February 26, 2024
Plus: I resisted making a snappy reply to the nosy women at the checkout.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When is it acceptable to ask for a different table when being seated at a restaurant?

My husband and I have a favorite restaurant, which does not take reservations. In the past month, we have been seated once by the restrooms and once by the kitchen.

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The second time, I politely asked the hostess if we could have another table, and she gracefully complied. I thanked her profusely and made sure to leave a good tip for our waiter. The restaurant was busy, but there were plenty of open tables and no waiting time, so I didn’t feel I was being unreasonable.

My husband was upset and told me I shouldn’t have asked to be seated elsewhere. He sulked for a good part of the meal.

This has happened before, and while I will sometimes accept the seating to avoid an argument, it often makes the meal less appetizing for me. The nearness to a restroom and its accompanying traffic and smells is unpleasant, and if there are open seats elsewhere, I will ask to be reseated.

Am I wrong to do so? I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

GENTLE READER: But your husband will not. The etiquette problem here is not the seating, but the sulking.

He has made the common mistake of believing that a restaurant is something more than a commercial establishment, which benefits from satisfying its customers. In your case, especially, as you are regular customers, the opportunity to please you by making a simple adjustment should be welcome — as it apparently was.

Miss Manners is aware that restaurants have their share of rude customers, who behave as if the kitchen staff were their personal chefs and reprimand the staff as if they were their own (mistreated) servants. But you are not one of them.

Your husband, however, mistakes restaurateurs for social hosts, whom it would be rude to criticize. Specifically, he is thinking of the mean sort of social hosts, who make a hobby of snickering at everyone’s table manners.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: While shopping, I saw that my favorite bar soap was on sale at a shelf-clearing price. I loaded up my cart with rhapsodic thoughts of not having to buy soap for quite some time, and stood in line at the cash register.

Two very elderly ladies looked at my soap haul and one of them exclaimed, “You couldn’t possibly be that dirty!”

I then noticed that their cart was brimming over with rolls and rolls of toilet paper. I was tempted — oh, boy, was I tempted — to respond that they couldn’t possibly be that full of … but instead counted to 10 and simply smiled as sweetly as I could muster.

Do you admire my restraint, Miss Manners?

GENTLE READER: Immensely.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know it is customary to still send a gift to a couple getting married when you are unable to attend the event. Does the same custom include other types of parties, like graduations or retirements?

GENTLE READER: No, it is not customary, even for weddings. Miss Manners doesn’t want to ruin anyone’s fundraising projects, but only congratulations and best wishes are required.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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