August 30, 2010 in Features

Miss Manners: Directions for handling GPS abuse

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate
Contact Miss Manners

Visit Miss Manners at her website,, where you can send her your questions.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a GPS navigator in my car, which I use when I am going to an unfamiliar location. If I have a passenger who claims to know the way, I usually rely on the passenger rather than the GPS, though sometimes this has proved to be a mistake. But when traveling to a place that is unfamiliar to both of us, I use the GPS.

Now it has happened on several occasions, and with different passengers, that while the final destination may be unfamiliar, during some portion of the route, such as getting out of the city or passing through a nearby community, the passenger has argued with the GPS navigator by calling it stupid, asking me why I bought it in the first place, or telling me to throw it out the window.

One person actually sulked for an hour because I took the GPS directions instead of his. Another person told me he would rather get lost than rely on a silly box with a simulated voice.

If I am a passenger in someone else’s car, I don’t give directions unless I am asked. I feel that most drivers have their favorite ways to travel, and it is not up to me to question their decisions. I would like to know how to respond to people who develop adversarial relationships with my GPS navigator.

GENTLE READER: No etiquette query has yet come to Miss Manners from the GPS lady herself, but with the number of people who love or hate her, it’s probably only a matter of time. All that cursing and courting she must endure, while only trying to do her job, must be hard to bear.

As captain of the vehicle, it is your duty to defend her. Miss Manners suggests a gentle: “Please don’t be too rough on her. She’s had a difficult day. We’ll humor her and let her have her way.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My dear mama was quite firm in her insistence that a thank you note should never, under any circumstances, begin with the words “Thank you.” Rather, it should always start with something along the lines of “How did you know I love diamonds?” or “It was so wonderful to come home from Egypt today and find a package of your famous oatmeal cookies waiting for me!”

I believed my mother (who undoubtedly was instructed by her own mother) and passed the rule on to the next generation, which is passing it on to the newest group of well-bred family members.

Recently, I have been told this simply is not so. That, in fact, it is quite correct (albeit somewhat juvenile, I still think) to begin a thank you note with “Thank you for …”

Could it be so? Has the entire family been incorrect all these many generations? And, if so, must I tell my children or can I just keep it a secret?

GENTLE READER: Thank you for pointing this out.

Whoops! Your dear mama was right, as are your ancestors and descendants, at least stylistically. Miss Manners has also made this recommendation.

There is no absolute etiquette prohibition on the letter that begins “Thank you for the…” but it so obviously smacks of being a duty letter, rather than one inspired by enthusiasm, that it lacks the graciousness with which your family is well supplied.

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