DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I leave the table during a meal, I place my napkin in the seat of my chair. I understood this was the correct thing to do. Why, I'm not sure. But I've always imagined it was to save my dinner partners the sight of my possibly dirty, definitely crumpled napkin.
Often, at a restaurant, the waiter will put my napkin folded and back at my place setting when I am gone. I'm pretty confident the waiter is not replacing my old napkin with a new, clean one because I've seen this situation happen to my husband's napkin when he left the table. Sometimes I see the tell-tale signs of salad dressing or whatnot that identifies the replaced napkin as my old one.
If the waiters are just putting my old napkin back, is it wrong? If you answer is in my favor, I'll have something to send the manager to let him know he needs to retrain his staff. If my assumption about the reasons behind this custom are correct, I'd guess it is wrong. And potentially gross.
GENTLE READER: Not half as gross as the reason people give for objecting to the correct method of leaving the napkin on the chair, as you did. Miss Manners will spare you what they insist is transferred from a seat chair to their mouths (what are they doing -- chewing their napkins?), but you can probably guess. However, you might be treated to this if you attempt to instruct the restaurant manager about how to train his staff.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a PhD student at a large university. His department has had several social events that we have attended together that are held specifically for "community building" purposes, so that students and professors can socialize outside of the classroom and we new students (and spouses) may feel less alienated in our new community.
Some of the professors are very welcoming, but others are somewhat aloof. The problem is that when I see some of these people in public that I met at these events, they don't recognize me.
Some of these professors have been teaching for 20 years or more, and they have hundreds of students per semester. I'm sure that they are recognized all the time by people that they don't remember, and I don't really expect that they would recognize me. I wouldn't worry about running into more casual colleagues of my husband's, but this morning I ran into his adviser, to whom my husband is professionally closer. Should I reintroduce myself, which may result in an awkward exchange, or should I greet only the people who recognize me?
GENTLE READER: You should do your part at community building, whatever that is, by offering cheerful greetings to people whom you recognize. Most will have the sense merely to offer return greetings without letting on that they haven't the faintest idea who you are. They will have figured out that this is easier than trying to memorize the names and faces of students and their spouses every semester.
For longer encounters where identity might matter, Miss Manners considers it polite to spare them. Saying "I'm Emmeline Tortle; my husband Rocky is so pleased to have you as an adviser" will enable an astute professor to say "Yes, yes, of course."