Magazine article The Spectator

Your Problems Solved

Magazine article The Spectator

Your Problems Solved

Article excerpt

Q. I recently took a party of six friends to the opera, and was struck by my ignorance over a certain point of etiquette. When squeezing past people in order to get to one's own seat at the end of a row, do you face them or turn your back on them? As far as I can see, there is a straight choice between rubbing up against them with either your front or back bottom. What do you do, Mary?

E.H., Bruton Mews, London W1

A. Long-legged Rupert Christiansen, our former opera critic, often reaches his seat by striding sequentially over the empty seats in the rows behind. This method is clearly unsuitable for women and shortlegged men, however, so both of these must make their way along the rows with their backs turned, sadly, on those they are passing as the risk of falling on top of someone into a mating position is too high. Yet, using the seats in front as aids for balancing, they can turn and say, `Excuse me' or, `Thank you' to each person disturbed as they go. Incidentally, when squeezing into a table seat in a restaurant, the opposite protocol is in force. You must face those you are passing, as it is obviously better to knock plates, knives and glasses etc. off your own table with your buttocks than to knock them off a neighbour's.

Q. I have a friend who is reasonably clean. He has, however, a problem associated with personal hygiene which causes me some distress. On the tip of his nose which, in his case, might be described as monumental, he sports a singularly revolting blackhead. …

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