Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 17 1998 3:30 AM



Prudence, drawing on her rich experience of life, will answer questions submitted by readers. She will respond to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, economics, and other subjects. Questions should be sent to They should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.

Dear Prudence,

I just had lunch at a local Internet cafe. I brought my own laptop and wireless modem, the better to read Slate in its full framed glory. I was (slowly) downloading full images while everyone else was using Lynx. I did order a cheese sandwich, and nobody gave me any dirty looks, but even so, I felt a little guilty about not spending any money for my online experience. Is it rude to bring your own digital device to an Internet cafe? What about bringing food but paying for a terminal?

--Sincerely,Somewhere in Seattle

P.S. To be specific, I'm at, and I just finished my tasty sandwich.

Dear Somewhere in Seattle,

Prudence had never heard of an Internet cafe until she received your letter. Apparently such things do not exist east of the Rockies or north of 25 years of age. I have, however, consulted the Web site to which you refer, and now have a clue as to the subject of your query.

As I understand it, the cafe provides computers and modems for the use of its patrons for a fee and also sells food. Your question is whether it is improper for you to bring your own laptop and wireless modem, thus bypassing the fee, and to buy only a cheese sandwich.

The management of the cafe has established the rules for the use of their facility. Since they have let you in and have not kicked you out, it appears that you have not violated any of those rules. You are not being rude. But if there are many people like you, and especially if you are occupying space that might be occupied by a paying customer, the management will change the rules. They will establish a cover charge or require a minimum food purchase for the use of a table. The situation will be like that in a cabaret, where you cannot sit down at a table and watch the show without paying something.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.