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Miss Manners: The ‘thank-you wave’ required from pedestrians?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would like your opinion on the proper etiquette for when a car stops to allow a pedestrian to cross the street. I believe the polite thing to do is to give the motorist some signal of gratitude and walk quickly across the street. Some feel no need to rush.

GENTLE READER: In the ancient world – by which Miss Manners means the days before Same-Day Shipping – there was an understanding that most accounts did not need to be settled on a daily basis.

Dinner guests issued reciprocal invitations at a later date rather than paying for dinner with a present, food or even cash. Friends repaid favors as opportunities arose.

In the case you mention, your haste is understandable, since you are unlikely to encounter this motorist again. But this does not modify the rules. Acknowledge the kindness with a gesture, as you suggest. While there is no necessity to speed up your crossing, there is also no prohibition. There is, however, a prohibition against reciprocating with a rudeness – stopping mid-street, for example, to check your emails.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 8-year-old daughter, Lily, was invited to an informal family gathering at her cousin Edna’s paternal grandfather’s home. Lily is Edna’s cousin on her mother’s side (my sister-in-law), and this was a gathering of cousins on Edna’s father’s side.

But since both sides of this family are quite large, we have never made a distinction in such gatherings. For example, we host an Easter egg hunt where both sides are invited, though we have no relation to her father’s nieces and nephews.

At the recent event, when lining up roughly 20 cousins for informal snapshots, one of Edna’s aunts physically pulled Lily out of the group and said the photos were “only for the cousins.”

I was speechless, but later thought I should have spoken up, saying, “Well, Lily is EDNA’s cousin.” It made my daughter feel extremely unwelcome and I doubt we will accept another invitation from this family. How could I have better handled the situation?

GENTLE READER: Edna’s aunt could have handled the situation better by allowing for different family groupings, none more or less important. The cousins on one side. The cousins on the other side. The parents. The relatives wearing red, yellow and blue.

Absent that, Miss Manners would have suggested you invent your own groupings while extricating your daughter both from the situation and the photograph: “This one is the paternal kids, sweetie. I suppose we’re going to do the maternal side next.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several friends and I have had an ongoing discussion about what to do with silverware placed on the table, but not used during the course of the meal. Does it go into the dishwasher or back in the drawer? Is some rule of etiquette or personal preference the deciding factor? Please provide the tie-breaker answer.

GENTLE READER: It goes back into the kitchen, where a panel from the Health Department inspects it and decides whether or not it is sterile enough for human use. So your curious friends will never know where it goes from there. Sorry.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.


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