DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband's sister just came into a great deal of money, and to celebrate, she and her husband invited my family to join them on a trip to Disney World -- their treat. We all had a marvelous time.
At the airport on the way home, the airline offered free airline tickets to anyone who would give up their seat on our flight for a later flight that day. I opted to give up my seat. My in-laws dropped my husband off on their way home (we live 10 minutes apart), and I drove our car home from the airport.
Later, I felt that taking advantage of this offer may have been rude -- that I was getting even more free stuff from the generosity of my in-laws.
Should I have flown home with the group? Should I offer my free airline ticket to my in-laws? (It is transferable.)
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners may have a better idea than you do of what is bothering you. It is not exactly the money, and (you may be relieved to hear) she doesn't believe that giving away the ticket is the solution.
What your sister-in-law bought with her windfall was time with you and your family. What you sold for your extra airplane ticket was time with your family.
Granted, being together on an airplane is not exactly quality time. Nevertheless, you did leave them prematurely -- and for a free ticket, at a time when you hadn't even finished using their free ticket.
What your in-laws need from you is not an airplane ticket, but the assurance that you value your time together as much as they do. You should state this and initiate plans to see them, not worrying that an invitation to dinner or a proposal for an excursion to the zoo costs less than the trip. The way to use the airplane ticket to re-enforce this is to say, "I felt bad about leaving you, but I want this toward our all taking another trip together."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whatever do you do when a person from your long-ago past unexpectedly confronts you with, "Do you know who I am?"
This is really confounding, particularly when you are at a social gathering, with others around you, enjoying the joke on you.
It happened again yesterday when a woman whom I had not seen in over 25 years, whom I did not then know particularly well, and who is not aging with much grace, confronted me, as I was at a function, chatting with some recently met acquaintances.
"No, you look too old and too fat for me ever to have paid attention to you" came to mind, but I didn't want to be that rude. As I am now in my 70th year, with all my faculties good and sound, I sound like a stumbling idiot as I stand there, fumbling with what to say. What should I say?
GENTLE READER: "How could anyone forget you?"
Should the lady be so rash as to pass up the opportunity to accept this gracefully and ask, "Well, then, who am I?" Miss Manners gives you leave to say gently, "Surely you can tell me."
Your only error is to feel foolish when approached by foolish people.