Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I have an interesting ethical — or perhaps a moral — dilemma. We spend significant time at a cabin we own and our longtime gardener and maid have keys to our home. The gardener also has keys to our cars. When my wife and I returned to the cabin recently, I found two containers of a sexual lubricant on the kitchen counter. My assumption is that one of them used our home for a tryst and forgot to remove this evidence. The gardener and maid are both married. The bottles remain in plain sight on the kitchen counter and neither has claimed them or mentioned them. I am reluctant to ask either of them because it might point to the other as being unfaithful and would expose them as having used our home for non-work-related purposes. They do know each other slightly. Either could lie if I ask. Basically, because of my suspicion I am going to worry about their trustworthiness until I resolve whose it is and how it got into our home. We have grown, unmarried kids. They have their own homes. I asked our son if these items belonged to him and he chuckled and said no. Now he knows (by deduction) that I suspect hanky-panky from one of the employees. My wife wants me to drop it. What do you think I should do?
DEAR CONCERNED: In addition to your “Downton”-esque theory that either the maid or the gardener is getting it on in your cabin, there are many other possibilities, including the idea that either of them (or both) is using your cabin for trysts with their own spouse — or with each other. Or their cousins, kids, neighbors or anyone else now has access to the keys and is using your cabin — and, possibly, your car.
Remove the sexual, moral, ethical component from this and you are left with evidence that you have a security breach. You and your wife should point this out to each of your employees (separately and privately), ask them if they know anything about it, and expect them to answer in the negative.
I suggest you review whether you keep any valuables in the cabin, investigate installing a security system, double-check your insurance coverage and — possibly — install a camera you can monitor remotely.
DEAR AMY: I am in a longtime non-romantic relationship with a man. Neither of us has a romantic partner or is dating at the moment, and we go out to dinner frequently. Unfortunately, he seems clueless about what most people consider good table manners. I am not a social snob, but his eating habits create an uncomfortable dining experience for me. Additionally, I don’t feel comfortable having him accompany me to certain events, such as my upcoming college reunion or family gatherings where I know others would notice and judge him. If he knew that a few simple changes in the way he eats would be advantageous to him socially, I believe he would try to make the changes, but I can’t be the one to bring it up. I don’t want to hurt his feelings or insult him. Do you have suggestions?
DEAR DINER: You don’t mention what your friend does that is so objectionable, but if you are close friends, you should be able to offer feedback in an honest way and he should be able to handle it. You could start by asking your friend, “We eat together so often — can I offer you some feedback about table manners?” Also give him this helpful book: “A Gentleman at the Table: A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners” by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis (2004, Thomas Nelson). The first page lists commonsense rules all polite people should follow at the table.
DEAR AMY: In response to “Academically Challenged,” the college freshman with cerebral palsy: Please suggest the student check out the support services offered by the college. Many colleges have an office dedicated to helping students with a wide variety of physical and mental health challenges succeed. The transition to college is difficult for most students. This student is not stupid — but courageous. Connecting with college services and other students who may be in similar situations will give this student the confidence to cope with school and the parents’ concerns.
Karen, a College Academic Adviser
DEAR KAREN: I hope my suggestion that she visit her academic adviser provides Challenged with resources offered by her school.