Certain people, like certain wines, do not travel well. And since they may be delicious when enjoyed on their home territory, their travel companions may not find this out until it is too late to turn back.
Rather than attempting to reform the manners of people who are on vacation and therefore not paying attention, Miss Manners will attempt advance arbitration. The good travelers are to make some allowances for quirks and grumbling, if the bad travelers agree to observe some boundaries.
For example, good travelers figure out their wardrobes ahead of time, all fetchingly coordinated around one basic color, with items that can be dressed up or down for any weather or occasion. What is more, they get it all into one carry-on suitcase, leaving the outside pocket free for the one large (but paperback) book that will last them the entire vacation.
Bad travelers can't imagine what they will want to wear or read, and throw in everything they can get their hands on without having thought to clean the clothes or sample the book beforehand. The good companion does not make a fuss about this, but is not responsible for carrying the bag (although a nice companion will relent and volunteer rather than watch the bad traveler have a heart attack staggering under the resulting load).
The good traveler shows up for transportation with enough time to avoid either rushing or eating unwanted pre-trip meals just to pass the time. If the bad traveler is in the habit of cutting the time too close, the good traveler's schedule takes precedence. But a bad traveler who gets so nervous as to leave unnecessary hours ahead of time should be indulged, provided these hours occur within the day of departure. The only retaliation the good traveler takes is to point out -- once -- how unnecessary and boring it was to arrive so early.
The good traveler expects a certain amount of discomfort and inconvenience, and uses it to fashion funny stories. The bad traveler should be allowed only an occasional litany of complaints, and must otherwise be content with composing letters of outrage to those deemed responsible.
The good traveler has a general idea of how to spend the time, but is open to suggestion and serendipity. The bad traveler has a firm idea of what everyone should do to get the most out of the trip, and should be allowed to follow it without harassing others to come along.
All travelers will spend some time exclaiming over the prices, food and cleanliness of the place they are visiting. The difference is that the good traveler talks about something else every once in a while.
Dear Miss Manners:
At a recent dinner with my partner and friends, one of the friends took great umbrage that I left some rather nice pinot in my glass -- nowhere near full, I might add. He felt this was a major breach in etiquette.
Simple me, I figured dessert and sambuca had arrived and didn't want any more wine. Persnickety? Or bad table manners?
Never -- repeat, never -- accept etiquette instruction from someone who has his nose in your wine glass. Nor from someone whose message, however worded, amounts to "Oh, come on, another little drinkie won't hurt you." Should this happen again, Miss Manners recommends pushing the glass toward the offender and saying, "Oh, all right, you can have it."
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) 2004, Judith Martin