Q: I have started wearing a hearing aid, which has raised some new etiquette challenges. I use an app on my phone to control the way the hearing aid processes sound – for example, adjusting for loud environments or traffic noises.
Talking to others almost always involves changing the settings on my phone. With friends, I usually tell them what I’m doing, but what about in a meeting, when there are, say, eight people in the room?
I don’t want to look like one of those people who are checking email when they should be listening, but I need to use the phone to adjust the hearing aid at the start of the meeting. Can I just do this as quickly as possible and put the phone away, or do I need to explain what I’m up to?
A: Be careful about chastising that rude person checking email, as he will angrily tell you that he is waiting for important test results, or news about a dying loved one, or is comforting a depressed friend. Everyone has a medical excuse for everything.
You differ both in having a legitimate one and, of equal interest to Miss Manners, still being concerned that you are not being rude to others. Make your adjustment as the meeting begins – without explanation – and then quickly and deliberately put away the phone. Everyone will think, incorrectly, that you were doing the politest thing of all: turning it off so that you can pay attention to the speaker.
Q: I am wondering what your take is about the occasional news reader, on air, speaking of President Obama as Mr. Obama. It always seems to me to be a case of disrespect.
A: Actually, “Mr.” is a term of respect in America, and one that is used correctly as direct formal address to a president of the United States: “Mr. President.”
In setting this precedent, the idea was simple dignity, befitting a republic, in contrast to the grandiose titles of royalty and nobility.
However, even that is not simple enough for many politicians, who may encourage the use of their first names and nicknames. That is going too far for Miss Manners’ taste, but she cannot call the term “Mr.” disrespectful.
Q: I work as a paraprofessional in a classroom. The teacher I work with has been very nasty to me and the other assistant in the classroom. She has been spoken to on many occasions by a supervisor, but continues to be rude.
She is retiring and did not even tell us. We heard it through the grapevine. Are we obligated to give a retirement party, or should we attend if one is planned for her?
A: As you are neither her supervisor nor her friend, you are not obliged to throw a retirement party. But not attending the retirement party of a close professional colleague is a deliberate slight. Miss Manners has no objection to your claiming to be unaware of the news until told officially, but she doubts this will extend all the way to the party.
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.