Q.A senior staff member of our organization has adopted the practice of hosting a pool party at his home every summer. These parties are deadly dull, with neither conversations nor activities of general interest.
Ours is a small organization (14 staff members), and the employes do not share common social interests. Each summer, more and more staff members offer polite excuses for being unable to attend. Alarmed by the high number of negative responses, the host has announced that this summer, he plans to take a new tack. He will circulate a list of possible party dates, so that each staff member can indicate when he is available, and then schedule the party on the date convenient for the majority.
Obviously, we cannot all be busy every weekend from now till September. If we are truthful and admit to being free on a particular date, what excuse can we give? No one wants to hurt this man's feelings, but everyone wants to avoid going to this party.
.A. Here is a pitiful example of what is wrong with the idea that businesses should be staffed by friends. The American tradition of entertaining, or being entertained by, the boss, has resulted in very little pleasure or productivity, compared to the amount of anxiety, boredom or remorse it produces.
Your poor old boss probably doesn't enjoy this any more than the staff does. He thinks he is doing this as a favor for all of you, and while you people are trying to spare his feelings, he is saying to his wife, "I know you hate it, but I can't disappoint the staff; they'd be so hurt."
Let us get everyone off the hook.
So that no individual should appear surly, send the boss a memo from the entire staff, thanking him for his generous hospitality, but explaining that family and other personal commitments make it impossible for you to be sure of keeping clear your off-hours recreation time. End on a note of thanks for the offer, with the deep regret that this results in insurmountable scheduling problems that make it impossible for you to take advantage of his kindness.
Miss Manners guarantees that your relief will be nothing compared to that of the boss' family. Q. On my way to work, as I drive past the entrance of the headquarters of an international organization, a guard always holds up his hand to stop any cars approaching from its garage. I consider this an extremely gracious, albeit extravagant, courtesy on the part of the organization in question.
I am an able-bodied 37-year-old man, however, capable of fending for myself in this situation, which is to say that the guard is doing me no real favor, compared to a doorman who opens a door for me at a hotel.
Should I give the guard an audible "thank you"? He is generally facing the other car as I pass, so a less formal nod of the head would be pointless.
Perhaps to make the situation clear, I should mention that a couple of the guards regularly given this duty, both male, attract me -- something I am loath to reveal for fear of causing embarrassment. Therefore, I do not want to appear overly friendly, yet do want to give them their proper due as capable (though, in my case, unneeded) service personnel.
I know the "affectional" aspect arises all the time between men and women, but I cannot recall a situation in which the service rendered is so superfluous. A. Clear? You call that clear? If you wish to know how to pick up a male guard on duty while driving past his building, for heaven's sake say so. Preferably to some other columnist.
Otherwise, Miss Manners fails to see what the guard's gender or personal qualities have to do with this, except that you should be careful not to drive into any walls while admiring them. Nor does able-bodiedness have anything whatsoever to do with traffic patterns or deferential courtesy, although Miss Manners is curious to know why, if you're so able-bodied, you need a doorman to open a door.
Yes, thanks are called for. The way to indicate gratitude for a road courtesy, if the other person will not be able to see the usual smiling nod or waved hand, is to call out "thanks" as you go by.