DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has the (bad) habit of “looking up” information regularly on his cellphone in the middle of conversations. (He looks up information relevant to the conversation topic.)
I’ve just gotten used to it when the two of us are alone, but at times he does it when we are out with others. I have told him I think this is extremely rude, especially because our companions must think he’s checking his email and ignoring them, and I have suggested that at the very least he explain, “You mentioned sweetbread recipes; I’m checking the ingredients.” But he won’t.
How should I behave when he does this? Stern looks have no effect. Should I make light of it and offer our companions an explanation: “Herbert is always looking up interesting facts”? Or do I just bite my tongue and let our companions feel insulted?
GENTLE READER: The former. If your husband won’t offer an excuse as to why he is checking his phone, then you may do so on his behalf. If you do it enough, perhaps he will start to do it himself.
But at the very least, you will feel better, and your companions will feel less slighted. You may tell Herbert from Miss Manners, however, what you and your friends already know: that disrupting the flow of conversation in the name of enhancing the conversation may actually be the death of conversation.
It’s OK to ask for rides
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 15-year-old son wishes to participate in an after-school activity that lets out at 4:30 p.m. My husband and I cannot always get to the school by 4:30 p.m. because of work.
A friend of his who lives down the road is participating, and I told my son he should see if he can hitch a ride home with his friend and walk home from his house.
He feels this is rude, and I cannot convince him otherwise. You are the final word. I offered to talk to the parents, but he thinks that, too, is rude.
Is it rude to ask your friend to ride home with him? Or for me to ask the parents this?
GENTLE READER: As long as you promise to avoid words like “hitch,” Miss Manners finds nothing rude in asking for a ride. Presumably it would be the parents of the other boy driving, so it is best for you to ask them directly: “On days that we aren’t able to get to the school on time, would it be all right if Harrison rode home with you and walked from there?”
Do not abuse the privilege and do offer to reciprocate, driving or doing other favors, wherever you can.
But Miss Manners urges you to check with your son if there are other reasons that he might not want to infringe on his friend. If it is truly good manners, Miss Manners is happy to reassure him. But if there is another reason, or he just prefers to be left to his own devices, that might be a conversation worth having, before you hear about it from an alternate source.
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.
© Universal Uclick 7/31