DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a gentleman in my 20s and work in a very large office building. I am absolutely smitten (!) by a most angelic young lady who also works in the building. We cross paths in the lobby at least weekly and exchange repeated glances and smiles.
Unfortunately, I know nothing about her except that we work for different employers (she rides a different elevator bank), so getting a proper introduction seems impossible. I know from reading your column that a gentleman wouldn't try to pick up a stranger in public, nor would a lady respond to such an overture.
However, in such a situation, isn't it permissible for a lady to "accidentally" drop her handkerchief in the gentleman's direction, he picks it up and offers it back, thus giving these two strangers a legitimate reason to engage in conversation? If so, is there a similar maneuver that a gentleman may use?
Did I mention I am absolutely smitten (!)? I know you don't dispense dating advice, but I would really appreciate your help here.
GENTLE READER: You remind Miss Manners of an Ogden Nash poem about a gentleman who devised a plan for learning the identity of a beautiful stranger, the girl of his dreams, whom he saw on the street.
He reasoned that if he chased her down with his car and ran her over, "gently ... with one wheel, say, certainly with no more than two," he would be able to read her name and address the next day in the newspaper.
And so he did. That day, her address turned out to be Mercy Hospital. And when he presented himself there, it did not go well.
From this we learn: no accidents.
As for dropping things, Miss Manners doubts whether the handkerchief trick would work today. Do any ladies besides herself actually use handkerchiefs nowadays? A crumpled tissue would not have the same effect. And even the lace-edged real thing might inspire a horror of possible disease transmitted to anyone who picked it up.
Ladies are not expected to pick up objects that gentlemen drop, but perhaps if you let your wallet fall, your dream girl might call it to your attention, and you could thank her so profusely as to start a conversation. Or she might hover over it, hoping you would not notice its absence, in which case you would at least know that she is not your dream girl.
Would it be too easy for you to ask around if anyone you know knows her?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it correct to eat off of the gourmet sauce spoon? I have seen this done in Paris but not in the States.
GENTLE READER: You are speaking of the small, flat, notched implement that is part of the individual place setting, Miss Manners trusts. Yes, it is an eating utensil. It is a 20th-century French invention, which never quite caught on among those of us who use the edge of our forks and those who have more direct methods.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)