Are you in a hurry?
Miss Manners doesn't have time to hear about it.
That's ungracious, isn't it? Actually, Miss Manners is never so busy that she will not take the time to assist and comfort anyone in distress.
But one reason that she does have the leisure for important things -- and there, there, she does consider nearly all your problems important, including your nervousness and exhaustion from being over-booked -- is that she does not waste time belaboring the obvious.
It is obvious to her that each of us has the same number of hours in every day and roughly equivalent claims on our attention. If the second require more time than the first, you are in trouble.
But under normal circumstances, it is not a problem that allows you to impose upon the indulgence of other people.
Those who shove into crowds shouting, "Let me through; I'm in a hurry" do not, as it happens, inspire those elbowed out of the way to muse sympathetically, "Well, gee, I don't have anything special to do, so let me stand back."
The fact is that everyone considers himself in a special hurry when performing the ordinary time-consuming chores of life. The person who claims urgency had better have a good reason, preferably one which will be borne out by the subsequent arrival on the scene of a team of paramedics.
Otherwise, any behavior circumventing the natural system of crowds, in which precedence is accorded strictly by time put in waiting -- sometimes known as "First come first served" -- is rude.
It is equally rude to claim exemption from the ordinary duties of life on the grounds that one's schedule is especially demanding. Those who have no time to thank anyone should agree not to take presents or favors; those who have no time for reciprocating invitations should not accept them.
Miss Manners tries very hard to believe that people are not intentionally so selfish. But they do have a tendency to sympathize more with their own difficulties than they do with other people's.
And there is a widespread illusion that things can be accomplished more efficiently than is really possible. If you run yellow lights, you will eventually hit a red one -- if not anything more serious -- and have to stop anyway; if you keep changing lanes constantly, breaking in ahead of one car after another, you will probably experience the delays as well as the advances of all the lanes.
Trying to meet a dozen new people at a party, rather than troubling to talk at some length to one or two, is not likely to result in new friendships. Juggling three telephone calls simultaneously encourages being hanged up on, rather than additional communication.
Miss Manners is convinced that life will move just as fast, or as inevitably slowly, if you observe the basic decencies:
If there is a line, get in it and wait.
If there is a crowd with no formal line, such as at a bus stop -- where the European system of queuing up is a great deal more sensible than ours -- try and take your fair turn anyway.
When attempting to enter a place a crowd is leaving, let people get out first and keep to the right.
And so on. Yes, Miss Manners is aware that impatience wells up in you until it amounts almost to fury. But pushing ahead is generally futile and always rude.
For that reason, the well-bred person never goes about his business without either a book or some thoughts to keep him company so that he may have a semblance of acceptance while enduring the inevitable waiting periods of life.
Q. What do you think of the intensely loud music played at wedding receptions? For several years, my family and I have attended impressive church ceremonies, solemn in the sense of being sacred, followed by receptions where we are subjected to deafening music, if one can call it music.
There should be soft, pleasant background accompaniment to the festivities instead of their being dominated by rock sessions.
A. What's that again? Miss Manners can't hear you with all the noise.
A wedding reception is a party, not part of the solemn ceremony, and one can argue that whatever music the bridal party and guests enjoy may be played. But that is only if care is taken that no part of the arrangements should actually make any of the guests uncomfortable.
Young people sometimes fail to appreciate how offensive loud rock is to those of us who still have our hearing. Miss Manners certainly agrees that guests of all generations must be considered, not just the bridal party's contemporaries, and that therefore a quiet zone must be provided for those who cannot take the noise.