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Don't stack dishes in restaurant

Dear Miss Manners: When at a restaurant, is it bad manners to "stack" (only dinner, saucer, bread) plates for the wait staff to remove from the table?

Gentle Reader: Yes, and worse manners to ask to participate in the pooling of tips for having done some of the waiter's work.

Now, now. Miss Manners knows that you were only trying to help. But you would not be pleased if someone passing through your workplace started doing your job -- and probably doing it badly. A waiter who takes pride in his professionalism would never stack plates at the table, and could be in trouble if you made him appear to have done so.

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A proper postponement?

Dear Miss Manners: A few weeks ago, my husband and I invited a couple who are neighbors to a small cocktail party, just the four of us. They were supposed to arrive at our house at 6 p.m.

At 5 p.m. that same evening they called to ask us to postpone this party until the following night. I replied no and I mentioned that I had already prepared the food.

The wife mentioned that the husband had an emergency and could not make it. I was stunned then, and I'm still stunned today. When I looked outside, his car was parked in his spot at 6:15 p.m. I don't know how to react to this. To me, she should have maybe showed up for a short time to show us that this reason was legitimate and he could have joined us later.

I spoke to her later and she appears like nothing happened and does not care that we lost hundreds of dollars worth of food and the time it took us to prepare the party. This has never happened to me in 50 years. I had people cancel the day before, the morning of but never one hour before. How would Miss Manners react?

Gentle Reader: With amazement that cocktail food for four people could cost hundreds of dollars. What were you serving -- buckets of caviar?

The answer is that while your neighbors were wrong to treat the occasion so lightly, you are treating it rather heavily. Stopping by for drinks with the neighbors does sound like a casual event that could easily be postponed, in contrast to an elaborate cocktail party, which is presumed to involve major preparation and a goodly number of guests. Had you invited them for dinner perhaps they might have taken the invitation more seriously.

But it is open to you to make your point by inquiring sympathetically about the emergency -- is he all right? Is there anything you can do to help?

Just please do not admit to spying on his car. This proves nothing, as he could have been taken away in an ambulance, but is the sign of a creepy neighbor.

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