Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should one do when people meet-and-greet at the buffet table, becoming absorbed in conversation with each other and standing there, keeping others from getting at the food? I’ve even seen them stand around and graze off the buffet while they gab, oblivious to the starving multitudes who can’t get past them.

Short of carrying a sandwich in my pocket, how is this impasse to be handled? It’s usually obvious that the host intended that people would fill plates and take them to another room to eat, but a lot of people don’t seem to get that.

GENTLE READER: In the days before e-commerce, electronic supermarket checkout and online vehicle registration, standing in line was a daily activity. While this was not an enjoyable reality, it did mean that people maintained a sense of proportion about what constituted a national crisis rather than merely an inconvenience. The behavior you describe is inconsiderate. But it can be addressed with two words: “Excuse me.” Miss Manners is confident that will be sufficient to avoid mass extinction due to starvation.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it a breach of politeness to write “handwritten” cards on my phone?

There’s this mobile app that allows me to use my finger or a stylus to write a personal note, attach some photos, and then the card is printed out and sent from some printing shop. No one who’s received them has complained, and I’m saved the trouble of buying cards and a trip to the post office, but I’m wondering if there’s something I’m missing out on.

GENTLE READER: No doubt some entrepreneur somewhere is working on a site that will allow you to “pen” love letters without the trouble of knowing anything about the object of your affections, after which they will be printed on heavy stock at a remote location, dipped in a user-selected perfume, and airlifted to the recipient’s front door. Unless you are adept at calligraphy, what makes a handwritten note special is not the penmanship, but the appearance of effort. If your app can simulate that convincingly, Miss Manners makes no objection, although what you describe sounds more like the preprinted cards one finds in the pharmacy next to the balloons.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She accepted. After a year and a half, she called it quits. She gave the ring back.

Would it be proper to give this same ring to someone else when the time comes, and do I tell that someone about this?

GENTLE READER: Unless you can truthfully claim that the ring is a family heirloom, there is no good way to explain what you intend to the new love of your life. And Miss Manners cautions you that not explaining it may prove embarrassing if someone who has seen the ring before recognizes it.

If you are intent on keeping the ring, the best you can hope for is that your wife has a sense of humor, and likes the ring enough to accept it as something other than a token of engagement.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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