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Microphone etiquette: To leave or not to leave?

Dear Miss Manners: Some of the lectures and panel discussions I have attended recently have been large enough to need microphones to ask the speaker questions. I understand the process of lining up and waiting to ask my question, but what do I do afterward, when I am listening to the answer?

Do I stay at the microphone until the answer is completed; wait near the microphone so the next person can prepare; or do I return to my seat?

Gentle Reader: Please stay there. As Miss Manners knows from experience, it is no fun to try to talk to someone who is scurrying away. It is polite to move away as soon as the exchange is concluded, but once you have asked a question, it is your job to look as if you were interested in the answer.

Dear Miss Manners: In my immediate family, we have chosen not to indulge in anything that has artificial sweeteners and/or soft drinks, like colas, because we simply believe they are not to be considered healthy. This is a problem when we are hosting gatherings for friends and acquaintances who may not share our beliefs.

My husband feels that to be a good host, we should provide soft drinks and such that most people enjoy. On the occasions that we do this, we are often at a loss over which of the dozens of particular offerings to provide: regular, or diet, or caffeine-free and regular or diet?! And invariably, we are then left with beverages leftover that we do not want, and yet do not want to pass on. (I even hate to toss them, adding their chemicals to the waste stream that is already overburdened.)

I have tried to compromise by providing something like sparkling, naturally flavored waters, juice, etc. but invariably, someone will ask for a “Coke” or a particular packet of some color (blue, pink, yellow) of artificial sweetener, which I do not keep on hand.

To be a good host, do we provide our guests with what they might want, even though we feel it is detrimental to their health?

Gentle Reader: Sadly, you are never going to get anywhere with this question, because the answer to each part of it is “Yes and no.” That makes it easy on Miss Manners, but not very helpful to you.

Yes, you are supposed to provide your guests with food and drink you think they might like, but no, you are not obliged to run a bar where people can order whatever they like. And yes, you are supposed to be concerned with their health to the extent of, for example, not poisoning them, but no, you are not supposed to put them on special diets that you have decided would be good for them.

Therefore you can provide a modest assortment of usual drinks that you can save for the next visit or you can make something they do not expect but that you believe would please them – an herbal tea, for example, or a sophisticated cocktail of fruit juices. In either case, you should state what you have and not be embarrassed to respond to requests with “I’m sorry, we don’t have that” – but for goodness’ sake, skip the explanation.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia. com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016 or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.
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