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Trick Is To Sound A Discreet Alert

Dear Miss Manners: I observed an incident in a shop in which a patron unknowingly had a roach sitting on her shoulder.

What should a fellow patron or shop personnel have done?

If it were another kind of insect, it wouldn’t carry the stigma associated with the common roach, which implies filth. It might seriously embarrass the unfortunate patron or the proprietors of the shop.

Worse yet, it might cause the woman carrying the roach to have a panic attack. What would a considerate person do?

Gentle Reader: Are you an entomologist? Can’t you just say, “Oh, dear, there’s something on your shoulder” without offering a gratuitous definition of what that something is?

Not that Miss Manners recognizes the stigma of being attacked by one kind of creature rather than another. That went by the wayside when the expensive private schools decided to go in for lice epidemics.

If you want to be specific as well as genteel, you might say, “There’s a bee on your shoulder.” The idea is to alert the victim to the attack, not to identify the invader.

Dear Miss Manners: Please advise as to how you would respond to a priest who, because the marriage is not taking place in his church, states on the response card to the wedding reception that the marriage is not valid.

Gentle Reader: On the checklist Miss Manners would be keeping for responses, she would list the priest as having declined the invitation.

Dear Miss Manners: We invited two couples to spend New Year’s with us, and upon their arrival we served a grand dinner. The following morning was a full breakfast. Lunch was clam chowder and champagne.

On New Year’s Eve, we all went out to dinner - which had been agreed upon two weeks in advance - and then on to various activities. When the check came for the dinner, neither of the couples offered to pay our share. I was furious!

The next morning, both couples came downstairs, had breakfast, said it was great, and left! I’m still fuming. My husband says I expect too much.

Gentle Reader: So did your guests. They expected to be your guests for whatever activities you, as their hosts, had planned.

Apparently you warned them that they were to pay their own way in the restaurant (the subject of frequent misunderstandings, since some people entertain in restaurants and others organize hostless restaurant excursions) and they did.

Yet it does not seem to satisfy you that the holiday went as planned. What you had in mind - Miss Manners gathers but they did not - was the sort of on-the-spot reciprocation that polite house guests often offer their hosts: an evening out, where the house guests serve as hosts, meaning that they pay all costs.

But that is done at the initiative of the house guests, not the hosts who hope to turn into their guests. And while it is nice, it is not obligatory.

Now, if those couples fail to recognize their social debt by writing to you expressing their gratitude, sending you some token of their appreciation, and inviting you back, Miss Manners promises to help you fume.


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate