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by Abigail Van Buren

Toilet Paper Leaves Trail Of Embarrassment

DEAR ABBY: We went out to dinner with another couple. The wives are psychiatric nurses; the husbands are a banker and a business owner. All of us are accustomed to dealing with "sensitive" issues.

A woman at the table next to ours went to the ladies' room. When she returned, a short "train" of toilet paper was caught in the waistband of her slacks. It was very obvious. There was silence, but a palpable "energy," so the woman knew something was amiss and it might have something to do with her. The tissue "floated" with each step, so I knew it wasn't weighed down with moisture.

Because I didn't perceive it to be an imminent public health threat, I joined the silent legion. Did I miss a moral imperative by not letting her know? I didn't know how to do it discreetly. If this should ever happen again, what -- if anything -- should I do? -- MR. MANNERS IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR MR. MANNERS: Imagine if the person with the paper trail was you or your wife. Would you want to know, so that when you got up to leave the restaurant all eyes didn't follow you out? A discreet way to have let the woman know there was a problem would have been for you or your wife to have written her a note, and given it to her server to pass to her. That way, she would know there was a problem with the least amount of embarrassment.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics