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Miss Manners: Disposing of Soiled Diaper Is Not Hostess’s Duty

Dear Miss Manners: I am a hostess in a family restaurant, and today I had a couple of young parents come in with an infant about 7 months old. I seated them in a lovely booth near the entrance of the restaurant.

To my dismay, they changed their baby’s diaper right on their table. Then, they signaled me to come over, and when I arrived at their table, the woman held out the soiled diaper and asked me to dispose of it!

I said simply,I don’t have any place to dispose of your baby’s diaper, but there is a ladies’ room down the hall.” She was obviously annoyed and said,Oh, come on! Surely you can put it in one of the bus trays for us!”

I couldn’t help myself, and so I answered,We don’t want your baby’s soiled diaper in our bus trays; we cart dishes in those trays.”

She became furious and demanded to speak with my supervisor. When she learned that my supervisor was not present, she demanded the phone number for the corporate entity that owns the restaurant, stating that she would make a complaint about me.

Miss Manners, how would you have handled her?

Gentle Reader: Without making physical contact.

Expressing concern for the health and hygiene of other customers and employees is perfectly reasonable, as long as it is done politely. If necessary, you can blame health department regulations.

Miss Manners would hope that any corporate entity would agree — and assures you that she will be none too quick to frequent the establishment of one that does not.

Dear Miss Manners : Is it acceptable to solicit cash donations to fund my child’s extracurricular school trip from friends, family and business acquaintances?

In the event that someone solicited does not reply, is it reasonable to ask again, or should the silence be interpreted as a no”?

Gentle Reader : Do you have reason to believe that these people have enough interest in your child’s extracurricular activities and sufficient discretionary funds that they would welcome the opportunity to contribute?

Would you gladly do the same for their children?

If you cannot say yes to both questions, Miss Manners advises you to refrain from attempting to embarrass them into complying.

But she gathers that you did not refrain. Can you at least refrain now from dunning those who did not respond?

Silence does indeed mean no,” if not Please go away.”

Dear Miss Manners: My in-laws have graciously contributed a large amount of money for my husband and me to buy a very nice new car.

(1) How do I respond to people inquiring as to how we are able to afford such a nice car, and (2) How do I thank my in-laws?

Gentle Reader: (1) You don’t. The question is rude and requires nothing more than a weak smile or change in subject. (2) Profusely.

Dear Miss Manners: I find it extremely annoying to be separated from my spouse at the dinner table at my mother’s house. This seems like an old tradition.

We like to touch and talk and do not talk about the kids, the dog or work, but we feel isolated and controlled when told where to sit. I would never dream of telling a guest where to sit.

Isn’t the job of the hostess to make sure the guest is comfortable? What do you think? She knows we don’t like it but does it on purpose.

Gentle Reader: What about the discomfort you cause those who do not want to watch you and your husband touching each other? And do the others at the table like it when you ignore the opportunity to be with them in favor of someone you see every day?

Of course it is the job of the hostess to tell everyone where to sit, in the interest of promoting general sociability. You have provided Miss Manners with an illustration of why this is necessary.

Dear Miss Manners: There’s an urgent situation here regarding this year’s lack of rainfall and water shortages. We’re all going to have to cut back and be aware of our consumption, or else it’s going to get pretty desperate.

One thing that really bothers me is the habit I see at work where certain people will flush the toilet before using it, thus wasting close to 3 gallons of water with each flush!

How can anyone approach these people in a work situation without it looking like they’re being singled out? It’s very upsetting to hear that we can’t grow food while I watch these people at work waste water with each trip to the loo.

Gentle Reader: Put up a sign in the bathroom that says,Please be mindful of our water shortage and limit your usage as much as possible.” By displaying the sign for all, no individual is singled out.

Miss Manners will politely refrain, however, from inquiring as to how you seem so keenly aware of your co-worker’s flushing habits.

Miss Manners is written by Judith Martin, her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. You are invited to email your etiquette questions from www.missmanners.com, if you promise to use the black or blue-black ink you’ll save by writing those thank you, condolence and congratulations letters you owe.