DEAR MISS MANNERS: We approached our favorite fishing spot. About 40 yards away was another boat. The other fisherman yelled, “Welcome!”
He saw that we were catching fish, and that we released all of the catch. He asked if he could have a fish we caught. We agreed, so he trolled over and took the fish. Everyone was very friendly.
Then his tone changed drastically, and he said, “Leave this spot to other people who don’t get to come every day! Don’t you know fishing etiquette?”
We were surprised. What are fishing-hole manners?
GENTLE READER: Apparently whatever the crusty fisherman there cared to tell you: “Welcome,” “Don’t come back,” and “Give us your fish.”
The etiquette of this particular fishing hole – Miss Manners doesn’t know if she is more amused or flattered that etiquette was invoked – seems to be a kind of rough banter that you can take for joking. The reply she suggests is, “Oh, but if we don’t come here, how are you going to get any fish?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I think I do OK with dinner-table conversation, but mingling at a reception or casual buffet can be really hard. There are all of these groups of two or three people talking with each other, and I figure I should try to talk with them, too.
Should I go up to a group of people who are already talking, and just start listening to the conversation until I can join in? That seems OK if I already know one of the people, but it seems weird if I don’t know them.
Maybe I should just go up to a person who is alone; is that the only option if I don’t know anyone? What if I go up to a group and start listening to a conversation, and then can’t think of a way to join in for five minutes or more? Should I just sneak away?
Also, if I am talking with one person already and a third person comes up and joins in, can I just leave after a while if the two of them seem to be having a good time? I don’t really want to interrupt them just to say that I am going to get a drink, but I also don’t want to be rude by walking off without saying anything.
GENTLE READER: Mingling is not easy, Miss Manners grants. But that is the expected activity at chairless parties. And it doesn’t matter whether you know anyone there, because the rule is, “The roof is an introduction.”
Relieving loners is kind, as well as easy. When you sidle up to a group, they should at least smile at you until they get to a break in the conversation when you can be included. If none of that happens, toss them a smile and just sidle away, no excuse needed. If your group is getting along without you, you can also slip off for better pickings with barely more than a smile.
Freshening one’s drink is the standard parting line, although “I enjoyed talking with you” (if there was any talk at all) works just as well without your having to head to the bar. Remember that the whole premise of such a party is to keep moving.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.