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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Courteous airline passengers? What next?

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am privileged to receive free air travel benefits from my husband’s job as an airline pilot. My family flies on standby status, so we are usually among the last passengers to board the plane. Because of this, I am often separated from my 10-year-old. This is fine with us, as my son is an experienced traveler and is a quiet, self-sufficient and polite passenger.

Other well-meaning passengers will sometimes offer their seat to me so that my son and I can sit together. If my assigned seat is as good or better than the one being offered, I will gratefully accept the switch.

However, if I am assigned a poor seat, I usually thank the person, but decline. I do not want a paying passenger to have to take my bad (but free) seat. Then again, perhaps the other passenger does not want to sit next to my child, meaning I should accept regardless.

I am not permitted to advertise that I am flying for free. Is my response correct, or should I always accept the offered seat?

GENTLE READER: What? Airline passengers who are considerate of the other passengers! One moment, please, while Miss Manners picks herself up off the floor.

Of course, people in such circumstances ought to bond and look out for one another; it’s just that the stories one hears tend to suggest the opposite. But here you are, asking how to be most considerate of those who are being considerate of you. Thank you.

Let us assume that they are also acting out of courtesy, not that they are trying to get away from your son. You could simply accept with thanks. Or you could say, also with thanks, “But this is a worse seat, and my son is an experienced passenger, who will be fine.” This allows them to insist – or not.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: After 57 years of marriage, my wife passed away last week. All of our children were here to help me through this, and have now gone home.

I am now receiving invitations to dinner. Some I’ll gladly accept, but there are others I really don’t want to. How do I politely decline the invitations I don’t want without hurting people’s feelings?

GENTLE READER: Although you do not need an excuse as long as you express regrets and thanks, Miss Manners notices that you have one easily available. If you say “I’m not going out much,” people should understand that this refers to the way you are handling your grief.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: As my senior year was drawing to a close, a sales rep visited our school to sell class rings and graduation announcement cards.

“The more you buy,” he said, “the more gifts you get, so be sure to buy lots – and send them not just to family, but to everyone you can think of!”

I had thought that announcements were meant to share a happy milestone with family and friends, but it seems they really are intended to be widely circulated demands for gifts.

GENTLE READER: Congratulations – not only on your graduation, but for having the right answer for the use of an announcement. Miss Manners flunks the rep.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website