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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dear Miss Manners:

My apartment is part of a large complex in a busy metropolitan area. Signs posted near the exterior doors indicate that each person entering should use his or her own key to ensure that nonresidents do not enter.

It seems unbearably rude, however, to let the door slam shut behind me when another person is following just after me or a few seconds away. An apology or apologetic look seems insufficient for "Can't hold the door, you might be a criminal." Yet I imagine that following a polite person is precisely how an unauthorized mischief-maker might enter the building. I worry about this every day on my way home. Miss Manners, what should I do?

Work on your apologetic look. You should appear to be horribly torn between your duty to obey the rules of the building and your duty to obey the normal courtesy of holding a door for someone behind you.

Miss Manners realizes that you actually are torn, or you wouldn't have written. But one must dramatize.

Turn around to face the other person, rather than walking away in front of the closing door. Draw your eyebrows together, open your mouth slightly, and hold out your hands helplessly. Then shake your head sadly.

Should the person produce a key and enter, you will be able to say, "Terribly sorry, I was just following the house rules." If no key is produced, you may consider that it is not rude to turn away an intruder.

Dear Miss Manners:

Just before serving our entrees, the waiter at a lovely French restaurant placed a utensil I'd never seen before where the dessert fork and spoon usually go. It looked like a flat soup spoon and had a notch on one side. Can you tell me what it is?

It's a sauce spoon. The French are proud of their sauces and tired of watching people use bread as mops, so they gave the world this invention.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) atMissManners@unitedmedia.comor mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2007Judith Martin


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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