Restaurant and Random Issues, Vol. 6, Issue 2

Dear Etiquetteer:

Recently at a Fine Dining Establishment we were told that there was no room to accommodate our party. As we were putting on our coats one of the waiters came past, who turned out to be a social acquaintance, and asked if we were having lunch there. We said we had hoped to, and explained the predicament while continuing to put on our coats. "Wait a moment." he said, and shortly we were squeezed into a cozy but otherwise charming table for a delicious lunch.

Though he was not our waiter, I did thank him afterwards and slipped him a tip, since I felt he had acted in a professional capacity as much as in a social capacity. Was this proper? When is it proper to tip friends or acquaintances, and how much is appropriate when indirect service is rendered?

Dear Well Led and Well Fed:

Interacting with personal friends working as service personnel does sometimes feel tricky. When friends do each other favors, they respond in kind with another favor or a Token of Gratitude, not Cold Hard Cash. But Etiquetteer thinks you acted correctly in slipping a consideration to your waiter/acquaintance because of his position in the restaurant. Had he waited on your table, you would have tipped him as you would any other.

Dear Etiquetteer:

My wife and I were out to dinner with friends not too long ago, and I started the meal with a delicious crab bisque. As I got down near the bottom, I tilted the bowl toward me to get to the last of the soup, and my wife nudged me to stop. And, she added, I should be pushing my spoon away from me rather than pulling it towards me. Was I wrong to tilt the bowl, and is that idea of spooning away from your body real etiquette or merely an old wives tale?

Dear Spooning:

Etiquetteer hates to tell you, but your wife is correct. Etiquetteer’s Beloved Grandmother even had a rhyme about it: something something "Like little ships that sail to sea/I tip my spoon away from me." Etiquetteer believes that you have less of a chance of slopping a bowl of soup on you if it's facing the other direction. So when getting down to those last excellent drops of crab bisque, please tip your bowl and spoon toward the table.

Etiquetteer hopes Your Lovely Wife didn't correct you verbally before people, which is certainly not Perfectly Proper. Nothing more than a raised eyebrow or gentle nudge should be required.

Dear Etiquetteer:

How do you address an envelope for a thank-you note if the wife is a doctor? Mr. and Mrs. John Doe seems right. Mr. and Dr. John Doe doesn’t seem right. But I'm open to suggestion.

Dear Corresponding:

That’s good, because ignoring a lady’s professional title is a bad idea. Put Dr. Jane Doe on the first line and Mr. John Doe on the second line. Please note that these are in alphabetical order; if they had different last names, they'd be in alphabetical order regardless of gender, e.g. Dr. Jane Adler/Mr. John Doe.

Dear Etiquetteer:

This came up with my wife, and then a few days later in a conversation with another couple. What is the proper etiquette for a man and a woman approaching a revolving door? I thought the man should go first. My friend proposed that, if the door is already moving, the woman should go first, otherwise, the man should go first.

Dear Revolving:

This is really a question of safety and chivalry. The gentleman goes first to keep the door from speeding out of control, thereby knocking to her knees some poor lady in spike heels or platform shoes. It doesn’t matter whether or not the door is already moving. Gentlemen similarly go in front of ladies when descending staircases or getting out of buses.

Dear Etiquetteer:

President Ford’s funeral was over a week ago. How come all the flags are still at half-staff?

Dear Flagging:

Because the period of official of mourning set by President Bush is 30 days from the date of death of President Ford. The Flag Code indicates that this is established by the President of the United States by proclamation at the time. You may find the President’s proclamation here.

While researching this, Etiquetteer also found out that when one raises the flag when it’s supposed to be at half-staff, one must first raise the flag all the way to the top of the staff and then lower it halfway down the flagpole. For two years in elementary school Etiquetteer got stuck with . . . uh, gladly took on the duty of raising and lowering the flag at school each day and understood that half-staff only meant one flag-length from the top of the flagpole. What a relief to find out what True Perfect Propriety is now.

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