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Miss Manners: I criticized cruises in front of a friend about to take one

by Staff

Dear Miss Manners: We were meeting up with longtime friends. Discussing types of vacations, I expressed some concerns about cruises — specifically the effect they have on the environment in places with fragile ecosystems.

That’s when my friend told us that she and her husband were going on a cruise to Antarctica. Yikes! I fear I have offended her with a holier-than-thou attitude. How do I fix this? What should I have done?

How refreshing that you would not rather make it worse, in the name of Truth or Principles or Just Generally Making People Feel Bad.

The only way to handle this, Miss Manners fears, is to move on — quickly and with an enthusiastic: “Oh, that sounds wonderful. You’re going to have so much fun!” The inconsistency is unimportant, and an extended apology really would make things worse.

Dear Miss Manners: I have a condition that requires medical providers to visit my apartment at least twice per week. I also have badly functioning knees due to a life of significant clumsiness.

When I’m expecting providers, I leave the door unlocked, having instructed them to knock, enter and call “yoo-hoo,” so I need not leap up and slowly limp to the door to open it for them. This saves my knees a considerable amount of grief and means I don’t need to lurk near the door to be ready for their arrival. Arrival times naturally vary based upon traffic and how quickly the appointments with the prior patients have gone.

Am I being rude or inappropriate? Also, because their arrival may coincide with my lunch, I frequently keep eating, especially when the visit is simply a delivery of supplies (as opposed to visits from the nurse, who does need my cooperation). Is it wrong to continue to eat while we chitchat?

Rules of social etiquette apply to social situations — not the ones you are describing, which Miss Manners sees broadly as the provision of medical care. Think of the parallel situation: If you were in a hospital room, you would acknowledge all caregivers, and thank the person who brings your meal. But you would not hop to your feet or offer to share your food.

Dear Miss Manners: When you check out at a grocery store, bank, gas station, coffee shop, etc., the employee will often say: “What are your plans for today? Doing anything special?”

Because I don’t know them and they aren’t my friends, I’m at a loss as to how to reply. Why would I share this personal info with a stranger? I usually respond with “not much.” A friend of mine is so fed up, she replies, “I’m getting a divorce,” which really shuts them up.

While agreeing that such questions are intrusive, Miss Manners reminds everyone that one offense does not justify another. What we can call your friend’s educational response pushes the boundaries, being acceptable only if delivered in a way that is clearly a jest. That requires, at the least, eye contact and a friendly smile. A less risky answer would be, “More errands!”

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. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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