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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In The Good Old Days, It Was Thus

Dear Miss Manners: At a dinner party, I was surprised to see the hostess serve the soup first and then a delicious salad before the main course. I may be wrong, but I always serve the salad first and then the soup. I'm sure it really makes no difference, but I would appreciate your opinion. Gentle Reader: What happened to the oysters? Oysters are supposed to be the first course. Or terrapin.

Don’t Rush To Medical Judgment

Dear Miss Manners: Is it ever impolite to acknowledge someone's suntan and/or sunburn? When an acquaintance has been severely sunburned, I tend to make small talk and say, "So, been playing a lot of golf lately?" or "Been out on the boat a lot, eh?" To my chagrin, I said this to a man who I later discovered had some type of skin disease that made him appear to have a sunburn. I was horrified to think I had made a joke about something that he was probably very sensitive about. I feel, however, that if someone is severely burned, they of course know it (as does everyone else) and could perhaps benefit from my small expression of sympathy and understanding for their pain.

Callers Didn’t Get The Message

Dear Miss Manners: During my rather lengthy stay in the hospital, my family took messages from my answering machine. Many callers would not leave names or identifications, and my family had no idea who they were. Some called again, really angry.

Mother’s Gum Rule Should Stick

Dear Miss Manners: My mom always tells me it is very rude to blow and pop bubble gum in public, but I don't agree. Gentle Reader: Of course you don't agree. That is because you are on the enjoyable side of the bubble gum.

No One Was Really Wrong Here

Dear Miss Manners: During a lovely weekend visit with my boyfriend's two brothers and their wives, one of the most interesting topics of conversation was the vacation plans of the younger brother and his wife, who will be traveling in France. As an admitted Francophile, I found hearing about the details of the trip enjoyable. As the couple was saying their goodbyes, I asked them if they would pick up some French music for me if I wrote down a couple of names and of course reimbursed them for the purchase.

Your Viewing Pleasure Is Irrelevant

Dear Miss Manners: At our frequent pool parties, barbecues and beach parties, my brother's one-legged wife (she lost her leg above the knee long before my brother married her) shows up wearing a skimpy bathing suit or shorts that leave the stump of her amputated leg fully exposed for everyone to see. It's not very pleasant to see where a woman's leg was cut off, especially up close, but my amputee sister-in-law couldn't care less who sees hers. She owns an artificial leg but never wears it. She gets around actively on one leg and crutches, and never misses any family affair. At the pool, she often just hops around on one leg. I lose my appetite when I see my one-legged sister-in-law's bare stump of a thigh sticking out in full view. The rest of the family has the same complaint.

You Clearly Did The Right Thing

Dear Miss Manners: My sister's husband's brother told me that I was invited to join a group of middle-aged businessmen for some drinks in a local bar. (I am a 25-year-old single woman.) I had met them once before through him, but on this particular evening he could not join us. The businessmen had enjoyed my company and wanted me to attend anyway. I reluctantly agreed, but only after asking my sister and her husband to join me, so as not to walk into a group of men alone. After about an hour or two, I was comfortable with the situation and they left, while I stayed a while longer. These men insisted on picking up the check, even though we said we would pay for our own. The evening went very well, but the next day my sister's husband's brother called to say that to invite my sister and his brother was rude and distasteful, because the men had not invited them.

You’ll Simply Have To Speak Up

Dear Miss Manners: Whenever I visit my son, I am troubled by the fact that he never offers me anything to eat. I have been bringing food, and we usually end up eating that. I am on the road for three hours, and there are no food stops. I bring a lunch so I won't starve. But when I arrive, usually about lunch time, he never asks if I am hungry or "Have you had lunch, Mom?" I often don't even get dinner. My son feeds my grandson, but both he and his wife seem to eat on the run. He nibbles all day long; he is constantly at the refrigerator, so he isn't hungry at mealtimes. I have started to try and go to the refrigerator myself, but there never seems to be any food.

Dodge, Then Go For A Fast Break

Dear Miss Manners: I am 6 feet 5 inches tall, which is considered tall for a woman. I do not, nor have I ever had, any interest in playing or even watching basketball games. Why do people just assume I played basketball in school? While grocery shopping, a store clerk - total stranger - introduced herself and began informing me how short her daughter was and how much her daughter loved to play basketball and did I have any insights that might encourage her toward her goal. I looked at this woman like she was insane, said no to all her questions about playing or watching basketball. She ignored this and continued rattling on for at least 10 more minutes. What should have been a quick run to the store became a 15-minute inquisition.

They Should Contain Themselves

Dear Miss Manners: At a convention or public meeting, when an individual is introduced and the audience stands and applauds, what should the immediate family members of this person do? Stand? Applaud? What? Does the position of the person being introduced (i.e., president, congressman, preacher) make a difference? , Gentle Reader: Wives or husbands should keep their seats while beaming proudly and smiling adoringly and clasping their hands as if to keep from clapping. Children should enthusiastically leap to their feet and then sit down again as if they were embarrassed at being carried away. Miss Manners realizes that an argument can be made in the case of officials that family members are citizens, too, who could show their respect for the office aside from their personal feelings. And that nonofficials have earned the professional, as well as personal, respect of their very own families. Nevertheless, the family is prominently featured on such occasions because they share in the glory. Adding to the glory in which one then basks is not quite attractive, however understandable.

Arrest Is Not Proof Of Anything

Dear Miss Manners: The custom of addressing everyone by their first names, whether known or not, seems terribly rude to me. But I also think it's ridiculous when a law enforcement officer being interviewed on the news refers to a criminal as a "gentleman," as in, "This gentleman stabbed the victim 10 times in the back." If both customs are meant to reflect a new spirit of egalitarianism, I think they go too far. If it more likely reflects our drift toward socialism, then it is more frightening than bothersome. If it is nothing more than ignorance, I still don't like it. Gentle Reader: Miss Manners is with you in your opposition to the unauthorized use of first names, but is having a hard time working herself up into a political-philosophy snit over your second complaint. Unless it is to comment that an arresting police officer should not be announcing that anybody who has not yet been tried has committed a crime.

Perhaps It’s Time To Hit The Trail

Dear Miss Manners: I am a single woman who rents the ground-floor apartment in a large house otherwise occupied by my landlord and his family. I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with them, exchanging pleasantries when we meet, but something bothers me. My landlords give several outdoor barbecues in the backyard for many of their friends on warm weekends, and I never even once received a courtesy invitation to join them. This despite the fact that the barbecue was set right in front of my living room window, my door is always open in summer, and barbecue odors inevitably waft through my apartment.

Pose It As A Big Misunderstanding

Dear Miss Manners: I lent my genealogy software to an older relative so that he could update the database at his leisure, with the names of our ancestors of whom I had no knowledge. When he returned it, he laughingly mentioned that he had copied the software for his friends and co-workers so they could build their own family trees. His actions upset me, mostly because the software carries a serial number and is registered to me. His actions violated federal copyright laws and perhaps I could be held liable.

In Man’s Cap? Follow Man’s Rules

Dear Miss Manners: I was standing next to the cameraman at a baseball game during the National Anthem. We were both wearing caps, and as the song was about to start, a man yelled from the bleachers, "Hey, cameraman, show some respect and take off your hat!" He did so, as did I (I am a 26-year-old woman), and the crowd cheered. Needless to say, I was terribly flustered.

You’re Selling Atmosphere, Too

Dear Miss Manners: I am a bartender, and I find that some customers just don't know how to act. For example, some patrons will ask for a drink, let's say a "bourbon and Coke," and then tell me to "Make it a good one." This really annoys me. I mean, why should they get any more liquor than anyone else sitting at the bar? Not to mention that it would make our liquor cost go up. When I try to explain I cannot do that and if they would like a double, then I'll have to charge extra, they get offended. I also find it tacky when customers want me to name the price of every beverage until I come across the cheapest drink. I feel that if you don't have the money to go out, then stay home.

Settle This Beforehand - Explicitly

Dear Miss Manners: When you invite a couple to go out to dinner, I contend that unless you state that you are paying or treating them, the inference is that we each pay our own. My wife contends that it is appropriate, and maybe expected, that the couple doing the inviting should pay for everything. Gentle Reader: The way the system of eating out works now is that the people issuing the invitation always assume that the others will pay for their own food, and the people accepting the invitation always assume that the inviters mean to pay for everybody's. This is not working, folks. Unpleasant surprises at the end of the meal are not good for the digestion.

Belligerence Is A No-Win Opener

Dear Miss Manners: I have noticed that many people regard discourteous and even abusive treatment of our natural environment as less objectionable than similar treatment directed towards humans. For example, clearcutting old-growth redwoods incites less emotion in many people than their neighbor's untidy lawn. Similarly, an act which would be considered offensive if performed by a human is not considered offensive if performed by a machine.

Sorry, Knee In Crotch Won’t Do

Dear Miss Manners: What can be done to someone who constantly gets in your space? We are not a couple. There are three of us who go to dinner, museums, etc. The words "Pardon me," "Move!" "Do you mind?" have no effect. I try to remain calm, but there are times I want to put a knee in his crotch. He never moves to let you pass, so therefore you must go around. Gentle Reader: Oh, so it's time for etiquette's second defense, the old knee trick. Is that what you think? It is the despair of poor old Miss Manners' life that those who complain of bad manners in others are so full of violent proposals. Anything to make the world more civilized, they suppose.

Realize She’s Not A Public Servant

Dear Miss Manners: I wish to write to a queen, and would like instructions on the proper etiquette. The only things I have in common with her is that we married men from the same country, we are from the same country, and soon I will be living in her country. Is this done? My husband said that you can't write to a queen like you write to the president. Gentle Reader: The proper etiquette for writing to a queen is to refrain from offering her advice on how better to manage her family, livestock or country unless she has asked you for it. Presidents, in contrast, are the public servants of their constituents, and may be presumed to want to know how these people want the country run. But perhaps you only want to know the mechanics. The letter is addressed, on two lines, to: "Her Majesty/Queen Snow White III" or, in some countries, on three lines: "Her Majesty/Snow White III/Queen of the Forest."

Don’t Give Detractors Ammunition

Dear Miss Manners: Not long after my boyfriend and I started dating, his friends let him know that they did not think I would be good for him. I have since shown them to be wrong, since we are both happy together. Now we are getting married, and I resent the idea of allowing them to be a part of our celebration, although they remain my fiance's friends and I'm sure they will attend.