DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a crowded area and parking is a hot topic. My car was parked in my driveway, and as I was loading stuff into the back, a person drove up and asked, “Are you leaving now?”
I said, “This is my driveway,” and added, “I’m the only one who can park here.” I was honestly confused.
They explained that they were asking my permission to park in front of the driveway “for five minutes,” which is illegal. I kind of see the logic, but I want to be able to leave my driveway whenever I feel like it. Also, I have no power to allow anyone to park illegally (or to commit any other crime).
I ended up saying “fine,” just to be done with it.
Were they wrong in asking me that favor? What should I have said? I honestly didn’t need to leave during that five minutes, but it still bothers me.
GENTLE READER: Presuming you were not being asked to assist in a bank robbery incidental to the parking violation, the etiquette question seems, to Miss Manners, to be more interesting than the legal one.
Given her area of expertise, this is fortunate.
The driver asked for a favor. This is not a breach of etiquette, nor is it one you cannot decline if you wish. These days she assumes that anyone, at any moment, could truthfully say, “I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m expecting a package.” But if that is not the case, there is always, “I need it clear for the next hour.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My widowed sister is remarrying, and I couldn’t be happier for the couple. My problem concerns a bridal shower being given by some of her friends, to which I am invited.
I will be the maid of honor and realize it is appropriate for me to at least attend, but the shower is taking place literally halfway across the country from me. I can barely afford the plane ticket for the wedding itself.
Is it acceptable for me to propose to the hostesses that I “attend” via videoconference to let my sister know that I am happy for her, despite my inability to attend the shower in person?
GENTLE READER: “Attending” virtually, is not, as you acknowledge by your use of quotes, the same thing as attending. The technology will, no doubt, continue to evolve. But for now, asking guests to squat in a circle around a computer monitor or phone, jockeying for a position in which they can see and hear the speaker, is an imposition.
Were you an infirm matriarch who could only be included through such means, Miss Manners would agree to such an accommodation for a limited portion of the event. In the situation you describe, your sister will no doubt be far more grateful for an extended phone call at another time, and such assistance as you can provide from a distance.
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.