DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a business acquaintance who, after meeting her husband, became a vegetarian, and is now a vegan. They are so happy and in love with their world they proselytize their food choices and practically insult those who are comfortable with their own eating habits.
As annoying as this is, my concern is that they would like to host the annual company event at their home. When I entertain at home, I provide a range of food and libation so as to cover everyone's dietary restrictions.
But I know that they will serve only vegan foods, no sodas, and food that many in the larger group don't necessarily enjoy, along with lots of alcohol, which is amusing given their health concerns. They will not allow anything other than vegan foods in their home, which is their right.
Of course, knowing this upfront, I will eat before I go, and nibble on their offerings. Even so, there is a feeling among the workers that these two are incredibly rude and controlling.
They are more senior in the company, so everyone will go along. However, since the party is for the employees, it seems unfair that at a party that is meant to show appreciation, everyone will be forced to eat what the hosts like, versus the standard buffet choices.
GENTLE READER: That people who go around insulting others over their food choices are rude is beyond dispute. Whether they are "controlling," which is to say assuming illegitimate authority over others, is a more complicated question.
As you acknowledge, they may serve what they like in their own house. They may also choose the location of a party that they are giving. So if this couple is senior enough to be throwing and sponsoring the annual party, the only polite protest their prospective guests can make is to decline their invitations. If everyone expressed polite regret at being busy the night of the event, perhaps the hosts would understand that it was not working as a show of appreciation.
It is an entirely different matter if the event is actually given by the company at which they and the other prospective guests are employees. Employees may then make the point to whoever is in higher charge that the couple's house is an unsuitable venue because of its food restrictions.
This is not the time to deal with their rudeness. It should be phrased as it would be if a popular employee had wanted to host the party in a house that was too small to hold the number of people expected -- with gratitude for the offer and regret that it would not work.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently dined out with a companion who spoke rudely to one of the waitstaff, demanding that he move a neighboring (empty) table away from us, even using a curse word. I was too stunned to intervene at the moment, but, feeling badly, I approached the worker later and apologized for my companion's behavior. Should I have reacted at the moment of attack, and if so, how?
GENTLE READER: You didn't want to insult your friend, either, Miss Manners understands, richly as he deserved it. So it could have been to him that you said, "Why, Dwight, that's not like you. I hope nothing's the matter."