DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way for a lady to exit and enter a car? This may sound silly, but I am sincere. I want to be proper when exiting and entering the car, especially as I occasionally wear shorter dresses or skirts and do not wish to appear indiscreet.
GENTLE READER: Evidently there are a great many people who do consider it silly to avoid impropriety and indiscretion, not to mention indecent exposure. Miss Manners has seen more of them, and more of each of them, than she cares to, and you are quite right to be concerned.
To enter an automobile decorously, a lady sits down facing the street from which she has approached. Keeping her legs together, always a ladylike posture, she swings them inside while rotating the rest of her body to face the road ahead. To exit, she reverses the procedure.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that many people find the "Caller Identification" telephone feature an essential part of maintaining their privacy and discouraging phoned sales messages. But I think it has also raised a new manners issue.
Because their phone identifies me as the caller, some of my friends answer the phone with my name when I phone them. In other words, instead of just saying "Hello," they say, "Hello, Peter." I assume they think this is friendly, but to me it has the opposite effect.
To me, it seems -- I really don't know how to describe it -- jarring, startling, a bit off-putting, almost rude. I guess that somewhere in there I sense a bit of "I'm letting you know that I already know who you are" -- a bit of Big Brother in my town.
I prefer the traditional way, which gives me the opportunity to introduce myself and lets the recipient express pleasure: "Hello?" "Hello, Melanie, this is Peter." "Peter! It's good to hear from you. How are you?"
My wife, who is somewhat more techno-oriented than I am, thinks I'm being silly and not a little paranoid. We agreed to put the question to Miss Manners. How should someone with caller ID answer the phone?
GENTLE READER: "Paranoid" is rather a strong word for someone who can't yet let go of the idea that telephone calls are intended to be a surprise.
But once you get over the novelty, you might ask yourself why.
A person who opens the door can immediately see who is there, and may know before that by means of a window or peephole. A letter or an e-mail should at least have an identifying address. Surely it behooves someone seeking admission to another's house to submit his or her name first. Indeed, in many societies, a polite caller does so before guessing who has happened to answer.
Which brings Miss Manners to the question of poor Melanie. How do you know it was she answering the telephone? And if it was, you have given her -- according to your own thinking -- a sense of "I'm letting you know that I already know who you are" -- a bit of Big Brother not just in her town, but in her own dwelling.