DEAR MISS MANNERS: While shopping in a small market, I saw a little girl (approximately 4 years old) take a bread roll out of a bin and put it in her mouth. Her mother took the roll away from her child and put it back in the bin.
I said to the woman: “What’s wrong with you? Someone will come along and buy the roll that your child had in her mouth. That’s disgusting.”
The woman looked at me as though I was from outer space, then turned and walked away.
How could I have better handled this situation? I mentioned this to the cashier as I was leaving, and she said it happens all the time. Please Miss Manners, tell me what you would have done.
GENTLE READER: Started shopping somewhere else, with a more fastidious clientele – although Miss Manners suspects that this behavior is not unique to the market in question.
A direct assault on the mother is both impolite and, as you discovered, ineffective. You could have taken the used roll and handed it to a nearby store employee. The trick is to do this overtly enough that the mother sees it, without being so obvious that she feels called upon to defend herself – perhaps with a counter-charge of rudeness or, worse, with the plea that her poor child was starving.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What am I supposed to do when a boss scolds you and yells at you in front of co-workers?
GENTLE READER: If your boss scolds Miss Manners, you should defend her. If he yells at her Gentle Reader, that reader should object in private or, if this is unlikely to alter his behavior, to the human resources department.