DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work at a radiology imaging clinic. My supervisor has instructed all employees to be courteous with our patients and to try to encourage them to return for future testing.

I agree with him completely, but disagree with his method. He is sort of a folksy person who says to patients, “Come back and see us again” or “Hope to see you again” as they are leaving.

I told him I feel that sort of greeting is inappropriate, as many of our patients are seriously ill, and it seems like we are wishing them to have a future illness so we can get their business.

I prefer to say to them, “I hope you feel better” or “Have a nice day” as they leave. He says that will not encourage patients to return. Who is right?

GENTLE READER: Neither of you. “Have a nice day” isn’t charming, either, to someone laden with bad news.

Miss Manners always cautions against interpreting conventional phrases literally, but even she once reached her limit. It was when she was departing from a funeral, walking toward the church’s open doors where she could see her friend’s casket being lifted into a hearse, and one of the church volunteers cheerily wished her a nice day.

Please issue a straightforward reminder (“Have you scheduled a checkup appointment?”), and then say a pleasant goodbye.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a luncheon/fashion show put on by a local charity organization. The invitation stated socializing at 11 a.m., luncheon at 12.

At the appointed hour, we all found our assigned seats and waited for the luncheon service to begin. Instead, the emcee took to the dais and made her opening remarks. She introduced the dignitaries in attendance, thanked all the donors for their generous contributions and described the fashions that would be shown. This took about 30 minutes.

At last, thought my table companions and I, the food would arrive. But no, the next items on the agenda were testimonials from individuals who had been helped by the charities, followed by a presentation of the donated items to be raffled during the meal.

The food service finally began at 1:30. Since the invitation had indicated lunch at 12, was I wrong to expect it to be served at or near that time? Is it acceptable for the meal service to begin an hour and a half after guests are seated?

GENTLE READER: Only to those who are not rattled when they find themselves talking to an audience of hungry people who are gnawing on their napkins.

Planners of such events are always afraid that people will leave after they have been fed, so schedule the obligatory announcements before the food. In addition, many people find public speaking nerve-wracking, which can make them focus on their own performances to the exclusion of considering how to treat the audience.

Any lengthy announcements could have been made during the social hour, when the guests would be able to fortify themselves with drinks and to look forward to a prompt lunch.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

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