DEAR MISS MANNERS: I seem to have a penchant for noticing clothing tags that have been inadvertently left out while dressing. (As opposed to those tags that are strategically sewn on to best allow the wearer to become a free billboard for the designer.)
This has become a point of some contention between me and my teenage daughter. She thinks it's inappropriate (not to mention embarrassing, but then isn't that my job?) for me to point out to someone that their tag is out. I've even been known to gently tuck it in if it's at the collar of a woman of a similar age to mine.
I think I'm doing a service, my daughter thinks it's none of my business. I remember one particular time when I was at arguably one of the best restaurants in the country, and in walked a beautifully dressed woman and man, with the tag on the woman's dress sticking out for all the world to see. As we all waited for our tables I gently made my way over and subtly told her of the grooming error. I can assure you she was grateful.
Mercifully, my daughter was not with me at the time. I do ignore far more than I point out -- I'm not a stalker.
GENTLE READER: It is nice to be socially concerned, and Miss Manners supposes it is also a good idea to have a specialty. But she worries about those gentle tucks, which seem to allow for the possibility of your creeping up on unsuspecting ladies and thrusting an icy hand down their backs.
The rule about such corrections -- and Miss Manners can think of worse clothing errors of which the wearers would be grateful to be informed in time to salvage their appearance -- is that they must be made in confidence and that the problem must be easily fixable on the spot. If you can manage to be really discreet, no one else need know about it -- neither the tag-wearer's escort nor your daughter.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In these increasingly etiquette-free times, I have stumbled on what appears to me to be a new and slightly unsettling expression of etiquette. I am referring to the strange phenomenon wherein a driver pulls a harebrained (and often dangerous or even illegal) maneuver -- cutting me off, running a red light in front of me, or such -- then smiles and waves thanks, as if permission to pull the maneuver had actually been requested and granted, when in fact neither is the case.
I am not referring to a similar situation, where the other driver musters up a shrug and grin of apology, which I can accept. I am speaking of a cheerful and guilt-free offer of gratitude.
I realize it is churlish of me to find fault in anyone showing the good manners to thank me, but I am afraid the feeling this inspires in me is closer to road rage than warm and fuzzy. I would like your comments on this phenomenon, and what, if anything, I can do with my unseemly feelings.
GENTLE READER: Drive off with them. Or drive them off. The unseemly feelings, that is.
You make an interesting observation. Miss Manners had noticed that look without considering how it implies complicity on the part of the innocent. But while she is always pleased to have the sights along the roads pointed out to her, she does not advise detouring off the path of politeness.