A Question of Etiquette: Better to be safe than right

 

Wave rage is the only term I can think of for what just happened. We were in my little 1.5-horsepower, 12-foot dinghy, when a cabin cruiser started bearing down on us. My friend told me not to worry, that we had the right of way. He said, “any boat that’s overtaking another has to yield to that boat and can’t do anything to endanger it. That’s the rules and the etiquette.” I was frightened, and got out of the way because the cabin cruiser was not slowing down and the person at the helm was shaking his fist at us. Should I have just held my course?

 

It’s true that the rules say that you had the right of way, but common sense has to take over when someone is threatening you out of impatience or with an “I’m bigger: Get out of my way” attitude. Your friend was correct, but that doesn’t mean you put your lives in danger based on a rule. Just as angry people on the road can go a little crazy with rage if you are in their way, not going fast enough for them, or cut them off in error, so can people on boats. Know the rules, but follow your common sense, as you did. Staying the course could have been a fatal decision.

 

My wife and I and our two small children are visiting friends for three days. We probably won’t be going out to eat, because of the children, so we can’t treat them to a restaurant meal, so should we offer to pay for groceries?

 

Sure. It’s very thoughtful to offer. One way to do this is to suggest, in advance, that you’d like to provide the groceries and cook dinner one night, or treat to take-out if that makes more sense. You do this in advance so that they can include that in their own plans. It’s fine to ask them for their restaurant recommendations if take-out is the choice.

 

I sent a group email notifying friends that we’ve moved and providing our new address. My sister said this was improper and I should have sent a card in the mail. Really?

 

Well, before email, people did send change of address notices in the mail, but today it makes sense to share your news easily and quickly, and an email notice enables you to do just that. Either is fine.

 

I asked someone I recently met where she bought the dress she was wearing because I just loved it. I was told this was a rude question. Was it?

 

Hmm. While you intended your question as a compliment, the question does border on being a personal one, especially when you don’t really know the person you are asking. It’s best to just to say how great you think what someone is wearing is without questioning her on the specifics. You also never asked how much someone paid for something, no matter how much you like it.

 

Questions for Catherine? Send them to [email protected]

 

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