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Miss Manners: The case of the poop-pickup-truck bandit

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Dear Miss Manners • I watched from my house as my new neighbor walked by with his wife, young daughter and beautiful dog. The dog picked my perfect lawn to relieve himself, which I understood. Thankfully, the man picked it up in a blue baggie, saving me from an awkward encounter where I may have embarrassed him in front of his family.

But then he threw the baggie into the bed of my brand-new pickup truck! Shocked, I said nothing ... but now it has become his habit, and I have found several more bags of dog poop back there. How can I tactfully handle this bad neighbor?

Gentle Reader • It is tempting to return to your neighbor what is rightfully his — in the same manner in which it was received — but if you want to maintain otherwise good relations with him, Miss Manners does not advise it.

Instead, you may politely let him know what he otherwise must have missed: “I’m not sure how they got here, but somehow your dog’s poop baggies have ended up in my truck. If you don’t mind disposing of them elsewhere, I would be extremely grateful.”

Dear Miss Manners • My mother-in-law has some food behaviors that are jarring and unusual. At family meals, she will take disproportionate amounts of food: For example, she will take every cookie on a plate that is being passed around to share.

Once, she fished out all of the meat from a stew when it went around the table.

Often our family meals are potluck style. She will volunteer to bring a side dish, dessert or bread, but will actually bring something else, such as an onion or head of lettuce, and then keep it for herself. Other times, she will bring over food for us to cook so that she can take it home with her. The food is not for us to share.

I’ve asked my husband if he could talk to his mom about it, because her behavior is weird and embarrassing. He doesn’t think it worth bringing up, and ignores it.

Am I overstepping in asking my husband to talk to her? How should I handle this, if at all?

Gentle Reader • Sorry. Miss Manners is distracted by the image of your mother-in-law sitting in the corner with her onion and head of lettuce, emphatically not willing to share.

If the husband approach is not working because he doesn’t find this an alarming departure from the way his mother has always behaved, it seems to Miss Manners that family- or buffet-style service should cease when your mother-in-law comes to dinner.

If she’s still hungry, you can always suggest that she go back to her onion.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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