To the extent that it is humanly possible, Miss Manners tries to stay out of other people's bathrooms.
Not when out visiting, she hastens to add. As a guest, she trusts that her kind hosts do not have their sensibilities shattered by her habit of drying her dainty fingers on -- oh, the audacity of it! -- a guest towel.
Others, she figures, can manage in there for themselves. Guests are usually toilet trained and hosts trained to accommodate them. It is true that some basic skills which used to be covered by child-rearing -- inoffensive eating, for example -- are now thought to be advanced etiquette, but surely some still are.
And considering how absolutely Miss Manners expects to reign in drawing rooms and dining rooms, she would imagine that a room offering escape and privacy would be appreciated.
It appears that she was overly optimistic. There are problems beneath Miss Manners' notice that people nevertheless keep trying to bring to her attention. And even people who seem to have mastered the general idea find bathrooms -- their own and other people's -- overflowing with etiquette problems.
Among them are timid guests who are embarrassed to ask where to go, and fearful of being overheard when they do go, and bold guests who take the opportunity to explore unauthorized territory, including medicine cabinets and adjacent private rooms.
In addition, there are hosts who want to apologize for the fact that their facilities are not functioning fully, and hosts who want to prevent their facilities from being fully used to avoid wasting water.
All of this has caused Miss Manners no little embarrassment. She is unaccustomed to saying, "Oh, grow up, face facts, and say what you have to say."
It strikes her that there is far too much articulation of facts connected with the bathroom and coy avoidance of euphemisms. If people go into bathrooms to do anything other than powder their noses or wash their hands, she doesn't want to know about it.
However, if guests need to perform one of these functions, they must inquire where to do so and excuse themselves, knowing that the nature of the excursion could be guessed by anyone rude and bored enough to care to do so. Polite people are incapable of hearing any resulting noises, other than those associated with flooding.
To prevent that from occurring, hosts, who are supposed to provide equipment that can cope with ordinary usage, must frankly warn their guests of any particular eccentricities or ordinances that apply. Such things are not pleasant to discover for oneself.
Miss Manners realizes that hosts never follow the universal recommendation to sleep in their own guest rooms to test their comfort, but surely they can manage to do an occasional test run, so to speak, in their own bathrooms. The idea, as with other aspects of hospitality, is to provide for their guests' needs and comforts, trusting their guests not to abuse the situation.
For those who do, the euphemisms a host needs to know are:
"No, no, the bathroom is this way."
"The plumbing is a bit delicate, I'm afraid, but there's a closed trash can in the kitchen."
"If you tell me what you were looking for in the medicine cabinet, perhaps I can find it for you."
And with that, Miss Manners would like to put a lid on the subject and firmly close the door.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: People seem to be apologizing for things that are not their fault. For example: I visited an ATM in one of my local supermarkets. I discovered I had left my card at home. Although there was someone staffing the banking center, he apologized because he didn't have cash on hand to allow me to complete my transaction. It wasn't his fault that I forgot my ATM card.
GENTLE READER: You are shopping at the wrong store, Miss Manners is afraid. You should have no trouble finding one in which the correct answer to your problem, and indeed all customer needs, is, "Hey, lady, what do you expect me to do about it?"
Your finding one of these businesses would have the beneficial effect of shortening the line at this one for the rest of us, who would be only too pleased to deal with the employee whose politeness offended you.