DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was going down the stairs into the subway during rush hour behind a woman who was moving excruciatingly slowly. I looked to see if she had a physical problem and noticed that she was texting.
I then asked (very politely), “Would you mind finishing texting at the bottom of the stairs?” I naively expected her to apologize.
Instead, she angrily told me that I had no right to tell her when she could text. I mildly replied that she was right and that I was asking, not telling. She shouted that I was telling – and then I just walked away.
I know that the woman was rude to me, but was I wrong in asking her to not text on the stairs? It was raining, and I and the many people lined up behind her were all getting wet.
GENTLE READER: Let’s leave out your presumed selflessness in protecting others from the rain and your willingness to be patient if the delay had been due to a disability. For all you know, the obstructionist could have been texting emergency instructions to save a life, or herself suffering from a nonobvious disability.
This leaves you with the annoyance of being behind a slow person when you were in a hurry. Please, folks, can’t you just state your problems without gift-wrapping them in virtues?
Miss Manners counts three rudenesses here, petty ones to be sure, but the kind that sometimes escalate into urban violence. The first was indeed yours, and Miss Manners gives you credit for apologizing. But it was rude of her to snap at you, and even ruder to shout and reject your apology.
All this could have been avoided if you had addressed your problem, instead of the other person’s activity. “Excuse me, may I get by? A lot of us are caught in the rain,” is unlikely to have brought on that defensive tirade.