DEAR MISS MANNERS: Unfortunately, I think I may have discovered a phenomenon that is even tackier than cash bars at wedding receptions.
Apparently, some restaurants have begun offering a service called a "half-open bar" to customers who wish to hold private parties. This means that the hosts are allowed to select a set number of "VIP" guests, designated with visible wristbands, who are allowed unlimited free drinks. The rest of the guests must pay for their beverages.
I'm not necessarily faulting the businesses that have made this service an option; they are hardly forcing anybody to participate. I am, however, trying hard to quash my uncharitable feelings about the hosts who would employ such a service. As for how this sort of thing reflects on the culture as a whole, I am completely at a loss for words.
You, however, rarely are. Thoughts? Can civilization put the kibosh on this nonsense? Are we too far gone?
GENTLE READER: Although she is not quite ready to give up on civilization, Miss Manners admits that what has happened to hospitality is an evil portent.
In secular society, as in many religions, the willingness to share sustenance freely, even if one has little, is a test. Those who turn others away are in trouble, even if the visitor does not turn out to be a deity in disguise.
However, Miss Manners does admire the modern efficiency. What you bring to her attention is a method of insulting guests by making them pay to be entertained, while at the same time making it clear that the insult is personal rather than general.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have lost my hearing but (so far) can cope pretty good and have paper and pen ready if needed.
I sometimes find myself with a group of hearing friends and enjoy being with them and seeing them having a good visit. They chat, and when someone makes a funny remark and everyone laughs, I never know what my reaction should be.
Should I just smile or pretend my shoe has become untied? Once I sort of gave a chuckle and someone gave me the look of "Are you nuts?" It was hurtful, and I try to avoid that person.
The other thing: I have been on a couple of short trips that involve a guided tour. Of course, I don't hear the guide, but they are doing their job of explaining things and displays. I would rather go by myself and look at the displays and read the written information on each one. You are whisked so fast to them you never have a chance to actually see them. If you stand with the guide and "listen." Would it be rude to sneak off? That's what I would like to do.
I know it's not their fault, but still, it doesn't seem right to not pay attention, and it would be not be good to interrupt and explain my reason for leaving the group.
I don't want to become a complete hermit, though that seems to be the best choice sometimes.
GENTLE READER: It is a dreadful choice. And so is faking having a good time when you are not.
What Miss Manners fails to understand is why you feel you have no alternatives. You should be asking someone to jot down the joke you missed, and explaining ahead of time to the tour guide why you prefer to examine things on your own.
The minor inconvenience you may cause is not half as annoying as the unnverving act of pretending to hear when you do not.