DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am writing today because, once again, a workman has arrived early at my home for work that was scheduled 20 minutes later than his arrival.
Mind you, this was for a morning appointment and he and his supervisor would be here most of the morning correcting a problem with drapes they had previously installed. I had to stop what I was involved in (my work), was not quite prepared (dressed) for their arrival and had to endure them in my home for the repair.
I did not receive a ready apology for the early ring at the door when I expressed to him "all my clocks must be slow," only a "yea, I am early."
I appreciate that the installer wanted to get started on the repair job as soon as he was able. However, the supervisor for the job had not yet arrived and needed to evaluate the problem with the drapes before it was handled by the installer, and did not. My expectation is that the installer should wait for the supervisor to arrive, who, incidentally, arrived at the specified time.
Should I equate "punctuality" with an early arrival? I always equated "punctuality" with "on time," if not "on the dot" then not more than two to five minutes early and two to three minutes late. Am I wrong?
GENTLE READER: Wait a minute -- you had a workman show up for work at your house on the very day and within the hour that he was supposed to come? What's his name?
Miss Manners wasn't planning to have any work done on her house, but she hates to miss this opportunity.
Oops. She got overexcited, didn't she? It's just that certain professions -- plumbers, doctors, lawyers and the people who come to fix a household appliance and tell you that it would be cheaper to buy a new one than to have them do work on top of the whopping fee they charge just for visiting it -- have accustomed us to the idea that they can keep us waiting. They lay claim to having emergencies, which we are not allowed.
But even aside from being grateful not to be subjected to the rudeness of being kept waiting, Miss Manners cannot find an early arrival as culpable as it would be in a guest. This is because if you have a serious reason for not allowing the person to come in -- and not being dressed qualifies -- you can say something that you cannot say to a guest: "I'm not quite ready -- would you mind waiting in your truck?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter is getting married next summer. Her father and I divorced 10 years ago and have very little contact. He married his mistress. They have invited her parents to the wedding. As the mother of the bride and hostess of this event, how do I greet these people?
Nice to meet you. No. Thanks for coming. No. I am not happy to meet them nor will I be happy they came. My daughter does not have a relationship with these people.
GENTLE READER: Oddly enough, "Nice to meet you" is never the correct remark to make for a first encounter. It is true that the French always declare themselves enchanted, but we consider this judgment premature. "How do you do?" is the correct greeting, and Miss Manners promises you that to say it, you do not need to care how they do.