DEAR MISS MANNERS: Over the past year or so, I have, unfortunately, written a number of condolence notes on learning of the death of spouses or close relatives of acquaintances.
None of these notes have been acknowledged, making me wonder if they had even been received.
A friend has informed me that nowadays the bereaved only acknowledge charitable contributions. Should I discontinue sending condolences into the void, or continue anyway, since I feel that a personal, handwritten expression of sympathy is more meaningful than just a charitable contribution?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hates "nowadays" questions. They are always the last desperate plea on the part of those who are about to concede that the miscreants get to make the rules.
Sometimes it's the lazy miscreants who declare that whatever they don't feel like doing no longer needs to be done, and it is an imposition, if not a rudeness, to expect it to be. These are the ones who say that hosts are being selfish to expect anyone to answer an invitation -- until they are the ones giving the party, when they suddenly start whining that they need to know how many people will be coming.
Sometimes, it's the mercenary miscreants who are not miscreants out-for-hire but rather people who declare that money is the only factor to be counted. These are the ones who assess their guests in terms of giving power, demand presents or contributions and offer, in return, a cash bar.
On a bad day, and this seems to be one, you get the combination: Why bother to thank people when all they have shared is their thoughtfulness and compassion? Save that for the folks who fork over money.
Not only is this vulgar idea spreading, but another Gentle Reader claims that the person who told her attributed it to Miss Manners. "Hard to believe you should neglect someone who took the time and thought to offer their sympathies and put a monetary donation above thoughtfulness," this person writes.
Impossible to believe, Miss Manners would have thought -- of her or anyone else.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I feel it is rude and disrespectful for someone to call me and then yell at me on a speakerphone. I sometimes put up with this on business calls, but not personal calls. If they want to talk to me, they should pick up the phone and have a civilized conversation. Of course, I understand if the person is handicapped, but not if they are just too lazy to pick up the phone.
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners gets the impression that telephones of one kind or another and their accomplices are responsible for all the rudeness in the world. Cellular telephones, Caller ID, speaker telephones -- if it weren't for their running around making trouble, everything would be fine.
She is afraid that there is no etiquette rule requiring people to hold up the telephones on which they are speaking. However, it is inconsiderate to use equipment that unreasonably strains the other person's hearing or understanding, and it is rude to allow other people to hear what a person unaware of their presence is saying. If one of those is your problem, Miss Manners authorizes you to ask your caller politely not to use the speaker function when talking with you.