DEAR MISS MANNERS: I've initiated a disagreement with my husband about a response to, "How are you?" But since promising I'd prove myself correct, I've developed doubts.
He says the proper response to "How are you?" as a greeting from a waitress, clerk, or coworker is "Good. How are you?"
I said this is just a nicety and gets a simple nicety for a greeting in return such as "How are you?" or "Good Morning" I say the response doesn't include an explanation, however well you actually are.
He says leaving the "good" off is cold.
I said that manners aren't necessarily warm, they're just mannerly.
I'm wondering if I'm mixing this up with the simple "How are you?" offered upon introduction to a new person? I mean, instead of saying "Nice to meet you" -- because you don't really know yet if it is a pleasure or not yet when you first meet someone. Maybe I'm wrong on both counts?
GENTLE READER: Let's call it a draw. Both of you have the right basic idea, and both of you are slightly confused about wording. Miss Manners finds this understandable, because the wording has evolved through usage without any regard to consistency or even meaning.
The important thing is to make a pleasant acknowledgement when addressed. (Pleasant is neither warm nor cold; just pleasant.) Either of your comments qualifies, although Miss Manners doesn't quite care for your husband's -- and many other people's -- use of "good," which refers to character, rather than "well," which indicates health.
But "How are you?" is not the same as the conventional remark exchanged at introductions, which is "How do you do?" with no answer given. Yes, yes, the meaning is the same, and they both seem to be questions -- but didn't Miss Manners warn you? (No answer to that is required.)
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it OK to refuse a table being offered you by a hostess in a restaurant? Is it polite to simply say "this table is not acceptable, please seat us at a nicer table"?
I feel like I have stamped on my forehead "Please seat my family and I or my friends and me next to the kitchen or bathroom door." I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me! Just last night my five good friends and I had reservations at this French restaurant. They seated us in a back, windowless room, not decorated, at the kitchen door and another storage-room door covered by curtains that they kept running in and out of.
What should you do when this happens?
GENTLE READER: Exactly what you suggested: Ask politely for another table. Why would you hesitate?
Miss Manners fears that you may be caught up in the popular but peculiar notion that restaurants are more than commercial establishments that serve food to what they hope is the satisfaction of their customers. Instead of fearing that the hostess will retaliate by telling everyone that you have terrible table manners, you should assume that she will be grateful to make your visit more pleasant.