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Treat servers in eateries as professionals

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Dear Miss Manners: I am in danger of losing lifelong friends because I will no longer be able to restrain myself when next it happens. And it will happen.

Whenever we go out to dinner during our annual visits, "Jane" and "Dick," especially Jane, think it behooves them to engage the waiter/waitress in prolonged conversation about that person's private life: "Where are you from? Are you going to college?" etc. This is done in a grandiose and condescending manner as in, "Look how democratic and gracious I am, talking to this lowly servant."This seems to me like an invasion of privacy in a misguided attempt to be nice. What is the proper way to talk to your waiter/waitress? I think this is an issue that a lot of people, like my otherwise dear friends Dick and Jane, do not understand.

Gentle reader: No, but Miss Manners finds herself hoping you have misunderstood dear Dick and Jane. If they are lifelong friends, at least until you can no longer restrain yourself, they must have some good qualities.

So although she quite agrees that they have no business grilling the help, she supposes they do so out of awkwardness rather than condescension. It is not that they are trying to look democratic, but that - exactly because they do have democratic feelings - they don't know how to accept service and be respectful of the server at the same time.

The answer is not phony friendship but professional distance. The way to respect the privacy and dignity of those who wait upon you is to be appreciative of their service without presuming that they are also required to pretend to be your friends.

Dear Miss Manners: At our church we celebrate a Patriotic Sunday in our worship service preceding Independence Day. Last year the soloist sang a medley of three songs - "America the Beautiful," "America" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" - but only the verses that had the word "God" in them.

I knew immediately that the soloist was singing the last verse of our national anthem, and I felt uncomfortable when no one stood up. I'm sure the congregation recognized the tune but not the words. (When I went to high school, we were required to commit all verses to memory.)

Should I have stood up when only the last verse was sung, or is our national anthem only the first verse?

Gentle reader: Miss Manners has heard that the national attention span has shrunk, but not that the national anthem had to be abbreviated to match. Last she heard, the entire song was still the anthem.

But as she wants to share your belief that the congregation recognized the music, she presumes that people were just confused about how to treat an excerpt - for which Miss Manners can hardly blame them.