DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a very lovely restaurant near our home, my husband and I ordered a bottle of champagne to enjoy with our meal. When the champagne was brought to the table to be opened, my husband smiled at me in anticipation, as we always love to hear the sound of a cork popping from a bottle of champagne -- one of the most celebratory sounds one can imagine, at least in our minds.
After watching the waitress uncork the bottle soundlessly, we joked that it must've been a "dud" and we were disappointed that it didn't pop, and explained our feelings about the joyfulness associated with the sound.
She smiled and agreed with us, but then told us that management of the restaurant was very specific in their instruction to the servers that champagne corks must exit the bottle utterly soundlessly, seemingly with the implication that the noise may disturb others.
While I realize that there may be some small extra emission of effervescence if one allows the cork to pop, it seems stoic to me that one would have to do so for reasons of etiquette. Could you clarify?
GENTLE READER: First please allow Miss Manners to ease the cork out of her eye from your last celebration.
Your waitress' theory notwithstanding, it is not the noise that is disturbing to others in the vicinity so much as a fast blow from a flying cork. And then there is the overflowing bottle, a look best saved for christening ships.
Your waitress opened the champagne bottle correctly, even if she didn't understand why. Popping the cork, however exciting you may find it, is considered a sign of ineptitude. Miss Manners suggests that you celebrate at home in the future, rather than among innocent strangers.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am writing to suggest something quite practical and extraordinary with regard to seating on public transportation: If someone is unable to, or merely uncomfortable, standing, but the seats are all taken, perhaps that person could gently ask someone sitting, "Pardon me, but I am in need of a seat."
I find this a better alternative to fuming about the rudeness of others, or to standing when one doesn't feel able. I did this one time when I was under the weather and my polite request was met with alacrity. In fact, three people jumped up to help me, without even requiring me to show a positive pregnancy test or proof of age. (I was neither in the family way nor elderly; just in need.) Is this proper etiquette?
GENTLE READER: Yes, but Miss Manners doesn't know whether to be grateful or distraught about your suggestion.
Absolutely, it is proper to state a need gently and politely, rather than to fume or rail about other people's rudeness. Or, what is more usual, to think up ways to be rude back to those targeted as rude.
But is it really extraordinary? Miss Manners is afraid that it might be. Giving others the benefit of the doubt -- assuming that those sitting were not paying attention or had no way of knowing that you needed a seat -- is unfortunately rarely anyone's first reaction.