DEAR MISS MANNERS: After the houseguests we entertained had left, we discovered that a special coffee mug was missing. It was part of a set. I was both surprised and upset.
In mentioning this to a friend, she relayed a similar experience. Her missing item was a small, portable television. My aunt had a similar experience. In her case it was a miniature antique bronze.
One, is this more common than I would ever have imagined?
Two, does one address situations like this, or let them pass and simply not have these guests visit again?
Three, should these guests ask about visiting again, what does one say? Do we then raise the issue, or simply say we have other plans?
In all three instances the objects were taken without the knowledge of the other family members, so calling to visit again may be innocent on the part of the caller. I remain dumbstruck that friends and family would do something like this.
GENTLE READER: It seems to be common in your circles, which Miss Manners would suggest checking out more carefully. Petty thievery is so often directed at public accommodations that many no longer consider it dishonest, but she would hate to think that this appalling attitude had spread to stealing from friends.
The polite way to investigate -- and the safe one, in case you are mistaken -- is to ask the guests if they happened to notice the item that you have been unable to find. If you are not able to tell from the tone of the reply, you may at least be sure that the guilty parties will not be inviting themselves back. Let us hope that your friends will only have to suffer the embarrassment of confessing to the lesser crime of having failed to tell you about breaking your cup.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Recently, an old classmate was brutally murdered out of state. Another classmate took it upon herself to e-mail quite a few of us, with a prototype letter included, to ask us to write to an official in the murdered party's state asking for the death penalty. I was shocked by this request, personally not believing in the death penalty. How does one respond to such a soul-searching request?
GENTLE READER: A mass mailing for a cause, even one from an acquaintance, does not require a response. In addition, Miss Manners would like you to remember that mourning is a particularly bad time to argue such an issue. You do not agree with your classmate, so you simply do not fulfill the request.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please settle a 31-year-old dispute between my wife and her family and myself.
What is the proper direction to pass bowls and platters at a formal table setting? I believe the proper way is to pass to the right (counterclockwise), but my wife and her family swear by the expression "pass to the left and you'll always be right." Help needed, I'm outnumbered.
GENTLE READER: Cute memory device. Too bad it's wrong.
Platters are generally passed to the right because most people are right-handed, and can help themselves more easily when holding the plate with the left hand. A left-handed family might choose to do the opposite.
Now Miss Manners has a question for you:
What are you going to talk about for the next 31 years?