DEAR MISS MANNERS: As you are likely aware, strangers commonly share tables at Japanese hibachi restaurants.
One time, my wife and I were seated at a hibachi table with a very strange and uncouth man, his date and her two uncomfortable tween daughters. It was immediately obvious to both of us that this group would be unpleasant company, but we knew of no graceful way to decline to be seated with them.
We ate quickly and without enjoyment, and left as soon as we could.
Short of suddenly inventing an emergency and leaving the restaurant, is there any good way to avoid bad hibachi tablemates?
GENTLE READER: Like picking the restaurant itself, the time to make your decision is before you begin eating.
This requires a quick — and therefore possibly incomplete or incorrect — assessment of your fellow diners. (You may not, for example, have immediately realized that the four were not a family.)
Fortunately, mistakes will be mitigated by the fact that Miss Manners would not have you do anything insulting. Having decided that this group is not for you, ask the server if you can be seated closer to the window — or the door, or really anything.
Even if the server, or one of the tweens, understands your real motivation, they will have no tangible reason to take offense.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I visited my brother and sister-in-law with my husband and our two young children. Upon arrival, my sister-in-law was sick in bed, and apparently had been for two days prior.
Although she did not leave her room while we were there, I was upset I was not informed before staying in her home.
To add to the situation, her younger daughter was also sick. My brother originally told me it was allergies, but later said she had a cold (and my children stayed in her room that evening).
Is what they did considered rude/inconsiderate? I would have gladly rented a hotel room if I had known, but I wasn’t given that opportunity, and my husband felt it would be rude if we left. It really put me in an awkward situation. It has only been a couple of days since we left, and so far we are all still healthy, thank goodness.
GENTLE READER: That is a relief.
Although entirely rational, it does seem rude to run screaming from your relatives’ home for fear that they will infect you. But this rule can only be upheld so long as the contagious assume responsibility for protecting everyone else.
Your brother or sister-in-law should absolutely have warned you — and tried to help mitigate the situation, whether that meant renting a hotel room for your family or agreeing to postpone the visit.
As Miss Manners fears that conspicuously washing everything you touch is not endearing, she would have recommended that you decamped to a hotel — not, you would explain, out of fear for yourselves, but so that your poor sister-in-law could have some quiet in which to recover.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.