Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 30 May 2009

Your problems solved

Q. I was at a private view the other night when a waiter dropped not just one glass but a whole tray of them. I was unsure what to do. Should I turn a blind eye while the waiter tackled the problem on his own or should I have lent a hand? I know that good manners would dictate that I should bend down and help to pick up the pieces but I felt that to do this might implicate me in the accident and so I moved away. Now I feel I behaved shabbily. What is the correct drill, Mary?

O.B., London W8

A. Instinctively, you behaved correctly. The last thing the waiter wants is for his accident to become the focus of attention at a party and for the momentum of chatting and interaction to be halted. There was practical help you could have offered. It would have been to use your shared status with fellow guests to marshal them away from the danger zone and distract them from it. Meanwhile you could have signalled to other waiters to provide back-up in the clearing-up procedure.

Q. I recently saw a titled man, on whom I am very keen but whom I have not seen for many months, coming down the Haymarket on a bicycle. I was on a bicycle myself and tried to speed up to catch up with him but he kept on darting ahead. Then I saw him in St James’s Street and the same thing happened. I was worried that if I called his name there might have been a danger that he would fall off. How could I have safely drawn his attention to me?

H.R., London SW11

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