Dear Miss Manners: Is it rude not to get up and unlock/open the door for someone who lives in the house and is returning home?

It is not impolite to assume that those living in the house can, and will, admit themselves. It is impolite to ignore evidence that they cannot get in, or cannot do so easily or without mishap. Examples include torrential downpours, arms full of groceries or a knock on the door.

As a matter of familial harmony, Miss Manners also cautions against remaining on the couch, visible through the window, while your spouse struggles to find the keys.

Dear Miss Manners: My sister-in-law arranged a memorial service for her father, followed by a less formal "celebration of life."

I thought I'd allowed plenty of time for the drive, but things went wrong and a trip that should have taken an hour and a half ended up taking a brutal four hours. I was so late that I considered turning back, but I decided to power through it and make the best of it. Through sheer luck I was able to find the venue, arriving as guests had begun to leave the event.

I was glad I persevered; my sister-in-law seemed genuinely happy to see me, and the extended family stuck around for another couple of hours of reminiscing. I had no idea there was a problem until a few days later, when my sister-in-law called me in a rage. She was furious that I arrived late, and she went on to say terrible things about me and even made cruel remarks about my own departed father.

Obviously I should have left earlier, allowing for the inevitable disasters that can occur on a long drive. When a person, despite their best efforts, finds themselves late for an important occasion such as a wedding or funeral, what is the best way to proceed?

When outside factors intervene — traffic is snarled, planes are delayed, weather happens — lateness can be the result. It is natural to feel that the blame should be borne by the elements or entities that caused the delay.

Natural, but, Miss Manners points out, incorrect. Your host’s social contract is with you — not other drivers, an airline, or the climate. The best way — in fact, the only polite way — to proceed is to accept responsibility and apologize.

How emphatic an apology is required will depend on the seriousness of the occasion, the extent of the tardiness and the resultant impact on the event. Being late for the cocktails before dinner will require less groveling than leaving your bride waiting at the altar. Criminal courts differentiate between evidence given for the purpose of determining guilt and that given in mitigation at sentencing.

The cause of your lateness falls into the latter category: It is properly given after the apology, on the understanding that the hostess has less reason to be upset by a flat tire than by someone who never leaves sufficient time. But none of this excuses the subsequent rudeness by the hostess.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com.

2018, by Judith Martin