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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 11/20

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know you have recommended moving away from others who choose not to wear masks during the pandemic. What is the proper response to retail or other service providers who wear their masks hanging below their noses?

This has happened to me twice lately. At a car lot, three salesmen were lingering by the showroom door, and one had his mask below his nose. I stopped and said, “You know that mask doesn’t work if it’s not covering your nose.”

He gave me a slightly perturbed look, pulled up his mask and opened the door for me. Was I out of line?

Today, a bank clerk was opening an account for me wearing a stylish mask that was clearly too large for her. It kept dropping below her nose. After trying a few times to pull it up, she gave up and left it hanging below her nose.

Rather than say anything, I simply scooted my chair back a few more feet. This episode was all the more disconcerting because her colleague had just confided (in a separate office) that several family members were infected with COVID-19 and her father wasn’t expected to survive.

I try to get curbside delivery and order online, but it’s not always possible. What advice do you have for us to behave politely when we are compelled to conduct business in public?

GENTLE READER: Handle this just as you would if someone inadvertently had spinach in their teeth or toilet paper on a shoe: Politely point it out with the presumption of innocence, rather than blame.

Miss Manners recommends something like, “I’m not sure if you noticed, but your mask seems to have slipped. I would help you, but of course that would defeat the purpose of protecting ourselves from spreading germs. I’ll just step back while you are fixing it.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I decided about 20 years ago that we would always send a written thank-you note (through the mail, with a stamp!) to anyone who invited us to their home. I would say that puts us in the minority these days, but hosts seem delighted to receive notes in the mail.

But when the original invitation is sent to a set of email addresses, we often find that after the event, most other guests use the “reply all” function to thank the host. We are then uncertain about whether we should also join in the email chain of thanks, knowing that we’ve already sent a note to the host through the mail.

If we fail to join in on the emailed thanks, does it seem to the other guests that we didn’t appreciate the invitation? But then, why are we sending both a note by mail AND an email thank-you?

GENTLE READER: Why indeed? Is it possible that the others are using “reply all” so that they can put their gratitude on display? And then once publicly lauded, consider their duty done with no further action needed?

Miss Manners dearly hopes that you will remain steadfast in your personal letter writing and not be swayed by the masses. The reward will presumably be the (continued) delight of your hosts, as it should be.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website

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