DEAR MISS MANNERS: A while back, a creditor filed a lawsuit against me, and an officer of the court came by to serve me with the papers. I signed for the receipt, he gave me the subpoena and all the supporting paperwork indicating that I was being ordered to appear in court, and I said "thank you" as he left.
In retrospect, I'm honestly not sure whether this was appropriate or not, and I wondered whether etiquette has anything to say about such situations.
GENTLE READER: It says that you are so well trained in politeness that you say the proper thing without even thinking. This makes you a parent's dream, although maybe not the part about being sued by a creditor, Miss Manners concedes. In any case, your good manners will serve you well in court, where politeness counts a lot.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every year I host an open house/Halloween trick-or-treat party. As I am the hostess, I prepare several hot dishes (both meat and vegetarian) in advance as well as providing drinks and children's food.
When guests ask what they can bring, I say "Oh, please just bring yourselves, as I know that it is a very busy day for everyone. I'll be serving XYZ."
Inevitably, as everyone seems to "host" potlucks, a few people still bring food. Usually, it is food that needs to be prepared or cooked, as these same people have been very busy with other parties, etc., and dropped by the store on their way over, apparently.
It is difficult for me to stop serving and entertaining my other guests in order to prepare and present the food these guests have so graciously brought. In addition, the kitchen is full of guests and few pots, plates, etc., are available.
Is there any polite way for me to ask them to prepare and present the food themselves? Or do I just thank them and leave their offering on the counter? Or do I need to keep smiling and presenting their food as I have done in the past?
GENTLE READER: One day when Miss Manners was napping, the Etiquette Imposters declared that dinner guests were obliged to arrive with food or wine.
Are they afraid there won't be enough to eat or drink? Or have they been intimidated by the kind of people who pretend to be hosts but assign the attendees to do the catering?
"It saves work," they claim.
No. Not if people take fair turns giving parties. Then they have only one day of work for several evenings when they don't have to go out balancing pots in the car or rushing to the store.
You must do better at heading them off: "You're very kind, but I have everything, and I'm not going to have room to let anyone in the kitchen."
If this doesn't work, you should still defend your kitchen: "Thank you, let me take that," you should say at the kitchen entrance. "When I've cleared everything out here, I'll let you know."