Many of us car-poolers are captive audiences - seating ducks for all kinds of offensive behavior.
Some of us can tune out loud chattering, snorting, coughing, sneezing, gum chewing, smacking and snapping, and the use of colorful language and offensive jokes - but there must be a graceful way out.I am in a riding pool with six other women, each of whom wears a different fragrance (some are truly overwhelming musky scents) - the combination of which is so malodorous that I sometimes feel I am going to gag during the 40-minute ride to work. Neither an open window nor air conditioning eliminates the odor.
Using such tactics as "My, what unusual scents I smell," "What powerful odors do I smell?" and "My goodness, it smells as if I am in a perfume factory" has not stopped them from indulging in their morning toilet ritual. For all of us whose olfactory senses suffer while commuting, I would appreciate any hints that might help eliminate yet another pollution in our environment.
GENTLE READER - Miss Manners has a vivid picture of your car-poolers, half awake, splashing on perfume sloppily in the hope that the alcohol in it will revive them enough to recognize their offices when they are dumped off.
They are in no state to understand delicate hints. (However, Miss Manners is awake enough to appreciate "seating ducks" and thank you for it.)
Fortunately there is another polite way to handle the problem. A regular car pool is considered a tiny sovereign society that can adopt unanimously approved rules. Typical rules concern how far in advance one should warn that one cannot take one's turn driving, or how long the group must wait for a tardy passenger.
Miss Manners will allow you to ask them to refrain from perfuming themselves before the trip, as you are troubled by odors - but only if you eliminate such words as "gag," "malodorous" and "pollution" from a request that, after all, concerns a luxury these ladies feel enhances their attractiveness.
Unlike gum-snapping, perfume is not itself an etiquette violation, however much it may bother some people. Neither, for that matter, are sneezing and coughing, although etiquette does concern itself with containing their effects.
The plea for restraint is sweetened by being phrased as an apology: "I'm so sorry, but perfume seems to bother me. Would it trouble any of you to apply it after you get to work? I would really appreciate it."
DEAR MISS MANNERS - My husband has been asked to act as master of ceremonies at our niece's wedding. As he has never performed this duty before, I wondered if you might advise us of the correct procedure to follow - how and when to introduce the head table, toasting, and anything else that would make his duties interesting and lighthearted. It will be a relatively small wedding, with just over 100 guests.
GENTLE READER - Since when do people need a master of ceremonies in order to celebrate their own wedding?
Miss Manners is sorry to say that she knows the answer: Since the American people decided that the archetypal ceremony was the Academy Awards, and that all milestones of life should pattern themselves upon it, including applause and listings of credits.
Introducing the head table is a particular atrocity. Did everyone sneak in, skipping the receiving line? The bride is the one in the wedding dress. Anyone who can't recognize at least some of the others must be at the wrong wedding.
Please ask your husband to confine himself to the hostlike role of offering the first toast at dessert (wedding-cake) time and then allowing others to offer toasts as well. Although he may do this with whatever lightheartedness and charm he may muster (Miss Manners can hardly recommend a routine - he is supposed to be inspired by his affection for the couple), he should remember, even if no one else does, that a wedding is not a television show.
Planning a wedding? If you need Miss Manners' advice on whom to invite, what to wear, who pays for what, etc., send $2 for her "Weddings for Beginners" pamphlet to: Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.