DEAR MISS MANNERS: A gentleman with whom I am slightly acquainted recently invited me out to dinner for the first time. Three hours before the date, a friend had a medical emergency and called to ask if I could possibly drive him to the hospital, since he could not reach anyone else.
I agreed without hesitation and called my date immediately with abject apologies and expressed my extreme disappointment that I would not be able to join him that evening. He was very gracious and said that we would simply go another evening.
Two weeks have passed, and I have not heard from him. Is it his place to re-invite me, or should I ask him? Since I barely know him, I would feel awkward doing the latter but am willing to do so if that is the appropriate action.
GENTLE READER: Invite him. Miss Manners' heart aches for the poor gentleman. In the current climate of rudeness, there are a great many people who think nothing of canceling engagements at the last minute, using unlikely excuses and never being heard from again. So there he is, thinking "Friend? What does she mean by friend? Emergency? What does she mean by emergency?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I fly quite often, and I seem to find myself 90 percent of the time behind the person who feels the need to keep his seat back during the entire flight (and often also before take off). I know that seats are made that way to be used also in the "lounging" position, but this really bothers me while the meals are served. Some airlines have seats that go back very far, and I have even been in situations where I can barely see my food.
Most of the time, I politely ask if the person can put their seat up during the meal, and they oblige the first time and for the second meal (on international flights) they do not resume the "up-right-position." This time I don't ask. It has also happened that immediately after the meal they turn around and ask me if I am done and if I say yes the seat goes immediately back.
Is there some kind of etiquette about flying and reclining seats, especially during meal time, or am I the one being rude by asking that this dear person not lounge during his dinner?
GENTLE READER: There is a rude party here, all right, but it is neither you, for requesting the space in which to eat your dinner, nor the passenger, for assuming that otherwise, everyone spends the time tilted back like a row of dominoes.
The rude party is the airline that puts people in an untenable position, so to speak, and then allows them to blame one another for their discomfort.
Miss Manners sees nothing wrong with your politely asking the passenger in front of you to adjust his seat during a meal, as long as you do it as a fellow sufferer asking a favor, rather than as an indignant victim of rudeness. If you need to ask during a second meal, it should not be put as a reminder, but as a second request -- "I wonder if I might trouble you again."