DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of a friend wanted to surprise her husband with a gift. Rather than have it arrive at their office, she asked if I could receive it and drop it off with the receptionist.
I explained that I work three mornings a week and that it was likely I’d miss the delivery, and also that I tend to lock my front gate when I am not at home. She then asked if someone else could be at my home to take delivery. I explained that my husband works 8 to 6, so not really.
This didn’t seem to perturb her. She then asked if, when I had the package, I could rewrap it in the wrapping paper that would be enclosed. I said I would try to help. Several days later, after a failed delivery, I found a note to pick up the package at the local post office. So I went. It was huge, and I could hardly manage getting both my 3-year-old and the package to the car.
When I unwrapped the package, there wasn’t any wrapping paper included. So I wrapped it in my own generic wrapping paper, then drove around and dropped it off at their office reception. The next day I received a two-word text message: ”thank you.” She obviously didn’t realize that I put more effort into this gift for her husband that she did choosing and paying for it online, and arranging for delivery, all from the comfort of her chair.
I don’t even know why I am miffed -- I am a polite person and didn’t want to let someone down, but I am miffed! I was raised to always help others when I could, but I seem to be the only one. Am I being too old-fashioned to expect more manners?
GENTLE READER: Expecting good manners is not old-fashioned, but it is worth reviewing the difference between manners and friendship. Unlike your friend’s friend, manners required very little of you in your situation: a polite “I’m sorry, I can’t,” repeated as often as necessary, would have sufficed.
That, and not losing your temper -- either when being badgered or when receiving insufficient thanks. Miss Manners draws the distinction to save you the embarrassment next time of thinking that what you did was required. And to reinforce that the importance of performing an act of friendship is in direct proportion to the strength of the friendship -- which in this case was diluted, at best.