Many things in life are worth waiting for, but not all that long. Miss Manners would put a time limit on how long one should wait for salespeople to finish their conversations with each other before writing up one's order, or for a spouse who has departed with someone else to realize what a terrible mistake that was.

Nevertheless, waiting is now in a class with working as a popular pastime. A waitologist has estimated that the average adult spends one-tenth of his or her waking time waiting, at a minimum. There are waits for buses, banks, stores, theaters, gas stations, court cases, elevators, driver's licenses and dentist appointments.

One could easily pass one's life enduring just such basic waits. But there are also intermediary waits, such as waiting for the rain to stop, and advanced waits, such as waiting for your ship to come in. Some of these go in fashions. There was a time when all of America was waiting for a television camera to come along and ask it to tell the world what it thinks.

It is the elementary, and comparatively short-term wait with which Miss Manners is concerned at the moment. If you want to hear about the others, you will just have to wait.

There are correct ways to wait and correct ways not to wait, as well as incorrect ways to wait and incorrect ways not to wait.

For example, it is perfectly correct, although not many people realize it, to refuse to wait on the telephone. When Miss Manners is asked, "Can you hold on for a minute?" she often replies, "No," and it is too bad that the person on the other end ties up his own line by putting her on hold anyway, because that person has not waited for Miss Manner's reply.

One should also refuse to wait for inefficient or indefinite service. A restaurant should be able to tell you how long the wait will be, and a service person should not keep you waiting except to attend a previous customer.

It is rude to refuse to wait by announcing that one's needs take precedence over those of other waiting people. Miss Manners can think of no circumstances in which a person transacting the ordinary business of life cann plead with legitimacy that it is more outrageous to expect him to wait than to expect it of others. "Let me go through, please -- I'm in labor," perhaps perhaps, but then what are you doing at the stockings sale, anyway?

The only polite way to wait, if one must do so, is to bring one's own portable work or amusement. An unoccupied person waiting in line is by definition a potential raving maniac. A nice Jane Austen novel ready-to-go has preserved even the naturally tranquil spirits of Miss Manners. Even using conversation as a means to pass the time is dangerous, in Miss Manners' opinion. Two people quietly discussing what it is to have to wait are, by that same definition, a potential mob.


Q. I found five milligrams of a drug in my daughters' pocketbook. What should i do?

A. Miss Manners does not doubt for a minute that what you want to do is to have a full-scale parental fit, combined with equal parts of threats, pleas and dire warnings. Such exhibitions are not always effective, but one should spare no energy or drama where one's children are concerned.

But Miss Manners also knows why you hesitate. You are afraid of a counter charge from your daughter, undermining your righteous rage with the perfectly valid point that you were rummaging around without authorization in her pocketbook.

Your action is indeed, a social crime. If you had found nothing amiss, but had been caught snooping, you would be in deep moral trouble with your daughter.

However, you are, instead, in the position of a government that has violated diplomatic immunity in order to search the diplomatic pouch of a foreign power. dWhen smuggled items are actualy discovered, the issue of what right there was to search is dropped. Go ahead and have your fit.

Q. Why don't people say who they are when they telephone? They used to, and I miss it. I suffer confusion and boringly wasted time at the office because only two out of 100 callers say "Hello, this is Ms. Muffin" or "This is Tom; is Jim there?" Please make them do better.

A. All right, but Miss Manners does wonder why you are wasting so much time with people who don't seem to be calling you in the first place. Why not just pass them on? But if they are indeed addressing their troubles to you anonymously, you may ask them, "To whom do I have the honor of speaking?" or, in the vernacular, "Who are you anyway?"

Q. I'm in a bind as to how I can suggest to the parents of my future son-in-law that if they want an open bar type of cocktail hour before dinner, they should spend for it. They are quite able to do this financially. My husband could pay for it, but we agree that we should not have to spend for something we don't like, especially since it is quite unnecessary. We do not drink, and neither does my famiy. I was thinking of serving a punch or beer.

A. It is unfortunate that in weddings, as in divorces, money is often used as a weapon when hostilities have nothing to with cost. In this case, you say there really is no financial problem in paying for the drinks. Why, then do you wish to stick the other family with a bill for an occasion for which you are the hosts?

The answer is that you don't like having to entertain people who drink. This is clear when you say that there is no need for liquor because your family does not drink-as if you were not equally obliged to be hospitable to the family into which your daughter is marrying.

If your convictions prevented you from presiding at an event where liquor is served, Miss Manners would support you in explaining politely to the other set of parents that you could not violate this policy. However, you have made it clear, by bringing up the matter of money, that this is not the case.

And Miss Manners is afraid that it is too late to pretend that it is: You should have thought of that earlier. Allowing some of your guests to drink but refusing to pay for it cannot be passed off as a moral position.