DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please describe the proper way to eat escargot that is served in the shell. I was supplied with a seafood fork and specialized tongs, but I was unsure how the tongs were to be used.
GENTLE READER: Mmmmm. Garlic butter. Mmmmm.
Wait. Miss Manners is not supposed to get emotionally involved with the food. Her job is to get it into your mouth without incident. So of course that is the source and the extent of her interest in your garlic butter, which smells so good.
In contrast, the snail is wallowing in it, probably way down on the innermost curve of the shell. He is counting on your spilling melted butter all over yourself and ending the pursuit to repair the damage to your clothes.
You have the equipment to outwit him. Take the tongs in your left hand (left-handers reverse directions), using them to grab a shell, but being extremely careful to keep the shell vertical. You must hold it steady while you take up the fork with your right hand and dig into the recesses of the shell, slowing bringing its occupant out of its safety zone. You can then tilt the shell very slightly to drizzle butter over your catch before plopping it into your mouth.
Miss Manners apologizes if this sounds ruthless. Our excuse is that we only do it for the garlic butter.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know there is a rule about not answering your cell phone when you are having a conversation with a friend. Is there a similar rule for instant messaging?
I was chatting with my boyfriend tonight when I realized he was taking too long in replying. Then he told me he was also having a conversation with his ex, whose birthday was today and who had just showed up online.
I felt it was rude of him to have a conversation in which I was not allowed to participate, so I excused myself and left so they could chat in peace.
We discussed the whole thing later. He insisted I was being immature about it, because I was demanding his undivided attention to me. He thinks I should have been more generous about it, instead of being jealous. Who is right?
GENTLE READER: Lucky for your beau that it happened to be your predecessor with whom he was text-messaging. Otherwise, he would not have been able to distract you with the charge of jealousy.
Miss Manners is particularly impressed with the way he twisted the meaning of "his undivided attention." It came out sounding as if you expected him to concentrate on you to the exclusion of all other people. Quite a different matter from whether he should listen when you are in the act of talking to him.
The rule that you recognize was not made exclusively for cellular telephones, which are, as you may or may not realize, of comparatively recent origin. It refers back to the fact that it always has been -- and always will be -- rude to snub people who are addressing you.