DEAR MISS MANNERS: The week before I planned a Sunday picnic, I worked very hard getting my backyard all weeded and flower-filled. I pride myself on my little "English Garden" and couldn't wait to entertain in it. We decided to start late in the day (4 p.m.) so that all the neighbors would have their noisy mowing, etc., done.
My company came, we gathered our drinks and the hors d'oeuvres and settled ourselves outside. That's when my neighbor, whose backyard abuts ours, cranked up his power washer. In all fairness, we have a 6-foot fence, and I really believe he didn't see us.
Nevertheless, we could not hear each other talk, and it really put a cramp in my plans. My husband tried to get the guy's attention (to no avail) to ask him to please shut it down for an hour. The rest of us protested this, since (I guess) everyone has a right to do whatever they please on their own property.
So we all trooped back inside. An hour or so later, when the noise stopped, my husband (furious by this time) went over and told the neighbor (angrily) that he had ruined our picnic. And, of course, now we have bad blood between us.
I think we did the mannerly thing by going inside and just trying to make the best of it. And I think my husband was wrong in losing his temper with Mr. Neighbor, yet I really don't blame him. I was mad, too.
Did we have the right to ask him to shut down so that we could picnic in peace and quiet? After all, it WAS a Sunday. Isn't there some unwritten manners rule about making that kind of noise on a Sunday? What should we have done?
GENTLE READER: Why couldn't you have gotten your neighbor's attention by going over, tapping him on the shoulder and saying "Excuse me" before asking him, as a favor, to use his power washer later?
And why are you carrying on about rights instead of courtesies? A right, it seems to Miss Manners, would be to have a peaceful neighborhood, and your husband's action worked against that.
As you acknowledge, your neighbor was unaware of your party, which was held long after the hours on which it is understood that noise (including party noise) might disturb those who sleep late. You have no reason to suppose that he might not have complied with your request had it been delivered courteously. An apology from your husband is now in order.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: The service people that come to my home -- handymen, repairmen, food delivery, etc. -- all seem to think I want to hear about their lives, their health and even their pets. I feel as though I am being held captive and paying for it as well.
I don't want to be rude because I need the services they were hired to do, but I think they are rude for using my time. I do not want to be their friend, and I am not interested in their lives. All I want is for them to provide the service they have been hired to do. Is there a polite way to get this message across without coming on too strong?
GENTLE READER: "That's very interesting. Now I'm afraid I have to get to work, too. I'll be right within. Call if you need me."