Dear Miss Manners: My city has replaced the traditional parking meters, where you insert coins, with machines that spit out tickets (after you insert coins) that indicate the expired time. The tickets are then placed on your dashboard. Therefore, it is not possible for the next person taking your parking spot to get a few extra free minutes.

Just as I was getting ready to purchase a ticket, a driver who was ready to get into his car in the parking spot behind me told me to hold on a second and he'd give me his ticket on which he still had 45 minutes. I gladly waited and thanked him.

That evening, I told my husband. He said I should have offered to pay the man for whatever the cost would have been for 45 minutes of parking.

I am ashamed to say that I never even thought about offering to reimburse the man. What is the proper etiquette for this new parking meter technology?

Gentle Reader: While she is all in favor of paying what one owes, Miss Manners has a hard time following your and your husband's reasoning.

It is her understanding that the city charges for street parking not just to be mean, but to get revenue and to ensure that there is fair turnover of parking spaces. She realizes, however, that the temptation to thwart both of these is so widespread as to qualify as a civic sport.

If you are trying to behave ethically, how do you come up with the idea that one driver can pay for the place and then sublet it to another? If you pay for parking, you should pay the city. If you are going to benefit from a questionable courtesy, you need only offer your thanks.

Dear Miss Manners: I had won and kept several gifts at showers, and it was not until I attended a baby shower, and all the gifts were for babies, did I realize that they were meant to be given to the guest of honor! I don't know when this custom began, but it is for the birds!

Gentle Reader: It is also for a generation that grew up being told that being the birthday child trumped all duties and consideration of one's guests.

Dear Miss Manners: I host a very large and elaborate Super Bowl party every year. As part of the party, I provide entrees, appetizers and beverages. The total cost of the party approaches $1,000 typically.

As part of the invitations I send for the party, in addition to the RSVP request, I typically ask that the guests attending chip in $5 to $10 toward the cost of the food and beverage. From an etiquette point of view, is a request to guests for a small contribution of this type impolite or poor manners?

Gentle Reader: Yes: "Hosts" do not "invite" people they call "guests" to pay for refreshments.

Ordinarily, Miss Manners would sympathize with you and suggest that you more modestly offer your house to a group of friends who would help set the rules for a cooperative gathering.

But that would not be likely to be either large or elaborate. The sort of party you describe should be given only by those who can afford it.

Dear Miss Manners: Does a request have to include the word "please" to be considered polite?

I certainly try to use the word "please," but I think it's OK to word a request differently, as long as it's still delivered nicely. For instance, "Would you mind getting me a glass of water while you're up?" or "Could you give me a hand with these groceries?"

My boyfriend feels differently, though, and when I say things like that, he says, "Please?" and then I say, "please!" and then he helps.

I'm OK with putting up with this rule of his, but I'm sure I say similar things to other people, and I wonder, do people think I'm rude?

Gentle Reader: This rule of his? You mean that you actually know the gentleman who is responsible for generations of children not being able to pry cookies out of their parents' hands without first saying "the magic word"?

Yes, people who make requests without saying "please" are considered rude. It sounds as if they are giving orders rather than asking favors.

But although Miss Manners does not understand your objection to the word, she will provide you with an acceptable substitute. You can get away with saying, instead, "I would be very grateful if you would be so kind as to. ..."

Readers may write to Miss Manners at [email protected], or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016 or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. Miss Manners' newest book is "No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice," written under her real name, Judith Martin. ©Judith Martin

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