DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few times a year, my in-laws invite my wife and me to join them for a concert at a small local venue. They cover all the costs for the dinner and the show, which can be very pricey.
Before the band/performer takes the stage, the host reminds the audience that filming or recording of any kind is strictly prohibited. And yet at every concert, my in-laws whip out their phones about halfway into the show and take several videos.
Even if we lean over and whisper a reminder to them that filming isn’t allowed, they smile and ignore us.
This is a small, dimly lit venue and I’m sure other people can see the glare of the phones lighting up, though we’ve never had the venue host stop by to give a reminder. Not only is the recording distracting to our own experience, we feel highly embarrassed being associated with people who don’t respect the rules.
After we declined to join them at last week’s concert, they sent us several videos they took of the evening’s event so we could see what we missed. My wife and I both cringed. We don’t know what to say without feeling like we are shaming them.
GENTLE READER: Rather a tricky moral question: If your relatives are cheating, do you ignore it or turn them in?
Miss Manners prefers to avoid such a painful decision. She knows you have tried to tell them not to break the rules, so let’s try something stronger:
Go with them next time, and as you enter the theater, ask the host, within your in-laws’ hearing, if taking videos is allowed. (Never mind how often you’ve heard that announcement.) When the reply is “No,” you say to the host, in a much quieter voice, “They believe they can do it inconspicuously; you might want to see if you agree.”
Yes, the in-laws will squeal. But you can say, “I was only repeating what you have told me: that your filming doesn’t bother anyone.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you apply gravy to your mashed potatoes, especially if you would like to contain it in a “lake”?
We discussed the idea of using the serving spoons, either from the potatoes or the gravy, to make an indentation — historically we have used the gravy spoon, and it is made in the perfect shape! — and also the idea of fussily using one’s own spoon to make the indentation during the passing of the mashed potatoes and gravy.
What is the right way to do this? We hope the answer isn’t to just pour the gravy on the mashed potato mountain, as we like the gravy to stay in a unit with the potatoes!
GENTLE READER: You will have used your soup spoon by the time the potatoes arrive, so the only place-setting spoon that might be available would be your dessert spoon. And the residue of gravy would not enhance your creme brulee.
Miss Manners does not see how the usual argument about sanitation would apply to using the gravy spoon on your untouched potatoes. So gently lower it onto the mound of potatoes to create a crater, and then turn it to unload. Any splashing and the game is up.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.