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

Where’s That Beer Been?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a casual dining restaurant (a national chain), the waitress bringing several drinks to our table -- without a tray, for some reason -- had carried my glass of beer under her arm.

Yes, under her arm.

I am still at a loss about what to have done. I didn’t want to embarrass the waitress, but I would have liked to have sent the drink back. And what do you say? “Excuse me, but my drink was under your arm”?

But as the bar was out of sight, I was unsure what she or anyone else would have done to my new drink. Any advice? Since this was a national chain, and training in this area is minimal and not standardized in the U.S., I can unfortunately imagine it happening again.

GENTLE READER: As the captain who gratefully received a steaming hot mug of coffee from his ensign on a ship pitching in heavy weather can attest, there is a leap of faith in accepting food from the hands of others. (Said captain eventually learned that the delivering ensign took a mouthful of the coffee while in transit, which he returned to the mug before entering the bridge.)

Miss Manners does not condone the unsanitary handling of food, but she is not the health department. And she is practical enough to realize both that there can be differences in what people consider sanitary, and that, were you to return the beer, citing your reason, the server would have boundless opportunity to do something far worse out of sight.

Ask for a manager and express your concern. It may or may not affect your next visit -- should you choose to return to that restaurant -- but it will at least shield you from retaliation. Miss Manners leaves the decision to drink or not to drink the beer as an exercise for the reader.