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Miss Manners: Storming the castle should be avoided


DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a member of several professional organizations, one of which has a conference every two years. It is the most expensive conference I attend, and it begins with an evening “reception.”

After driving for 12 hours and changing hurriedly into my suit in a hotel bathroom or parking lot, I arrive at the reception to find a long line streaming out of a closed door. I have waited up to 90 minutes (the reception is two hours) to greet and converse with the organization’s president, who uses the occasion to “catch up” with each member.

Once, I had less than 15 minutes before the snacks and drinks were whisked away. Often, members are leaving before I enter!

It feels odd to have to wait so long to enjoy the reception. In fact, it would seem that we are having to kneel before the king in obeisance before the conference. This is consistent with the fact that the members no longer elect members to the board, and board meetings are no longer open to members, so we are powerless to “adjust” the leadership.

What is the etiquette for receptions? Would it be appropriate to simply prop open both doors to the ballroom and invite in all the members who have paid for the space and refreshments? This would allow us to enjoy each others’ company while those who would like to pay their respects wait in line.

Or does protocol require me to wait patiently for my turn to kiss the ring of the king before I can enjoy the reception?

GENTLE READER: Doesn’t your king know what happens to kings who remain indifferent to the hunger and thirst of their subjects?

Miss Manners realizes that the time is probably not ripe for you and your fellow sufferers to storm the reception, commandeer the bar and topple the king, even though he has shown himself to be lacking in one of the qualities of leadership – the ability to move a receiving line along while making every person feel personally greeted.

But you can seem appreciative and helpful by bringing the situation to the attention of whoever orchestrates these events for the king. Not that business about the drinks being whisked away or kissing the ring, and not your other complaints, which should not be addressed in connection with a reception – but that many who would like to shake hands with the president spend most of the reception waiting in line. When you suggest opening the doors to all, be sure to mention that you will, of course, be keeping an eye on the reception line so that you can join it when it thins.

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