DEAR MISS MANNERS: I often find myself in an awkward position of having to address issues related to the fact that I don't have a college degree. I don't want to make excuses, because I value education. Suffice it to say that I accept responsibility for the choices I have made.
I'm a professional woman in a high-profile job. I've worked very hard to achieve success in my field, and I enjoy a good reputation among my peers and my superiors. Many people in my organization have come to rely on my expertise in the areas of analysis and liaison.
Because of the position I hold, I'm frequently asked what my background is, where I went to school and what degree I possess. I always answer truthfully, and the response I receive is usually one of shock or discomfort, followed by a remark such as, "I'd never have been able to tell." Also, I'm often a witness to conversations in which executive managers disparage those who don't have degrees and set hiring policies that make possession of a degree a prerequisite for particular jobs. Interestingly, they don't care whether the degree has any correlation to the job.
GENTLE READER: It makes perfect sense to Miss Manners. They know your work; therefore, how you acquired your knowledge and skills is so unimportant to them that they probably don't remember, when they mention the need for degrees, that you don't have one.
When it comes to hiring, however, they are dealing with strangers and are looking for clues that candidates are prepared to do the job. We all know that a degree is no guarantee of competence, but it is supposed to certify a basic standard, so it serves as a starting point.
That people are amazed that you educated yourself should be a source of pride to you, and you can acknowledge it truthfully without devaluing education by saying, "I did it the hard way, although I can't say I would recommend this to others." Others who nevertheless did so would benefit from your reminding your colleagues to be on the lookout for extraordinary people who, like yourself, were motivated to learn without the benefit of tests and deadlines.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several of us ladies meet at a central location to play games or cards once each week. One of the ladies does not own a car, and so I offer to give her a ride to her home, which means that I have to drive several miles out of my way.
When we reach her home, she gets out of the car and usually says, "See you next week." I have never yet heard a thank you of any kind, and I have been tempted to say, "You're welcome" even though she doesn't offer any thanks. I don't mind driving the extra distance but would like to know that she appreciates the extra time and gas that it takes me to give her a ride home.
Perhaps I am being too sensitive, but I would like to know what you would do in such a situation.
GENTLE READER: Oh, Miss Manners would just let it go. It is true that you should be thanked, but a few miles and minutes don't strike her as significant enough to fuss about.
She recognizes, all the same, that you are fussed, so it is her duty to offer you a better solution than the unpleasant pronouncement of "you're welcome" in order to call attention to a missing "thank you."
Call this lady a day or two before one of these gatherings and say, "I'm so sorry, I find I can't drive this week. I wonder if you would be good enough to arrange to get us both there?"