Dear Miss Manners:

Monday night I treated my son to his 30th birthday dinner. The tab was $300, and I had also brought along a $250 cabernet sauvignon.

During dinner, there was incessant squalling and crying from an infant parked in a baby carriage two booths away.

Granted, I am old-fashioned enough to think that if the little one cannot read the wine list, he should be left at home with a babysitter.

Admittedly, I am also tired of parents in undershirts carrying in their precious newborns (with umbilical cords still attached) in little baskets while I am eating dinner.

The only things to be carried in a basket in restaurants are rolls.

My wife and son thought my response to this situation was inappropriate and could have been handled differently: As the screaming infant and his daddy passed our booth on the way out, I yelled that the little snot had ruined my dinner.

My only concession to good taste is that I should have screamed at the father, rather than the infant. Your opinion please.

Miss Manners's opinion is the same as yours: that people who yell, scream and squall should be removed from restaurants (even reasonably priced ones). Evidently, your wife and son feel the same way about you.

Dear Miss Manners:

In March, two acquaintances will be getting married.

They have been my friends since high school and I wish to be respectful, but I have never had to respond to the niceties of a same-sex marriage before this and I find myself rather confused.

I had sent them individual greeting cards for the holiday season, one to "Mr. Smith" and one to "Mr. Jones."

Should I continue to send cards individually?

Or should I send one card to Mr. & Mr. Smith-Jones?

Or is there some other option that just isn't coming to mind?

Yes. Miss Manners cautions that one should never get so interested in the private aspect of people's lives as to overlook the obvious.

One card and two names on two lines -- "Mr. Smith/Mr. Jones" -- make one solution for all couples who have different surnames but live at the same address.

Dear Miss Manners:

I have noticed an increasing trend among chain retailers to interrogate their customers upon checkout or exiting the store, asking for receipts, photo ID, addresses and phone numbers.

When pressed for the reason this information is needed, store employees assure me that it is for my own protection or that I am not under any suspicion of shoplifting. Since I have no lack of advertisements sent to my home right now or marketing data collected on me, and since the stores have no legal right to demand much of this documentation, I would rather not oblige them.

Is there a polite way to say no to these requests? I know the employees are only doing the job they are ordered to do, and I hate to be rude, but they can become rather defensive and persistent.

Presuming that you are complying with reasonable, if ever-increasing, security measures in regard to checks, credit cards and unexplained bundles, Miss Manners assures you that there is nothing rude about declining to be interrogated.

You may say, "I'm sorry, I never give that information out," but soften it, if you wish, by adding, "It would be a waste of your money as you would only reach a telephone recording and I don't open advertising mail."

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)2003, Judith Martin