May 27, 2011 in Features

Tourist seeks fix for pesky behavior

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I was just rude to a child. The fact that he was the 50th person today to ask me to buy something and the 40th person who did not accept a polite “No, thank you” (in his language) with a smile may explain, but does not, in my mind, excuse my brusqueness. (I wasn’t horrible, but after he didn’t take “no thank you” twice I said “I don’t want anything” and I raised my voice a little.)

How should one deal with “subsistence-level tourist farmers?”

I remind myself that these people have so little that they make me look like Donald Trump.

But I find that the purveyors of small items that swarm tourists are severely affecting my ability to enjoy traveling. I end up avoiding places I want to go just to avoid the purveyors.

In one country, I acted drunk all the time I was outside (which worked, actually), but was exhausting. Sometimes they take a “no thank you,” but more often, they won’t leave me alone until I am brusque, bordering on rude.

Is there any good option? (And, for the record, I do give to charity. This trip, I’m giving a week’s worth of living expenses for my three-week trip to a charity focused on educating poor girls in this country. I am happy to give; I want to give wisely.)

GENTLE READER – One of the most pitiful things about this situation is that the children have probably been trained to wear people down by being pests. That is not an excuse to be rude to them, but it does require being firm – and then moving out of their way.

Miss Manners admires your approach to travel. Well, maybe not your staging a drunk scene, but your unwillingness to be rude, your support of local charity and your learning at least one polite phrase of the language.

You need to learn more of the language. You need to learn to say, “I’m sorry, but it will do you no good to keep after me; it will just annoy me.”

It is tricky to ask tour guides or others you may encounter who are in the travel business, who have an interest in protecting you but perhaps not as much in protecting the feelings of those who harass their clients. They are more likely to teach you phrases you would never say anywhere.

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I have been dating a widower for two years. We have both said we are happier with each other than we’ve ever been with anyone else and at some point will marry.

When we are in public or with friends, he refers to his late wife as his wife. It makes me uncomfortable and the people he’s talking to always look at me in shock. My boyfriend doesn’t notice this.

Is this appropriate? Should he refer to her as his late wife or am I being thin-skinned?

GENTLE READER – He should break what is, after all, a long-standing habit, but you would be of more help in sympathizing and explaining than in being hurt.

“My dear,” Miss Manners suggests saying, “it seems disrespectful to your late wife when you give people the impression that she is still alive, and yet you are running around with me. Not to mention that I’m getting a racy reputation as a home-wrecker.”

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