DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm one of the lower-totem-pole workers in a federal agency that was recently rated one of the worst places to work in the D.C. area, in terms of its employees' morale.
Recently, some senior-level managers hosted a going-away party for one of their buddies, which included, of course, a huge personalized cake.
A colleague and I were sent into the party room after the festivities ended to retrieve food for our staff and carry it back to our break room. Heaven forbid those of us at the bottom of the pyramid might enjoy some of the party's edibles. Since the party was over, I thought nothing of cutting out a piece of the cake which was all the same color, hoping not to disrupt the pattern, even though it was nearly all gone anyway.
I was amazed when, many hours later, I was taken aside and told that our department director had received an angry phone call, repeatedly scolding me for "improper etiquette" and "rudeness," that I had "meticulously cut out the wrong part of the cake" (which, by the way, I did not eat) and taken it away without concern for others. That is hardly the case.
The thing is, our institution has been plagued by morale issues, abusive management practices and rampant favoritism --among other forms of corruption and wrongdoing. That never seemed to upset the higher-ups attending the party. I took the "wrong" piece of the cake. That upsets them.
Before I am tied up and marched off to the platform where the guillotine awaits me, I would like to ask your view on this. Merci. The people have no bread, and no, they may not have cake, either.
GENTLE READER - Wait: You work for the Federal Government, and you didn't realize that there might be consequences to destroying government property?
Worse yet, you didn't know that destroying only a small part (what did you cut off -- below where it said Eyes Only?) draws more suspicion that if you had scarfed the entire thing?
Speaking of which, why did you cut a slice if you didn't eat it? And what did you do with it? Shred it?
Now that Miss Manners has improved your morale, she hopes you will be good enough to do something for her.
Would you please mail her a copy of the government regulation that specifies the right and wrong sides of a cake?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I appear to have committed a faux pas. My fiance and I are getting married in a concert hall at 6 p.m. He's excited to don a tux, and the bridesmaids are wearing dresses of their choice (so some of them are floor length and some are shorter). I guess this means we're having a formal wedding, but we picked out colorful, modern-looking invitations. Now, people are admonishing us for choosing informal invitations for a formal event. Is there any way to respond to their criticism? Is there any way to redress our error?
GENTLE READER: Since the invitations have already gone out, it is unfortunately too late for you redo the chief part you did wrong -- the guest list.