DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have to reveal a pet peeve: Waiters and waitresses who ask questions of my dining party such as, “Are we ready to order?” and, “Did we save room for dessert?”
This inclusive questioning seems to occur at both casual and high-end restaurants. Do you agree that this is poor form? Is it appropriate to mention this annoyance to the server? I am a former waitress and a generous tipper!
GENTLE READER: That wait staff use odd phrases and strange terminology may unfortunately be a mandate coming from the establishment itself (or its focus groups), and not the individual.
Miss Manners supposes that the inclusive questioning you describe is in keeping with the unfortunate trend of servers attempting to be the customers’ friends, and not their temporary employees. She agrees that the tone is condescending and has the opposite effect.
However, as a former waitress, how would you have reacted to a patron’s pointing out these little annoyances — particularly if they are a job requirement? Please save your complaints for the bigger transgressions and try to endure.
Phrasing the invitation
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have become friendly at church with a gay couple who moved into the area. They have a 4-year-old child who is always with them at parties and events where they are in attendance.
I like this couple and want to invite them to my home. I entertain a lot and quite formally. Would it be rude to ask them not to bring their child?
GENTLE READER: Not if you phrase it correctly. “We would love to have the two of you over at a dinner party.” And they are properly referred to as “a couple,” not “a gay couple.”
If they balk at leaving their child, Miss Manners authorizes you to continue: “I’m afraid it won’t be interesting for Madeleine — and our house isn’t really equipped for a child. But you are new here, and I’m sure that we could help introduce you to some wonderful baby sitters in town.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable behavior for strangers to come up on a family in a park and take pictures on their phones of the children playing?
My sister-in-law just told me that twice now, she has had various people come up to their family gathering and start taking pictures of her children while they play.
This seems rude – am I wrong? My brother’s family is a large one, nine children, and they do play very energetically and creatively, but still, it seems weird. Since when!?
GENTLE READER: Since society decided that everyone wants free publicity.
Miss Manners begs to differ. While technically legal if it is done is in a public place, taking pictures of children that are not one’s own is extremely rude — and potentially dangerous.
Your sister-in-law would do well to stop these photographers by saying, “May I help you?” while blocking the shot and telling the children to go off and play. Perhaps their idea of play will be to exercise their own photographic rights by taking pictures of the offending strangers.
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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