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Miss Manners: Restaurant wait staff are there to serve, not embrace

Dear Miss Manners: At restaurants,if the waiter does not give us his name, my husband will ask for it. My husband then proceeds to introduce us to the waiter. I find this to be incredibly awkward and even patronizing. It seems unnecessary for the waiter to know our names, as we are not trying to make friends. We’re always friendly to wait staff and we tip well, but we’re ultimately just at the restaurant to enjoy a meal. Am I wrong – is this introduction proper or appropriate?

Gentle Reader: Not unless your husband intends to invite the waiter to share your meal, in which case Miss Manners wonders who will bring the food.

Coat-check conundrum

Dear Miss Manners: I volunteered as a coat-check person for an auction fundraiser for a not-for-profit group. Was it appropriate for me to offer to help people put their coats on after I retrieved them? When my “customers” were a couple (man and woman), I’d offer the obviously feminine coat to the man to allow him to help the lady with her coat.

Rarely did he seem happy to take it. One man said, “Nope! That’s HER coat.”

Was I wrong to give the women’s coats to the men? The event was formal, “black tie.”

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners understands the confusion of the gentleman who is handed a stole while you retain his wool overcoat. Surrender both coats to the person who asked for them. A gentleman who has the courtesy to help a lady on with her coat no doubt has the dexterity to juggle his own coat while doing so.

Loan or present?

Dear Miss Manners: Nineteen years ago, I moved out of my apartment. At the time I had a buffet/sideboard that did not fit in my new apartment. Some friends offered to take it. We now live around 50 miles apart, but remain on friendly terms. A number of years ago I saw the sideboard in their dining room and noticed that they had refinished it. It does match my dining room table and it belonged to my great-aunt Mary. How do I bring up the topic of my sideboard and that I want it back?

Gentle Reader: Your description of what happened 19 years ago is hazy on who said what. Unfortunately, it matters who said what at the time. You can call in a loan, but you cannot politely request the return of a present. However, if it was clearly understood by both parties as a temporary loan, you may remind them of the original agreement. Miss Manners suggests you also express your gratitude and offer to pay for the refinishing.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.