DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend in her 50s who is just plain rude. She assumes that she is perfectly entitled to tell parents of misbehaving children (total strangers) how their children are out of line; to loudly and longly honk her horn when someone drives in a manner she dislikes; to bang on her apartment ceiling, walls and floor with a rubber mallet when her neighbors are too loud, etc.
She’s nice in private, but in public, she’s embarrassing due to her rudeness, which can come out at any time – most recently when she thought someone had cut in line in front of her and she loudly said, “That’s OK. I’m invisible here.”
I’ve tried to gently tell her that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” but she just brushes me off with, “Yes, Mom.” Should I move on, or is there a nice way to let her know the way she treats people is embarrassing and rude?
GENTLE READER: No doubt your friend believes that she is serving the cause of manners by further inflaming people who are already behaving questionably and, incidentally, by ridiculing your embarrassment. That rudeness does not teach the importance of etiquette does not seem to discourage anyone from trying.
Miss Manners cannot authorize your committing the rudeness of criticizing your friend’s behavior. But she can suggest that you discuss the matter calmly, when your friend is on her “nice” behavior, by engaging her on the subject of the reactions she encounters.
Is the neighbor more cooperative after those bangings? Do parents thank her for pointing out that their children are misbehaving, and are they presumably open to teaching them better behavior? Do those who cut into line apologize when she denounces them?
Miss Manners is guessing that this will lead to the admission that maybe her outbursts don’t change others, but they make her feel better. You will then have to be gentle when you ask what she believes are the motives of others for their rudeness.