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Miss Manners: Good behavior put you at back of the line

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I frequent a coffee shop that has an extremely heavy door. I make a point of opening it or holding it open for others.

At times there’ll be a large group of women that I’ve held the door open for, and a long line inside the coffee shop. I’ve opened the door and held it open for, at times, four or five women.

This always puts me at the back of the line. Never once has a group of women asked me to go in front of them after holding the door open for them. On the other hand, most times if I hold the door open for one or more men, they almost always ask me to go in front of them. What is the etiquette here? And by holding the door open, do I assume that I should be in the back of the line?

GENTLE READER: Let us not jump to prejudicial conclusions here, as the difference in behavior might have more to do with number than gender.

If there are four or five ladies, the first of them will already be in line waiting for the others, who would all have to agree to move aside. But the gentlemen you cite do not seem to travel in groups, and thus would be approaching the line more or less the same time as you.

Still, it would be gracious for everyone to reciprocate by allowing you to go first in line. But any time you hold the door for another person, you are putting yourself at the back of some line, be it for the stairs, the elevator or getting to the office sooner. Miss Manners takes comfort in the belief that there is a more important, if less immediate, reward in behaving well.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an employee who answers my phones. She finds it easy to involve herself in all of my conversations with other people. I almost never can answer a question in my conversations because she takes over. I don’t want her to be disgruntled. I just need a way to make her stop.

GENTLE READER: Etiquette sometimes requires subtlety or indirection. This is not one of those times.

You are the boss. Miss Manners suggests you tell your employee in a respectful but clear and decisive manner what you expect of her.


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