Dear Miss Manners: I'm in a biracial same-sex marriage. It really rips me when servers ask us whether we want separate checks — so much so that I make a significant deduction to their tip. I realize this isn't teaching them anything, but short of trying to engage an annoying person in unwanted chatter, what can I do to make myself feel better? Do you have any thoughts?
Gentle Reader: Chiefly that you stop overthinking this.
How, exactly, would you propose teaching service people to recognize that two people, of whatever race or gender, are a couple? Eavesdropping? Checking to see if they are playing footsie under the table? And what if they are a couple, unmarried or married, who keep separate accounts? Or one of them is taking the other out for a special treat?
Sadly, Miss Manners shouldn't think you would have to work that hard to find evidence of prejudice.
Dear Miss Manners: Working at a restaurant in a small tourist town, I find myself and my co-workers constantly being photographed. Some people will ask first and, depending on how busy I am, I will oblige.
Is it rude for people to snap shots of their server, cashier, etc., or is it just part of working in the service industry?
Gentle Reader: It is rude to interrupt someone who is working with non-work-related matters, but it is not unreasonable to expect that at tourist destinations, photography is part of the service. If it bothers you, Miss Manners recommends that for the customers who do not ask permission, you find a way to inadvertently look the other direction.
Late for carpool
Dear Miss Manners: I volunteered to drive a sick neighbor's daughter to school and have been doing so all year.
The young lady makes us wait outside five to 10 minutes each morning. Is it too much of me to expect her to be ready to leave at the appropriate time? I feel bad leaving without her, but one morning I had to.
Gentle Reader: Repeat if necessary.
Time to go
Dear Miss Manners: So many times, as I am leaving the office, a certain co-worker will start up a conversation. It won't be about anything specific, or work-related (or interesting), but she will start talking and keep talking.
I am usually more interested in going home to relax than in chitchat. Is there a polite way to say, "Shut up, I want to go home"?
Gentle Reader: "I'm so sorry, but I must get going now. Let's pick this up tomorrow." Miss Manners assures you that if you do this — without, in fact, picking it up tomorrow — your co-worker will not follow you home.
"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, www.missmanners.com.