hostess, I need notice, otherwise things will not flow smoothly, and I will get stressed out and be expected to run to the store at the last minute, or spread our meal thinner. Am I being too uptight, or is he not using appropriate manners?
Gentle Reader: Your husband is using perfectly proper manners for members of the family. What you are asking him to do is to use the manners appropriate for guests, not his own child.
Miss Manners suggests you think less about playing hostess and more about being a mother. She believes it is crucial for children to feel that any home in which a parent lives is also their home.
However, if you want to enlist Miss Manners in encouraging your husband to do chores when you are feeling stressed - or even when you're not - she would be more agreeable. But only if you make the point that you need more cooperation in running the household, and refrain from suggesting that it is the child who has created the problem. It should be the child's household, too.
And if you get into the habit of being really welcoming, not to say motherly, Miss Manners will even allow you to throw in a reminder that notice, if possible, does help. The way you can put it is, "If you can possibly give me warning when Brian is coming, I'd appreciate it, because I'd like to run out and get him some of his favorite treats."