DEAR MISS MANNERS: Living in a small town, I often have the occasion to negotiate a four-way stop. The rules are simple: First person stopped has the right of way; if two or more stop at the same time, yield to the person on the right.
However, more often than not, I see the person with the right of way wave a different car through the intersection. When I’ve asked people why, they say they do it out of politeness.
To me, this does not seem like a question of manners but simply following traffic laws. Once a “polite” person waves a car through, there’s confusion as to who goes next and/or you have multiple drivers trying to wave other cars through. It is so much more efficient when everyone just obeys the laws.
GENTLE READER: Refreshing as it is to hear about drivers who wish to make the world a more polite place, Miss Manners agrees that this is not the place to start. Right-of-way laws exist to ensure not just efficiency, but also safety, in situations where the consequences of miscommunication can be dire.
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Drivers can express their polite feelings under such circumstances by refraining from unnecessary honking, cutting in line and other such forms of automotive self-expression.
Rules for fundraising
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m in the process of starting a not-for-profit organization, and I am wondering what is the polite way to solicit donations for such an organization. I don’t want to become the person who is always asking for money, but I also don’t want the organization to suffer from me being overly shy.
GENTLE READER: As your question warms Miss Manners’ heart, she will answer it without dwelling on her suspicion that you are not cut out for a career in fundraising. Shyness about asking others for money is a rare and admirable trait.
Fundraising is a legitimate activity, as long as it is not done under false pretenses (which means to unsuspecting persons at unrelated events like family birthday parties) or to excess (which means after the would-be donor has expressed a desire not to be solicited again).
The key is to interest people in the cause, not to shame them into paying. Think of yourself as an ambassador and remind yourself not to be a zealot.
OMG, your mother died!
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Am I completely out of touch, or is it now acceptable to send a message of condolence via text?
My mother passed away recently, and a couple of my friends, one of whom I have known for over 30 years, sent me messages of condolence via text. OMG, your mother died!
Seriously? She’s my mother, not my favorite plant. Although one of the messages was nice, I honestly cannot recall what it said because I was so hurt that I promptly deleted it.
Is it ever appropriate to send a condolence message via text or email?
GENTLE READER: The advent of new technologies has not changed the fact that the proper way to recognize a death is in a handwritten letter. Supplemental expressions of sympathy — for example, a telephone call to a friend who lives some distance away and a condolence visit to someone nearby — are also welcome.
Miss Manners notes that the increasing rarity of letter-writing makes the effort more special today, as it shows a level of sympathy beyond what can be expressed in unpunctuated acronyms.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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