DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been hiking a certain trail for many years. The first half-mile or so is smooth and flat, so it's not uncommon to find beginners and nonhikers out for a stroll. There is one rock that offers a lovely view. People often climb on it and snap pictures or sit down for a break. However, this rock also sports a gorgeous patch of poison ivy, just a few inches from where I see people standing. I usually say something like, "You do know that's poison ivy, right?" or "The poison ivy is so lovely in the fall when it turns red!"
My concern is that other members of my own party tell me that it is rude to tell other people about the ivy. I can see how it could be annoying to hear it from a stranger, and I do occasionally hear a, "Yes, I know," but more often than not, the people I address have no idea that it isn't just a pretty vine.
So what is best? Should I offer unsolicited advice or leave the newbies to itch? It may be relevant that I only rarely see people sitting in the poison ivy. Usually, they're just next to it.
GENTLE READER: If Miss Manners were sitting by a patch of poison ivy, she wouldn't care who told her as long as someone did.
Do your friends not believe that etiquette makes allowances for emergencies? Would they hesitate to grab a stranger if he were going underwater for the third time? Would they refrain from screaming at you just because they saw you stepping into quicksand?
If so, you might consider finding other companions for your excursions.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it ever appropriate to hire a babysitter to assist with guests' children? At our Thanksgiving meal, two toddlers and a 5-year-old were dismissed by their parents from the table while parents lingered over dessert and coffee.
I jumped up and tried to run interference while topping off coffee cups and clearing away plates, but the three children with minimal supervision managed to wreck my home.
I do have a child-friendly area, complete with age-appropriate toys -- but toddlers seem to be drawn to electronic equipment -- especially remotes, Tiffany lamps and first-edition, mint-condition books.
When they come over at Christmas for another family meal, would it be rude to have a babysitter on hand to assist the children with their plates, and then direct their activities away from my rugs and antiques when the children are through with their meals?
GENTLE READER: These people are related to you, Miss Manners gathers, so you can no more refrain from inviting them than you can pass off a babysitter as your child-loving cousin.
No matter. You are not providing this service because you disapprove of their child-rearing, still less because you want to protect your furniture. You are doing it, as you will explain before the children have had a chance to do any wrecking, to give the young ones some fun and their parents a carefree visit.