DEAR MISS MANNERS: If a woman has made a luncheon engagement with a gentleman and she is late, how long should the gentleman wait before he leaves the restaurant? My reply, when asked by someone, was “at least 30 minutes.” Is this correct, or is there a time limit?
GENTLE READER: Although there was never a specific time limit, the question has been complicated by the advent of continuous communication. Half an hour to 45 minutes without any contact is a reasonable upper limit. But if the lady calls, apologizes profusely – and explains that she is caught in traffic but expects to be there in 46 minutes (according to her GPS) – the gentleman is expected to accept the apology gracefully.
He can use the intervening time to contemplate whether the behavior is likely to be repeated if a subsequent invitation is proffered, and the lunch itself to judge whether it is worth the wait.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I invited my 19-year-old niece on a trip to Colorado with my husband and our two daughters, aged 11 and 9. We are renting a house for 11 days with two bedrooms and a sofa bed.
I am not sure whether it is rude to have my niece sleep on the sofa bed the entire time, or to offer her the bedroom that I was planning to have my daughters use. My niece is a full-time student and does not have any money of her own.
Should I ask my brother, her father, to contribute to the costs of her food and entertainment while on the trip? Or since I invited her, should all the costs be my responsibility?
GENTLE READER: In common with cooking and airplane travel, etiquette is often easier when it is less spontaneous. (Miss Manners does not mean to disparage spontaneity; she merely observes that it sometimes results in extra trips to the grocery store, or home to collect the passport.)
The correct time to raise the sleeping arrangements is when the invitation is issued: “Dear niece, we are going to Colorado and we would love to have you join us if you are available. The conditions are somewhat primitive – you would be on the couch – but we would enjoy your company and think we will all have a wonderful time.”
If you have already made the invitation, then you will have to reissue it, saying that you’ve now discovered more about the house, namely the lack of sufficient bedrooms. Since you are the host, you are stuck with the cost, but, as you are not providing a bed, this seems fair. Your niece will no doubt reciprocate at some point, if not by paying for a family meal out, or sharing in the groceries, then by making herself charming and useful.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What do you think of the following phone message I received from a friend? “Hi, too busy to talk. Just wanted to let you know I got some good news.”
It made me wonder what she would have said if I’d been there to pick up the phone: “Sorry, can’t talk. Please answer later when I’m less busy”?
GENTLE READER: In that case, Miss Manners gives you permission to ask, “Did you call me at an inconvenient time?”
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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