The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Office ladies’ room doesn’t need a monitor

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was in the ladies’ room today, and a woman who does not work in my office (but on our floor) walked out of the stall after having used the bathroom and didn’t use soap when washing her hands. She turned the water on, rinsed her fingers for maybe two seconds and turned the water off.

How should one react without being rude, yet hopefully nixing the behavior? I thought after the fact that I should have maybe said: “Oh, is that one out of soap? This one isn’t. Go right ahead.”

There are three sinks in this bathroom with soap dispensers at each. What would you suggest?

GENTLE READER: That you dry your hands and go back to work. Furthermore, Miss Manners suggests that you content yourself with resolving not to shake this person’s hand, and not try to police the bathroom.

You don’t know if the lady went into the booth merely to adjust her slip. You don’t know if she has hand sanitizer that she plans to use back at her desk. You don’t even know her, much less have jurisdiction over her behavior.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a restaurant where the first attempt at my meal was burned. When its replacement didn’t appear for another 45 minutes, I asked for the order to be canceled.

The people with me — who had already eaten all three courses of their meals! — were screaming at me (literally) that I couldn’t do that, as it was rude. Is it rude to cancel an order under those circumstances?

GENTLE READER: Strange things happen to people who patronize restaurants, Miss Manners has observed. They have etiquette panic attacks, out of fear that their servers may sneer at them.

And so they may, as do other workers who deal with the public. But it is only at restaurants that the patrons seem to care. Of course they should behave well at any business, but only restaurants frighten them.

You ordered a decently cooked meal to be delivered in reasonable time. When that expectation was not met, of course you could cancel the order. You would do so in dealing with any other business, and restaurants are businesses that sell meals.

There was ample evidence of rudeness at your table, however. It came from those well-fed people who screamed criticism at you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I receive a reply from an e-mail correspondent, I am often chagrined that — most of the time — I receive my original message back, in addition to the response.

I always make sure to delete what I have received before replying. Why return what I already know I have written? Is there any protocol concerning this?

GENTLE READER: It is true that to return a paper letter to its writer is considered an insult. In e-mail, however, it cannot be considered so, because that is the default form.

Mind you, Miss Manners understands that it can be annoying, especially when there are several exchanges and a trail of the entire correspondence keeps reappearing. But while she agrees that it would be tactful to delete what was sent, she asks you to acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary to leave a reminder of what is being answered. Not everyone remembers, and you will admit that this is an improvement over that awkward opening, “In regard to your letter of the 15th . . .

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site,

2014, by Judith Martin



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