Miss Manners

Shake, Rattle and Knock

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I am using a one-person public restroom -- the kind with one door that locks -- often someone will try to open the door, and, finding that it is locked, will immediately follow up with knocking. Do you consider this rude?

When I am the person on the outside, and I try the door and find that it is locked, I leave the occupant in peace and wait my turn. I even feel a bit guilty for disturbing them or possibly startling them. I would never dream of further disturbing them by knocking.

I once asked a woman why she knocked after already trying the door, and she told me she was just letting me know that someone was waiting. I believe that trying the door is signal enough that someone is waiting. I interpret the additional knock as an indicator that the person is being pushy and wants me to hurry.

What do you say? Is it rude to knock?

GENTLE READER: By definition, everyone hoping to enter a restroom is in a hurry. Miss Manners would think that anyone inside should have fresh empathy for that state.

You should also understand that while rattling and knocking both make noise, they are different gestures. The rattle, a utilitarian way of determining whether the door is unlocked, is not subject to etiquette classification. A knock, in contrast, is a polite signal to the person inside that there is someone outside.

This need not deprive you of whatever time you need for the primary purpose of a restroom. But if you are in there experimenting with hairstyles, it should suggest that you yield to more pressing needs.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My significant other and I were invited to a dinner hosted by another couple, with a third couple also in attendance. We were asked to bring dessert, so we brought a large selection of cupcakes.

My SO and I put a lot of effort into picking out flavors for each guest rather than opting for a random assortment, and we were looking forward to doling them out after dinner.

The hosts’ neighbors dropped by unexpectedly before dinner and were asked to stay. I felt slightly annoyed that our deliberate cupcake selection would be thrown off, but it hardly mattered when I realized that the host had already allowed each of his two kids to help themselves to a cupcake.

Was I justified in feeling annoyed by my dessert being distributed not as I’d thoughtfully intended, or was it considered the hosts’ right to do with it what they pleased?

GENTLE READER: Personalized cupcakes?

Miss Manners is loath to discourage thoughtfulness, personalization or cupcakes, but surely that sort of specialized effort is best made when you are the host and can control the circumstances.

Please stop feeling insulted. Once you had agreed to bring dessert, it was not your prerogative to decide when the children could eat or whether the neighbors would be welcomed.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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