DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend was having an open house and a catered holiday meal, and she invited my husband and me and our two teenage children. I asked if she would mind if we brought a friend of ours who had nowhere to go, no family nearby, etc.
Her response shocked me. She essentially said, “How dare I ask her to bring a stray” with a sob story and throw that in her lap. She told me she was sure our friend could probably find somewhere else to go.
I then declined her offer and told her we wouldn’t be able to come after all, saying we were going to have dinner at my house so my “stray” wouldn’t have to spend the holiday alone. Was I wrong, or was my friend just cold-hearted???
GENTLE READER: Both???
If the invitation was issued after you found out about your stranded friend, you could have declined, saying that you had an unexpected guest with whom you did not wish to burden her.
At that point, and since it was an open house, your host would have been gracious to have invited your friend along. Gracious, Miss Manners stresses, not obligated. But clearly your host was not of that mind and did, it seems here, turn nasty. Perhaps she had received many such propositions that week – and was tired of calling the caterer with the latest recount.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whenever I receive a phone call from a business office, the caller asks “Is Robin there?” I bristle and ask, “Who is calling?”
Their approach takes me back to when a childhood friend would call. It seems much more grown-up and polite for the caller to identify himself or herself. For example, “This is Barbara from Dr. Smith’s office. May I speak with Robin?”
GENTLE READER: Your phone memories take Miss Manners back to her own childhood. Or at least to her middle age, when phones – she happens to prefer the rotary style, herself – did not have caller ID, and were shared by more than one person.
But she is not here to reminisce about phones with you. Yes, a business should identify itself, although social callers need not. The problem is how to tell the difference. Telemarketers have caught on to that predicament.
Miss Manners therefore suggests you politely continue to ask your question – preferably adding, “May I please ask …” to that bristle.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’ve been very ill, and people have been very kind to bring food. Some of the people brought food in nice dishes that they’ll want back, but I am still not cleared to drive. Who is responsible for returning the good dishes? Me or the person who brought them?
GENTLE READER: Under normal circumstances, you, but yours are extenuating. Miss Manners will therefore declare you responsible only for cleaning them – and also that doing so at the moment of receipt is acceptable.
“What a beautiful casserole dish. I’m not certain when I will be able to return this to you, so here – let me transfer it to one of my containers and clean it for you quickly.”
If the person protests that it can wait, or that they will pick it up at a later date, then take them up on it. And clear a shelf for all your new, abandoned dishware.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.
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