That will be enough, thank you. Now is not the time to giggle about how prissy and trivial etiquette is, and how ridiculous to imagine it can foist its silliness on real people.
Miss Manners has tried to be a sport while the raffish have their tedious little jokes, but her weak smile has grown ever weaker over the years. Possibly this is because the repertory never varies.
Joke one: Tea parties!
Joke two: White gloves!
Joke three, the one that really propels them into the heights of hilarity: Forks! (Apparently, real people consider their inability to manage their food to be an asset.)
But it appears that Miss Manners is not alone in deploring the demise of manners in society. It was no surprise to her that a poll undertaken by Public Agenda found that 79 percent of those surveyed declared rudeness to be a major problem.
What does surprise her is that there are still so many people trying to sabotage efforts to fix the problem. Statistically, some of them must be those same people.
What is more, she has seen them in action. These are the folks who deplore the awful behavior of modern children, and then break in, when a parent is instructing a child to say thank you or wait his turn instead of pushing, or stop banging on things, with: "Oh, leave him alone, he's only a child. Let him enjoy himself."
And, of course, everyone is after the ultimate sweet deal -- the freedom to do anything you feel like, no matter how it affects others, along with the requirement that those others treat you with strict politeness. If such a situation were feasible, even Miss Manners might be tempted to go for it, but unfortunately, it doesn't work. The same restraints have to apply to everyone.
So how do the scoffers reconcile the desire for civility with undermining etiquette?
That is where the tea parties, white gloves and forks come in. They define etiquette as consisting of rules they don't know and feel do not affect them (never mind how adversely affected their spouses' appetites may be over the way they eat). They ignore the fact that there are rules they do find important, such as returning a high five, not driving slowly in the fast lane, and being waited on first when they were there first.
Then they declare that while people should be nice and considerate to one another, they should do so naturally, without being bound by any rules.
Didn't we just try that? Didn't we just come through nearly half a century of advocating an etiquette-free society, where people would use their own judgment about how to behave, and not have to follow any rules?
And didn't it work out about as well as if we had abolished the legal system in favor of just telling everyone to please behave morally?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I will soon have handicap license plates on my car, and I have been warned that as a member of the "invisible" handicapped, I will be the target of much abuse.
What is a mannerly response to the people who will inevitably confront me?
I know this is none of their business, but I am a lady and do not wish to be rude by ignoring these ignorant judges of parking spaces. I would happily change places with them, even for a day, to be pain free and "abled."
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners deeply appreciates your supplying your own answer. This saves her a lot of work. The only addition she needs to make, on her way out to the porch swing with a mimosa and the new Henry James novel, is to caution you to use a pleasant tone when you voice your willingness to change places with the vigilantes.