DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I’m asked to wait in an office setting or while waiting in someone’s home, is it rude of me to get up and look at paintings on the wall or book spines on a book shelf (not touching or opening the books) in the room where I was instructed to wait?
GENTLE READER: If you have had the opportunity to go on the public tours of the White House, a state governor’s mansion or the receiving rooms of royalty, enthroned or dethroned, you will no doubt have discerned a pattern in the decoration. There is a definite bias toward displays that make the owner look magnificent, munificent, omniscient or occasionally omnivorous. Whether the state treasury could spring for Berninis and Michelangelos, or had to settle for maps showing territorial boundaries of dubious legality, it was the owner’s fondest hope that his guests, subjects or clients would look around.
Miss Manners has no objection, even if modern hosts are limited to showing off the books they have read, the schools they have attended or the celebrities with whom they have been photographed. She would, however, refrain from pointing out that the painting attributed to “Titian” is merely “school of.”
Sorry text messages
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it ever good manners to apologize for a wrongdoing via a text message? Maybe I am set in my ways, but I think a personal phone call would have been more sincere.
GENTLE READER: How wrong? In the example you have in mind, did the offender break your bathroom glass or wreck your car?
The apology scale goes from texting, at the bottom, to calling, to hand-writing a letter, to wailing, to holding a weepy press conference.
Miss Manners regrets that there is no such thing as a sincerity detector test, so the rule is the greater the wrongdoing, the more labor-intensive the apology.
Thanks for the thanks
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I worked on Thanksgiving, and as a small thank-you my boss left me a card and a $25 gift card. She has no idea how difficult things have been for me lately and how much it meant, not only to be appreciated on the holiday, but also how much the gift card will help me with things.
Since her card to me was essentially a thank you, how do I respond? Do I write her one back, or do I thank her in person when she returns from her holiday time off?
GENTLE READER: Wouldn’t she have a better idea of how much this meant if you wrote her?
Because this is more like a bonus than a present, Miss Manners does not insist on a letter. But she is glad that you realize that it does require thanks. A letter of thanks need not be answered, but when the expression of gratitude includes actual items, it requires thanks.
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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