DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does one deal with cigar smoke and cigar smokers in restaurants? I have found myself in new but well-reviewed restaurants, which say that they have no smoking sections, only to discover that the smoking section is not separated from the rest of the dining room. That is unpleasant enough, but when the restaurant permits cigar smoking as well, the odor overwhelms the smell and taste of the food.
Appealing to management often reveals that the restaurant is selling the cigars at a great profit and is therefore unwilling to limit cigar smoking. Promising never to return does not solve the problem of a ruined dinner. My husband tells me that grabbing the cigar and sticking it in the person's water glass is not a suitable response. And that is the most benign thing I can think of. I have also come up with a few choice descriptions of what the cigar looks like and what it says about the person sucking on it. However, my husband says that comments along those lines would lead to violence.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners had so hoped she had heard the last of the impasse between smokers who defy manners and nonsmokers who think it would be fitting or funny to escalate the situation into vulgarity and violence. The fact that the latter claim to be on her side does not soften her distaste. She does not care to depend on criminals for etiquette enforcement.
Her hope was not based on the silly notion that either side might have learned restraint, but on the otherwise humiliating fact that the near-universal defiance of manners has resulted in the law's taking over the problem. This enables you to encourage the restaurant manager by reporting the establishment to the health department.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I and our children were visiting his family one evening, and many family members were gathered for conversation. As I don't speak their language and translating for my sake was slowing down the conversation, I politely bowed out and took my children and my nephews for a bath.
While I was elbow deep in suds, my husband and his uncle entered the bathroom. The uncle was leaving and wished to say goodbye to me. He offered me his hand. My hands were dripping and the only towels were behind the men, behind the door, in a hopelessly cramped bathroom. So I quickly wiped my right hand back and forth on my pant thigh and shook the uncle's hand.
Later, my husband criticized this action as totally uncouth. While I agree that, in general, one should not do this, I am at a loss as to my alternatives. There was nothing else to wipe my hands on, unless I squeezed everybody every which way to get at the towels first. My husband says I should simply have given him my dripping wet, sudsy hand. I disagree. What do you say?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is eager to declare you to be right, because if she declared your husband right, he might want to shake on it.
He isn't, so she doesn't have to. A handshake symbolizes kindly intentions, on which a wet handshake would cast suspicion. Given the choice between that and a willingness to sacrifice your own clothes, presuming there was anything left to sacrifice after you bathed all the children, you exhibited the greater consideration for your uncle-in-law.