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Miss Manners: Actual meaning of ‘appointment time’ can vary

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have never been late for anything in our lives – until recently. On two separate occasions in the past month, we have been reprimanded for not arriving at least 20 minutes before the time designated for professional appointments.

Granted, small print on the cards advised arriving earlier, but if the appointed time clearly designated on the card is 3:30, we feel that we are not late until then. If we need to be there at 3:10, then 3:10 should be the appointed time, not 3:30.

I never considered appointment times to be subjective, and I haven’t been particularly polite to those who accused us of being late. What is going on here? Has someone changed the definition of “appointed time”?

GENTLE READER: It seems that all people now make up their own definitions, so Miss Manners cannot blame you for being confused. Doctors’ offices are among the worst offenders, issuing appointments ostensibly for the time that the doctor is ready to see you. Would that it were so.

But this then makes necessary the admonition you mention so that patients will arrive with sufficient time to fill out the mounds of required paperwork.

Professionals who wish to show respect for patients – and perhaps also for tight schedules, both their own and their patients’ – would do well to begin issuing appointments for the time when the client is expected to arrive. She notes that surgical hospitals have already achieved this miracle, unfortunately by subtracting not minutes, but hours, from the time when the doctor is ready to receive.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It was my friend’s 30th birthday party, and everyone made the journey quite far out of town to attend and give her gifts. When we presented her with her gifts, she opened all the birthday cards but left the presents.

I usually like to open a present when it is given to me and thank the person right away, but I respect those who don’t want to put on a show of opening presents and prefer to thank the giver later.

Three days later, everyone who attended the party received a group Facebook message saying, “I finally got around to opening all my birthday presents, and now I don’t know who any of them are from! I’m so disorganized, haha!”

I was a little miffed that she was so flippant about presents we had all put time into choosing for her for a special birthday. Thoughts?

GENTLE READER: Your friend certainly does not think ahead. It did not occur to her that separating the cards from the presents would cause a problem. It did not occur to her that her message would cause ill feeling. And it did not occur to her that since her message contains no words of thanks, she has yet either to display any gratitude or to solve the problem of how to do so.

It is clear to Miss Manners that she is in need of a friend. Write back to her and the group in a light tone, telling her what you gave. This will encourage everyone else to chime in. If she does not then use this information to make individual thanks, you have Miss Manners’ permission to resume being miffed.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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