DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner of 26 years and I don't normally disagree on important matters. However, a regrettable incident that occurred in Italy many years ago has resulted in a long-running difference of opinions on bathroom etiquette.
We were visiting Rome back in the '80s, and we were on one of those horrible tour buses when he started experiencing great discomfort due to something he had eaten for breakfast. It took us some time to convince the tour guide and driver, who claimed they were behind schedule, to stop the bus and allow him to use a public facility.
Finally, they relented on the condition that he hurry up. He was instructed to run into a bar, go down the stairs and that he would find the restroom at the end of a very long hallway. I should mention that in those days he was extremely shy, and this was already a highly embarrassing experience for him.
By the time he reached the door, it had become a matter of the utmost urgency. He desperately reached for the doorknob and yanked it open. Unfortunately, there was a local lady on the other side who, aware that the door lock was inoperative, was holding on for dear life. Out she came with her slacks down to her knees, still holding the doorknob and futilely trying to keep hold of her purse, the contents of which scattered all over the hallway floor.
After some very awkward moments, the angry woman returned to her seat, leaving him thoroughly mortified and still in agony. No sooner had he finally entered the bathroom when the tour guide started knocking on the door, as he was taking too much time.
As you can imagine, the incident left deep emotional scars that linger to this day. Now he claims that you should never try the handle on a restaurant bathroom, especially if it's an individual facility, and that instead you should knock first.
I, for one, find it very annoying to have someone knocking at the door when I'm using a public toilet and therefore think it's preferable to gently try the handle or doorknob and, if unlocked, open the door slowly, thus allowing anyone inside to make their presence known. We would love to hear your views on this.
GENTLE READER: You seem to have something of a cognitive problem. If living with a person who was traumatized for life by using the method you recommend does not alert you to the possibility that there is something wrong with it, Miss Manners cannot hope to convince you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How are the knife and fork arranged when placed to the left of the plate upon a paper napkin? We are servers at a restaurant who are having a problem agreeing about how to set the tables.
I think that the fork is to the left of the knife, which itself has its cutting edge turned toward the fork. My co-worker insists that the fork is next to the plate, with the knife to the left of the fork. Or is either choice all right, considering that the arrangement is so casual?
GENTLE READER: Either choice all right? Is this an anarchist theme restaurant?
Forks always go to the left of the plate and knives to the right of the plate with the cutting edge toward it. Casual does not give you license to improvise and make customers who are expecting a casual evening have to spend it hunting for their knives.