Q: I am annoyed when people board a public bus and begin to whistle. When asked to stop because it hurts my ears, they usually become even more rude and say I am just old and crabby and making this up.
This kind of shrill noise seems to bother me more than it ever used to when I was younger, and I think it has something to do with ringing in the ears (tinnitis), which I also get sometimes. I wonder if it has anything to do with diminishing connective tissue (bone to bone because padding is diminishing?).
A: Not being a doctor, Miss Manners cannot comment on your connective tissue. She can comment on your attempts to ride the bus in peace.
Medical excuses invite medical arguments. It would be far better to smile sweetly and ask your seatmate, as a kindness, if he would mind terribly not whistling.
Q: When I am with a friend or acquaintance and learn of the passing of a close family member or friend to that person, I am unsure how to respond.
I believe that saying “I’m sorry” in any form is wrong. Even “I’m sorry to hear of your loss,” or phrases of that nature seem to strike the wrong chord. Yet I want very much to express my sympathy in a familiar, non-formal, heartfelt way. Am I wrong?
A: The desire to be familiar, non-formal and heartfelt in expressing condolences is one Miss Manners has heard before. She is grateful you did not also ask to be original.
Being “heartfelt” is a matter of tone and bearing more than of words, and it is hard to imagine a more familiar interaction than expressing sorrow over the death of a loved one.
Why you wish to be informal, Miss Manners cannot fathom. The reason there are a small number of well-worn phrases to express your sympathy in such cases is so that you will avoid the temptation, in an emotional moment, to chose one of the large number of unintentionally hurtful phrases (such as “It was for the best,” “You’ll work through this,” and even “You’ll have other children”) that purport to comfort, but actually belittle the grief.
Q: A recent family bridal shower at a lovely restaurant unfortunately deteriorated to the verge of a total meltdown in terms of non-performance by the catering staff.
The hostess and mother of the bride leapt into action, seeing to the needs of their guests, and also entreated the maid of honor to help by offering punch to the by-now parched guests.
She flatly refused, stating this was servants’ work. What say you, dear mentor?
A: That it is too bad the bride did not choose a maid of honor who had a sense of honor.
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.