Q: When arriving at someone’s door, how many times should you knock?
A: It is considered courteous to stop knocking as someone’s face appears at the door.
Q: At a very high-end restaurant, my fiance and I, who had a reservation, were seated far in the back near the desk where waiters run checks.
I asked the hostess if we could sit somewhere else. She said that there was nothing available but that we were welcome to wait at the bar until a new table opened up.
I said OK, and we waited for about 10 minutes at the bar until we were able to be seated somewhere much nicer.
I found out later that my fiance was mortified that I had even asked. Was this rude? I felt that if we were going to spend a large amount of money, I would like to be seated somewhere comfortable. I did not cause a scene or demand to be seated immediately.
A: Presuming that the food agreed with you, you have nothing to feel bad about.
If you are paying for a service, you should ask politely that it be to your liking, and this was a reasonable request that the staff could easily accommodate. A good restaurateur would prefer to accommodate you than to let you go away in dissatisfied silence. Besides, you probably ran up a nice bar tab while you were waiting.
If the hostess showed no objection, then Miss Manners assures you that your fiance should not either. Perhaps he should save his mortification for any untoward dinner conversation.
Q: I was invited to lunch by someone I did not really know, and during the luncheon, I realized that I had little in common with the person, and in fact did not like them much.
But I grew up with the understanding that if someone invites you to a social event, you are then obligated to reciprocate and invite that person to a similar occasion.
If this is still protocol, what does a person do when s/he finds out that they do not actually like the person who first invited them? Hosting a social event is not inexpensive, and I am on a limited budget.
Are there other options? Of course I mailed a formal handwritten thank-you after the affair; I also contributed a dish to the meal.
A: While it is generally polite to reciprocate social events, doing it precisely in kind is not necessary (it is only when the entertaining becomes completely one-sided that Miss Manners objects). It is not required if you do not enjoy the person’s company, and your host may be equally relieved to bring the acquaintance to a graceful end.
A handwritten thank-you is enough. Any social repercussions — not being issued further invitations by this person — will, in this case, accomplish the desired result. Besides, by providing food, you fulfilled a hostly function yourself.
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.