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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Look around while waiting, if you wish

Judith Martin And Nicholas Ivor Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I’m asked to wait in an office setting or while waiting in someone’s home, is it rude of me to get up and look at paintings on the wall or book spines on a book shelf (not touching or opening the books) in the room where I was instructed to wait?

GENTLE READER: If you have had the opportunity to go on the public tours of the White House, a state governor’s mansion or the receiving rooms of royalty, enthroned or de-, you will no doubt have discerned a pattern in the decoration.

There is a definite bias toward displays that make the owner look magnificent, munificent, omniscient or, occasionally, omnivorous. Whether the state treasury could spring for Berninis and Michelangelos, or had to settle for maps showing territorial boundaries of dubious legality, it was the owner’s fondest hope that his guests, subjects or clients would look around.

Miss Manners has no objection, even if modern hosts are limited to showing off the books they have read, the schools they have attended or the celebrities with whom they have been photographed. She would, however, refrain from pointing out that the painting attributed to “Titian” is merely “school of.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it ever good manners to apologize for a wrongdoing via a text message? Maybe I am set in my ways, but I think a personal phone call would have been more sincere.

GENTLE READER: How wrong? In the example you have in mind, did the offender break your bathroom glass or wreck your car?

The apology scale goes from texting, at the bottom, to calling, to hand-writing a letter, to wailing, to holding a weepy press conference.

Miss Manners regrets that there is no such thing as a sincerity detector test, so the rule is the greater the wrongdoing, the more labor-intensive the apology.

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