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Miss Manners: Landscaper is always finding clients’ hidden house keys

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I work on landscaping and grounds maintenance projects. On many occasions, I have encountered hidden house keys — under the mat, beneath a flowerpot and so forth.

Should I mention my discoveries to the owners? It seems awkward to say, “I know where your keys are hidden.”

The only reason Miss Manners can think of for mentioning it is if there is a problem with returning it to its original location — for example, if the flowerpot is now broken, and the key is lying exposed on the front porch, or if the owner just had you remove the flora that had served as a hiding spot.

She agrees that “I know where your keys are hidden” is not a good way to foster trust. Far better would be, “It worried me that this was in plain sight, and I wasn’t sure what you would like done with it.”

Dear Miss Manners: I have been diagnosed with a common ailment, but my body does not respond to the standard treatment. I must be very careful about what and when I eat. I am under a doctor’s care.

Close friends have been accommodating, but in less familiar social situations, I find my lack of indulgence brings a spate of unwanted medical advice — this, after demurely mentioning the name of the condition when pressed. I’m offered the names of “better” doctors, pharmaceuticals that cured Aunt Gertrude, behavioral advice (apparently I need to “get tough” with my doctor) and more.

What is a polite way to end this talk and turn the conversation to pleasanter topics?

Naming your medical condition, Miss Manners notes without satisfaction but also without surprise, made things worse. Stop supplying ammunition.

Instead, try for the following exchange when offered something you cannot eat.

“Would you like some?”

“Thank you, no.”

“It’s really good; you should try it.”

“I'm sure it is, thank you, but no.”

“You’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t have any.”

“I certainly hope not — you have been such an attentive host.”

“Then you’ll have some?”

“Thank you, no.”

Eventually, the well will run dry.

Dear Miss Manners: What should an invitee do when an RSVP date is approaching, and they are still not positive they can accept the invitation?

This has happened to me on occasion, due to unusual circumstances. Should I go ahead and decline, even though I would love to attend? Or perhaps call the host and explain the circumstances?

Please, oh please, oh please, do not call and explain the circumstances.

Your host has offered to entertain and/or feed you. Does it seem right to reciprocate by adding to their worries (not knowing how much food to buy or whether to invite another guest)?

The proper course of action is to decline politely. Once you have done that, Miss Manners raises no objection to a short explanation: “We would have loved to come to the party, but unfortunately we are still waiting for the hospital to schedule George’s surgery.” This leaves the decision about whether to replace you, or to extend the deadline, where it belongs: in the hands of the hosts.

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

© 2023 Judith Martin