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Miss Manners: How to respond when friends take calls in front of you

Dear Miss Manners: I was invited to lunch by a friend who, partway through the meal, took a phone call. It was an extended conversation. She was seated facing into the restaurant, while I was facing only her; I had to sit there and stare straight ahead, waiting for her to complete the conversation.

Another time, I was invited to lunch at a friend’s home. She, too, took a phone call and had a long conversation, as I sat there patiently and awkwardly, waiting for her to end the call.

What is a proper and courteous response for me in these situations? Shall I just consider that two different friends consider me a dull companion, even though they invited me voluntarily?

Why would you feel better about this if you knew that your friends found you dull?

Never mind. The problem is that they are not thinking of you at all. Although Miss Manners does not condone returning rudeness for rudeness, she would understand your resorting to your own phone for companionship, with the justification that there is an unstated, but mutual, agreement that study hour has begun. Etiquette would see no difference if, instead of a phone, you produced a book — but your friends undoubtedly, if irrationally, would.

Dear Miss Manners: I have noticed that many “unisex” toilets are simply men’s rooms with a new sign on the door. Inside, it contains all the normal accoutrements of any men’s room, including urinals.

Is it proper for a man to use the urinal, assuming it to be in full working order, if that is all that he needs to accomplish his purpose? Does it make a difference if the bathroom is designed for single occupancy, i.e., if there is a lock to keep others out?

Supplied plumbing is there to be used, a point that Miss Manners does not intend to police no matter how many, or how few, other people are in the room. But she does recommend locking the door.

Dear Miss Manners: Sometime over the summer, I noticed my next-door neighbor had cooled toward me. We weren’t close friends before that, but she seemed to arbitrarily decide to avoid me. I figured I offended her, but I did not know how.

Then I recalled a gossipy remark about her I made to someone else that she could have overheard. I don’t know for certain that she did, but it was something I would never want anyone to overhear.

Should I acknowledge that I hurt her feelings and apologize? Incidentally, I would have no expectation of forgiveness.

Is it not also possible that her behavior is either unintentional or motivated by something else?

Miss Manners asks, because she worries that your proposed course of action might alert the neighbor to a cause for offense of which she was not previously aware. Better to seek her out in a friendly way and wait for a definite indication that she is offended before asking why and seeking forgiveness.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2022, by Judith Martin

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