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Be a good Samaritan

Dear Miss Manners: I received a voicemail from someone obviously calling the wrong number. The caller had a flat tire and was wondering whether the intended called was close by. I checked when the message was left and only five minutes had elapsed since then. What would be the polite thing to do in this sort-of-emergency (flat tire) type situation? Call them back and inform them that they left their message with the wrong number? Or ignore it and assume they realized their error and called the right person?

Gentle Reader: As good Samaritan deeds go, this one is pretty easy.

Someone is stranded and waiting to be rescued by someone who doesn't know of the trouble.

To help him, you don't have to leave your house. You don't have to run any risk. You have the number right in front of you. Can you explain to Miss Manners why you would dismiss this as a problem that need not concern you?


Charger must leave table

Dear Miss Manners: Please address the proper use of the chargers that are so popular today. Everyone seems to have a different idea.

Is it put on the table and left there throughout the meal, removing the salad plate and replacing it with the dinner plate, etc.; or is the dinner plate put on the charger and salad plate put on top of it? One friend says she's so glad to use it because she doesn't have to use a place mat.

Gentle Reader: Is she going to put the food on the tabletop when it is removed? Or will that stack of dishes, one on top of the other, fall over first?

The charger, or place plate ("charger" sounds too aggressive for Miss Manners), is set at each place at the start of the meal, and a soup plate or other smaller first-course plate may be set on it. However, it must then be removed and replaced by the dinner plate. It is not allowed to stay for the entire meal.


A growing guest list

Dear Miss Manners: I am hosting my child's birthday party at a location where the cost is determined by the number of children attending. I sent invitations home to each child in my son's class with the classmate listed on the envelope as the invitee.

A mother who I do not know well contacted me and asked if it was OK with me if she brought her other two children with the invited child and indicated they cannot attend at all if all three children do not come.

I have reservations about this because of the additional cost and also because of the age difference between the siblings and my son's classmates, which I think would affect the atmosphere. She has offered to pay for the siblings.

What would be a polite response to this request? Should I accept her offer of payment?

Gentle Reader: No, because you would put yourself in the position of selling places on your guest list.

But you needn't accept additional guests. Miss Manners is guessing that this mother is hoping to have free time while you watch all her children, which is unfeasible while you are supervising a party. Or perhaps she has an unwise policy that the three must always include one another, which is unfortunate for their social lives.

All you can do is to say, "No, I'm afraid we're only having Timothy's classmates. But I know they will all be very sorry not to see Sean there."

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