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Give friend the benefit of the doubt

Dear Miss Manners: I have a new friend who takes enormous pride in coming from an aristocratic background and for being Mrs. Manners.

However, I was dining alone in a bistro the other day, and she arrived to have lunch as well. She sat down at the table beside me so we could chat, yet she did not remove her sunglasses the entire time.

Not being able to make eye contact with her made me uncomfortable, but assuming that as the etiquette expert, she knew better than I, I didn't say anything. My understanding is that it is bad etiquette to wear sunglasses in a restaurant, especially if you are having a conversation with someone -- even if it just be the waiter. Yes? No?

Gentle Reader: Mrs. Manners? Surely if your new friend were Miss Manners' mother, Miss Manners would know the other side of the story.

There can easily be one, as people wear tinted glasses for many reasons. There could be some temporary or permanent physical reason, or the lady could simply have had her regular glasses tinted for outdoor use. Even though your friend is not Miss Manners' mother, Miss Manners asks you to give her the benefit of the doubt.


Keep it short and sweet

Dear Miss Manners: How should one react when one finds oneself in a (small) medical waiting room with a lively baby and proud mother?

I have been caught in a few situations with no reading material, and I'm not sure where to focus my attention. I love babies and I always smile, say hello, wave and ask the babies' names, etc. Having done that for several minutes, though, I am then at a loss as to what to do if I'm not called into the doctor's office and I have nothing to read.

I don't want to appear rude, but when I am not at my best (as is usually the case at these appointments), I'm not up to a prolonged conversation. I fear that I may look rude or grumpy when others in the waiting room seem to enjoy having such long discussions with the proud mom. I do keep a smile on my face as much as possible.

Gentle Reader: The simple statement "Don't let her too near me, I may be catching" would do wonders to free you. After all, this is a medical office, not a party.

Without suggesting anything so drastic, Miss Manners suggests concluding your polite exchange by waving bye-bye at the baby and moving a chair or two away. Caught without a book, or the pretense that you are reading one on your cellphone, you can always sit back and close your eyes as if you were deep in thought or sleep.