It's been quiet in the old neighborhood since the rock band next door moved away. Miss Manners, who always hoped they would go on to fame and fortune sooner rather than later, wished them well and was sorry to hear that such had not come to pass.
She would have felt dreadful had she in any way contributed to their musical demise. But it appeared that the sole responsibility for that went to rock fans.
The contrary is true, according to the band member who went on to what only journalists such as he and she think of as glory, namely a career as a critic. He credits her with "saying the nicest thing anyone has ever uttered about the group: 'Turn it down, please.'"
There were other things she might have said. Miss Manners' household and visitors, whose hearing has been ruined by listening to opera to the point where they can't appreciate amplification, were full of suggestions:
"Call the police."
"Burn the house down."
"Wagner. At full pitch. Until they scream for mercy."
Aside from that last cruel threat, this is the sort of solution Miss Manners hears all the time from Gentle Readers who are bothered by neighborhood noise, dogs, leaves, children and competition for parking space. They have qualms about their fantasies of retaliation, or they wouldn't write to her for alternatives, but they confess that those would give them the satisfaction they crave.
She understands. Polite is not the opposite of human. Just because Miss Manners behaves perfectly, it doesn't mean that she is untroubled by temptation.
The greatest temptation arrived by chance, when police arrived of their own accord as Miss Manners was entertaining guests at dinner, and reported that the house next door had been robbed in the tenants' absence. The locks had been broken, and instructions were left for the returning tenants not to investigate, but to call the police from Miss Manners' house.
"Now's our chance," the guests said, more or less in unison, after the police had departed the neighborhood. "Let's all go over, quick, and throw out all the instruments. They'll think it was the robbers."
To the disappointment of all, Miss Manners refused to grab her shawl and lead them grandly into larceny. Etiquette has ways of settling things that are less fun but more effective. Its policy, like that of any sensible government, is to try diplomacy before declaring war.
And, indeed, that was what worked. Rather than mount a hostile attack, she left a note with that simple request and the hope that it would not be too much of an inconvenience.
They turned out to be people of good will, as Miss Manners suspects most neighbors are. It is being subjected to major reprisals for annoyances they may not be aware of causing that causes them to behave as badly -- well, as badly as the counter-attackers did on purpose.
In this case, accommodations were reached, and everyone lived in peace; when they left, Miss Manners was sorry to see them go.
The house is now occupied by people with similar musical tastes, but whose neighborliness taught even Miss Manners a lesson. Before giving the occasional party, they always leave her a note with their telephone number and instructions to please call if the noise disturbs her.
Miss Manners does not call. She prefers to bask in the idea that such nice people are enjoying themselves. And she is busy in her own house, insisting that the Valkyrie turn it down, please.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: While we were enjoying the hot tub with my friends, the host introduced us to new neighbors who joined us. They then proceeded to complain about life in general, especially how people with physical disabilities shouldn't be allowed in their expensive health club because they are a turnoff.
The silence was deadly when I asked to be lifted from the hot tub because of both legs being paralyzed. My wife left in tears.
Should the host have told her neighbors of my condition, or should I have interrupted her by saying I am handicapped?
GENTLE READER: What should have happened here is that the neighbors, and not your wife, should have gone home in tears.
Otherwise, Miss Manners cannot see how this unfortunate event could have been prevented. To "warn" someone of your disability would be insulting to any decent person, which presumably your host had no inkling that his neighbor is not. And you made the point more effectively than by simply saying so.
Miss Manners is deeply sorry that you were embarrassed, but hopeful that everyone else present learned from the incident.