DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m interested in whether I should say hi to a comrade or somebody I know when I randomly meet him/her on the street, but he/she is on the phone and doesn’t see me.
In another scenario, I’m walking somewhere and I happen to see somebody I know walking few a steps ahead of me. Do I say hi while I’m behind him, or catch up to him so he can see me? This usually happens with my older neighbor, so I think giving him a pat on the shoulder so he turns back isn’t appropriate.
GENTLE READER: You really love to say hi. Miss Manners does not mean to discourage this, but as polite as the instinct is, when the person is not looking or is otherwise engaged, the effort – on each party’s side – can be more than the gesture is worth.
In the first scenario, it seems to Miss Manners that if the person is on the telephone already, the number of steps it will take to wave the speaker down and off the telephone is entirely too many. If it is someone with whom you really want to connect, call them yourself – preferably with at least a 30-minute lag time, so as not to disturb the current conversation.
In the second instance, catching up to someone is generally preferable to shouting out a name in public. And back thumping, whatever the person’s age, could be startling, if not frightening.
But again, people would not blame you if you did not take these measures for a relatively inconsequential act. Or if they did, you could rightly say that they seemed otherwise occupied.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are retired. My husband is popular with other men, and there is a regular crew with whom he golfs, meets for happy hour, meets for breakfasts, and so on. I am glad his retirement has been so successful. My problem is that these men have made it clear that they are signed up for fun stuff, and that is all. I invited them and their wives to our daughter’s wedding, and none of them RSVP’d or came. Yet I felt I had to invite them, because these are my husband’s friends.
I can’t imagine calling one of them if we had a real problem, like an illness or one of us falling off a ladder. Is this just a guy code I don’t understand, or what?
GENTLE READER: “Fair-weather friends” was a phrase coined for a reason. That these gentlemen consider a wedding a chore and not worthy of a response does not make them true friends. However, if your husband has no objection to the arrangement, Miss Manners does not see why you should. Presumably you have your own friends who could come to your rescue, if necessary. If not, cultivate them quickly.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How long after someone’s passing is it all right to send a condolence card?
GENTLE READER: Although condolences should be sent shortly after the news is received, Miss Manners recognizes that it is not uncommon for some time to elapse before one hears of a death. That can be stated in the letter, but she frowns upon explanations that you simply did not get around to it until now. Nor should you excuse yourself from writing because time has passed.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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