Dear Miss Manners: How I wish you had been dining with us and could have told us what to do! My husband, who is a lawyer, and I were treating some of his hard-working associates to dinner at a fairly pricey restaurant. It was a jolly gathering, and our jollity increased when the waiter arrived with an extra bottle of wine, kindness of a man at another table, who smiled and waved as we turned to acknowledge the gift.
He appeared to be dining with a younger group of colleagues as well and made quite a show of his pleasure at seeing my husband. Then my husband leaned forward and told us quietly, “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
By then it was too late to refuse the wine (which was quite good), and that seemed an unkind response in any case since it risked embarrassing him in front of his friends. Should we have responded in kind to the generous stranger, even though that would have compounded the misunderstanding?
Our awkwardness increased further when the man stopped at our table en route to the men’s room and gave my husband a big slap on the back and a hearty handshake. He seemed to realize his mistake just as he did so. He said nothing, however, and my husband did the same. Perhaps I should add that my husband is an honest man and has never given me any reason to distrust him.
Gentle Reader: Perhaps you shouldn’t add that. Miss Manners had no reason to distrust your husband, either, until you added that. Ask those lawyers whether she is alone in being suspicious of an unprovoked defense.
But like the gentleman in the restaurant, Miss Manners realizes that is a mistake. Everybody in this situation seems rather jolly, which makes Miss Manners echo your wish that she had been there and hope nobody remains embarrassed about the mix-up.
Let us presume that the generous gentleman went back to his table and said, “You won’t believe this, but you know the man I sent the wine to? Because I don’t.” He could be dining out on this story for years to come.
As for your husband, it’s a shame, although an understandable one, that he didn’t make a generous joke of it on the spot. He could have sent a different wine with a note saying, “It is an honor to be mistaken for your friend. My friends and I were delighted with your wine and beg you to try this one.”
Perhaps with the cooperation of the restaurant, he could still do this. If the restaurant is able to trace the name and is willing to be the intermediary, he could arrange to reciprocate in this manner to his unknown benefactor.
Dear Miss Manners: I have a beautiful antique vase that I bought at an estate sale and I love it, but I have a friend who I believe loves it more. She is a very dear friend; we are more like sisters.
I would like to surprise her and give it to her as a birthday gift. She always talks about it when she’s at my home and loves to look at it. It would also solve the problem that I wouldn’t want to give it in my will to one of my grown daughters and not the other daughter.
But I don’t want to appear cheap by giving my friend something I have instead of buying her a gift. She’s hard to buy for, as she has most everything.
Gentle Reader: Well, she certainly has a very dear friend.
Miss Manners will take that as evidence that the lady is rather dear herself and therefore sure to be thrilled.
Only the vulgar believe that shopping is the highest tribute one person can pay another. The rest of us prize thoughtfulness, the desire to please and, in this case, a loving sacrifice, much more highly.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate
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