Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

The Time to Judge a Guest's Drunkenness Is as He Heads Out the Door

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We were invited to my boss's for dinner and cards ("Bring your appetite, we're serving our special"). When we arrived, we were greeted with, "We're just getting through; get yourselves a drink and we'll be right in."

We did bring our appetites and were painfully starving as we exchanged perplexed glances. Upon leaving, we thanked them for a wonderful evening and, needless to say, drove to the nearest restaurant. Did our hosts really forget that they asked us to dinner? What would others have done in this situation?

GENTLE READER: It seems odd to Miss Manners, as well. Are we sure that everyone's good manners are not hiding a more fundamental miscommunication, such as a confusion about arrival time?

If so, your being too polite to ask, "Where's the food?" and your host being too polite to ask, "Where were you?" leaves everyone perplexed, if not insulted.

In the circumstances described, the answer to "We're just getting through" is, "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry: Are we late? We thought we were supposed to arrive at 8."