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Miss Manners: Politics best not discussed while in dentist chair

Dear Miss Manners: Before the Novocain took effect, my dentist of four years and I had a brief conversation about the news of the day in politics. It immediately became clear that we are on different ends of the political spectrum.

Right before she put the rubber dam on me, leaving me speechless, I said, "Well, you are a great dentist, even if we disagree about politics." I hoped that would be the end of it.

It wasn't. She lectured while she worked. She explained her views, berated mine and assured me that her highly educated friends — movers and shakers in society — agreed totally with her.

The high-pitched whir of the drill occasionally drowned her out. Unfortunately, she turned the thing off from time to time. Should I let her know I was offended? Or should I say nothing and chalk it up to the price one must pay for not always flossing thoroughly?

I'm even considering looking for a new dentist — one recommended by my political party.

Gentle Reader: Check their candidates' smiles first. You wouldn't want to leave a good dentist for a well-intentioned one.

Miss Manners recommends closing your eyes. This is one of the few instances in which appearing to drift off is not rude. Sometimes when the eyes are closed, the ears follow. It might also discourage your dentist from addressing you. If not, you must do what everyone does at the dentist: Keep reminding yourself that, eventually, the session has to come to an end.

Dear Miss Manners: I enjoy giving candy to the small children in my neighborhood on Halloween and admiring their cute costumes, but I am not sure how to respond to the ones who aren't so small and cute. It feels more like a mugging than a social tradition to have my candy snatched in handfuls by hulking masked strangers who are taller than I am.

When I was a child, I was carefully coached to take just one piece of candy and to say "thank you." These "children" don't say anything at all (perhaps to conceal the fact that their voices have changed) and grab as much candy as they can. I'm not sure how to graciously tell them just to take one. I tried "Please leave some for the other children," but they didn't put it back or even say anything in response.

Sadly, I ran out of candy for the cute little diffident ones later in the evening. Should I take some assertiveness training or just wear an intimidating costume next year?

Gentle Reader: No, you get a small tray and offer a fair portion to your visitors, instead of letting them rummage through your total supply.

Miss Manners sympathizes with your attitude but reminds you that when people are costumed, you are supposed to take them at face value — masked value, that is. She imagines that you already observe this convention in regard to those cute small children, whom you pretend are big and fierce.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it bad manners to be in a restaurant and, after a meal course, pile up your dishes to make it a bit easier for the waitress?

Gentle Reader: Would you be insulted if one of your clients or customers pitched in and started doing your job for you?

Before you say, "Great, then I wouldn't have to do it," Miss Manners asks you to consider the possible results. Suppose that person bungled the job? Suppose the boss caught you foisting off your work?

You mean well, but piling plates is improper table service.

© Judith Martin Dist. by United Feature Syndicate Inc.