DEAR MISS MANNERS: I sometimes find myself at an event where nobody wants to talk to me.
My husband is a scientist and at his conferences and other work events, the other guests are usually only interested in interacting with other scientists in their field. I was once sitting at a table in a bar and the woman sitting next to me turned in her chair so that her back was to me and her front was to the person on the other side.
I understand that these people may have come a considerable distance and just want to gossip with their peers. But what can I do? I feel uncomfortable sitting alone while the party goes on around me.
I usually check my phone. Can I bring a book? Should I learn to knit like the faculty wives in Miss Pym’s books?
I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun by forcing them to talk to me. I avoid these situations when I can, but it’s not always possible.
GENTLE READER: Because you feel rudely and unfairly unwanted, Miss Manners lets you in on a secret: you are by no means superfluous, you are the only indispensable person in the room at these events.
At a lecture on quantum chromodynamics, don’t crowd the stage. They are at a social event after the lecture – an event that was planned because someone took a survey after last year’s conference and the scientists all agreed that the conference would be improved with less technical talking and more socializing. Except that when placed in a hotel ballroom with an open bar (or a bar, for that matter), none of these scientists could think of anything else to talk about.
If you’re charming and interesting — and can tell almost anything that isn’t science — you’ll win converts. And if it boosts your confidence, imagine those same scientists in high school (a technique that works in almost any profession, although it’s particularly apt in your case).
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know Miss Manners doesn’t approve of checks as gifts, but when you get a check – say at Christmas – when should it be cashed? Is it ok to leave it before a thank you letter is expected to arrive or should one wait a few days?
I don’t want to appear greedy, but by depositing the check immediately (I have a mobile banking app) the gift giver can confirm that their gift has arrived.
GENTLE READER: Write the thank you letter first. Otherwise you will be tempted to put it off.
But there may be another reason for delaying the check clearing. There is no absolute etiquette that one waits for the actual birthday to open a gift, for example. But the patience shown in waiting for the event that motivated the gift is charming.
Miss Manners recommends the same treatment in your case: you can cash the check on Christmas Day. It doesn’t matter that it will be a holiday.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners on her website www.missmanners.com; to her email, de[email protected]; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.