Miss Manners: A little forethought protects your dessert from interlopers

March 20, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Somehow I missed the memo that desserts in restaurants are a communal affair.

We are able to go out to dinner only on special occasions, and I limit my alcohol intake to be able to afford dessert. If I order soup, it will always come with one spoon, but the waitstaff almost always decides for me that my small, expensive dessert should come with a spoon for each person at the table.

I have had people take three or four bites while telling u about their co-workers who came in today with the start of a flu bug.

I am tempted to make a pre-emptive strike and tell the server that if he brings everyone a spoon, fine, just bring two desserts and I’ll take the second one off the tip, but I know this is not only rude, but also allows for who-knows-what to happen to the food before it is served. Do you have any suggestions for me?

GENTLE READER: Yes: Stop threatening the waitstaff, and not just because you suspect them capable of nasty reprisals. Although Miss Manners shares your dislike of the automatic assumption of sharing, a great many people do ask for extra spoons, and it is not a high crime to hope to save a trip.

However, she will protect you from sharing your goodie. Just make your pre-emptive strike a bit less harsh. You could say good-naturedly to the server, “Thank you, but I’m sure this is so good that I’ll want to devour it all,” and to your companions, “Does anyone else want to order one?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I visited a museum with my mother, we noticed other visitors taking photos of the exhibits with their cellphones. My mother and I were taught never to take photos in a museum, that it deprived the museum of its “product,” as it were, and could damage antiquities.

Is this no longer the case? The docents and guards did not correct the photographers, and no signs were posted prohibiting photography.

GENTLE READER: Ordinarily it scares Miss Manners to be asked if a rule is no longer in effect. What follows is usually the declaration that an act of basic decency, such as answering invitations or giving thanks for presents, is so frequently violated that people honestly think it must have been repealed.

So it is with relief that she is able to tell you that indeed, the rule against taking photographs in museums has changed. Those institutions that keep the ban, in order to retain control over reproductions or to respect that policy in regard to exhibitions on loan, will post signs.

But it is no longer the default rule, now that the danger of exploding flashbulbs has passed, with the development of fast, electronic cameras, including those in telephones.

However, the rule against confronting strangers is still in effect. Miss Manners does not want to discourage you from reporting overly enthusiastic museum-goers who may be cutting a painting from its frame or chipping a souvenir from an artifact, but such violations should be reported to a museum guard.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

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