Dear Miss Manners:
Can you please explain the rules regarding the holding open of elevator doors while would-be passengers hurl themselves across the lobby, shouting "Hold the elevator"?
I am talking specifically of a six-story building with a bank of three elevators, so it's not as if another one wouldn't soon be available to any people who miss the elevator in which I'm trying to ride. Why, indeed, would these people then feel that their time is more valuable than mine, and that I should wait with the Door Open button pressed, for them to arrive into the elevator car?
Typically, I press down on the Door Close button and pretend to be oblivious to their requests. This usually works, and I can ride the elevator in peace, but a co-worker of mine considers this frightfully rude.
It is. Whatever the reality of the situation, people think of elevators as they do romances. They can tell themselves that it is not a tragedy to miss one, because another will be there soon, but when they have begged and yet been deserted, that sequel seems sadly problematical.
If you must continue to slam the doors in your neighbors' or colleagues' faces, Miss Manners requests you to shoot a frantically helpless look at whomever is left behind, telegraphing that you are not swift enough to locate the Door Open button in time.
Dear Miss Manners:
Must tradition dictate what is good manners and what is not? Tradition dictates that British barristers wear white wigs. And that is fine and is good manners for them. (But, as I recall, there is a movement afoot to change that.)
It seems to me that there are times when what tradition calls good manners and what is common sense do not go together and are wasteful.
"No menu, no carryout." That's what my wife and son say about my asking for a container to take home good food I can't consume at our "formal" dinners. By formal I mean suit and neckties for the men, and maybe long gowns for the ladies.
These dinners are in large hotel ballrooms, and we have as many as 500 attending. When we pay $45 per ticket and a serving of delicious steak covers half a plate, it really pains me to think of sending half or more of it back into the trash. (Unserved food in the kitchen is donated to good causes, but not food from used plates.)
So why is it wrong to ask for a carryout box and have two or more good meals later at home? All such institutions have stacks of these containers as a matter of daily business. Okay, I could take a sealable plastic bag the size of my side pocket and unobtrusively take care of it myself. How about that?
You made a tactical error here in discounting tradition, Miss Manners is afraid. Ancient tradition would have been on your side. At Roman banquets, guests were given the extra food to take home.
That is fine for them, as you graciously concede about those wigs, although it would be unnerving to encounter a bewigged official in an American courtroom. Context counts.
It is also fine for you to request the leftovers when you are buying yourself dinner out. It is when you are out socially that you are supposed to pretend that the food is so much less important than present company that you don't dwell on its future.
Besides, your wife does not want to dance with someone who has a soggy pocket.
Dear Miss Manners:
What am I to do when acquaintances (sometimes people to whom I have just been introduced at a party) ask me if I am married and then proceed to grill me on the reasons that I am not? They invariably pronounce me too attractive, bright, etc., not to be married, and I am really stymied as to an appropriate response. Actually, I have a few thoughts, but I know you would not approve.
Some people have trouble learning that it is the meat that is supposed to be grilled at parties, not the guests. Miss Manners would probably not approve of what you are considering, but she would allow you to listen to all that nonsense without comment and then say, "But enough about me. Now tell me about your love life."
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c)2002, Judith Martin