DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently began working for a small law firm consisting of four attorneys. One of the attorneys for whom I work likes to share people's lunches. Sometimes he will take something out of the fridge; other times he will take a little "nibble" while the person is eating lunch from their desk. Sometimes he is courteous enough to ask first; other times he will simply help himself if the person has walked away for a moment. Quite often, I eat lunch in my office, and he will frequently ask me if I brought enough for two, or if I need "help."
I'm on a diet, so I am very meticulous about counting calories, and I rarely bring extra food. I'm afraid that I'm just not as used to his behavior as everyone else in the office seems to be.
Once, his secretary asked me to guard her lunch while she stepped away for a moment. Despite my efforts, he did come by and eat all the chicken off of her chef salad. After he ate my lunch a week ago, I started labeling my food. This made me feel like I was 5. Worst of all, he tries to justify his behavior by saying that if someone leaves their lunch in the fridge for too long, it is "fair game." (I'm talking about a canned item that had been in the fridge for two days.)
I'm really not a stingy person, but I don't feel that I should have to share my lunch with an attorney who is more than successful enough to provide for himself. Should I just stop bringing food to work and eat out? Should I avoid eating lunch at my desk so that I won't have to fend him off? Would it be tacky to invest in a lunch box with a lock? What do you say?
GENTLE READER: He likes "to share" other people's property without their permission, especially when they aren't guarding it? And he deems it "fair game" to appropriate anything that is, in his opinion, left around "too long"?
Are these the terms your firm uses to defend clients who like to share other people's money that they leave lying around in the bank for too long?
Miss Manners is afraid that what you have there is a thief, although it would be kinder to state this in terms of psychological illness. Whether you condemn him for helping himself or take the position that he needs help, your lunch will disappear unless you protect it. And you and your colleagues need to keep up your strength so that you can deal with the worse trouble this person is bound to get into.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the register line at my local supermarket or restaurant, many of my fellow patrons stand so close to the person in front of them that their breath ruffles his or her hair. I usually try to inch away from the person, but sometimes they take it to mean that the line is moving and inch up as well.
Is it correct to turn around and ask the person not to stand so close? I am hesitant to do this because I don't want to cause a scene, but it makes me very uncomfortable.
GENTLE READER: Some things are better said silently, and Miss Manners believes that one of them is "Hey, back off, will you?" The turning around part will do it; you needn't say anything.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have what I suspect may be a rather simple question with a complicated answer. I hope I'm wrong.
It seems to happen with increasing frequency that I receive wedding invitations that state the time at which the ceremony will begin, but not the time at which guests are welcome or expected to arrive. I would like to ask when it is appropriate to arrive to a wedding -- or any other event -- when there is no arrival time on the invitation.
Common sense would seem to say that arriving 30 minutes to one hour before the ceremony would be reasonable so that one may give their best wishes to the couple or host (if they are available) and to greet other guests whom one knows. But what does etiquette say on the matter?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hopes you will not be disappointed to hear that you are wrong about asking a simple question with a complicated answer. You have made a complicated question out of a simple matter.
Common sense would say that when you know the hour a ceremony is supposed to begin, you arrive in time to be seated and ready at that time. It might even add that people who are about to participate in a wedding do not have the leisure to entertain their guests beforehand.