DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does a lady get into and out of a minivan (the backseat), a truck, an SUV or any other such vehicle? It seems that with these newer and higher vehicles it is increasingly harder to gracefully get in and out of them.
GENTLE READER: As Miss Manners recalls, carriages were just as high, but had little folding steps that were let down to enable a lady to alight gracefully, using the arm of a footman or the hand of a gentleman as a banister. Should she trip, she would at least be assured of landing on something -- or rather, someone -- more forgiving than the ground.
Nowadays, such helpers are increasingly hard to find, and the lady is apt to be on her own. It is even rare to find a footstool in such a vehicle, when they ought to be standard equipment. So much for what should be.
To disembark, a lady who is seated by a door should open it and rotate so that her legs face it, then lower herself slowly to the ground, using the seat to steady herself. If, however, she has to do a sort of crouching walk to get to the door, she has a choice of taking a little leap to the ground, which may be dangerous, or lowering one leg first, which is unseemly. Miss Manners cannot advise others to make the choice she would make.
Getting in is safer, but even more awkward looking. She suggests saying to anyone standing behind, "Oh, look at the clouds, do you think it is going to rain?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My father suddenly and unexpectedly died one evening, though he was not of ill health in the least. Though the family came together to handle this crisis, it prompted questions concerning the proper etiquette under such circumstances.
For instance, my 80ish-year-old mother insisted on making all telephone calls herself, to inform relatives and close friends. Was she just being stoic, or is it proper to put oneself through repeat performances of such an emotionally draining experience only hours after it happened?
The children offered to help; however, my mother insisted that it was customary for her to make such calls. Would it be proper to expect a few key relatives and friends to be informed and to ask them to carry out the task of informing others?
GENTLE READER: Custom does not require the widow to make these calls; in fact, doing so is one of the tasks that intimates who want to be of use customarily offer to perform.
However, Miss Manners would gently like to make you aware of another custom. That is not to prevent a suddenly bereaved widow from doing what she clearly feels she has to do. It is not improper for her to make these calls, and whatever her rationale, she is the best judge of what she can handle. You children can help her best by being available for whatever she needs, which may even include taking over the job of informing people if she finds she doesn't want to continue it.