DEAR MISS MANNERS: I started a new job, and they want me to fill out an emergency contact form. But I am in a nuclear family with a bunch of people who can’t even help themselves. My friends have their own problems.
I always chuckle when I have to fill out this sort of form, because I’m usually the one who helps everyone else. Who on earth am I supposed to pick for an emergency contact for me?!
GENTLE READER: Not being able to serve as your emergency contact herself -- and not knowing your friends or relatives -- Miss Manners cannot solve your immediate problem.
But she does have thoughts about the larger question of how such requests -- which are now made not just by preschools and employers, but also by social clubs, alarm system companies, gyms and even the occasional website -- are to be treated.
She appreciates the implication that, in an emergency, the form-holder has either the desire or the ability to contact someone on your behalf. She hopes that reflects the reality more than had the box been labeled “next of kin.”
With some exceptions, most such requests require only someone who, if unable to handle the emergency, will take responsibility for finding someone who will. A more stringent standard should be applied to such requests from medical practitioners, whose definition of an emergency may require someone in whose judgment you have greater trust.