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A&E

Miss Manners: Focus on phones can lead to slapstick-style pileups

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In this digital age, I increasingly find myself brought up short at store entrances and exits, at the tops and bottoms of escalators and in the middle of sidewalks by people who must respond to a text immediately or edit a selfie before posting on social media.

Of course, this is nothing new, and my response has been to say, “Excuse me,” with the hope that the persons blocking my path will step to the side. But what is the polite follow-up when they do not move, and continue to block the way? (At times, I have not been able to stop in time and have accidentally bumped into them, but this does not seem an optimal strategy.)

GENTLE READER: Perhaps Miss Manners has enjoyed too much slapstick in her day, but causing a human pile-up seems to her an amusing strategy for making your point – if only you could keep from harming anyone in the process. She supposes there is no guarantee.

In lieu of that, a gentle touch on both shoulders to physically move the traffic-blockers should sufficiently startle them into never wanting to cause the problem again.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a tall gentleman, and many times when I go to sit in a theater, the patrons behind me will become upset and say vile things, fearing that I will block their view. I slouch down as far as can, but sometimes that does not ease their perceived inconvenience.

I try to ignore the conversation, though it is barely a foot away and therefore fully audible, and can be upsetting. I am sensitive to the needs of others and do my best to appease them without openly acknowledging their insults, but many times the barrage continues. How do I address such behavior?

GENTLE READER: Face the situation with your tall head on. Miss Manners recommends you say something like, “I am so sorry that I am a bit vertically well-endowed. I am doing my best to stay out of your way.” And then if snickers take over for snarky remarks, at least you will have willingly participated in their source.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was given a gift while out with friends for an occasion that was not the one being celebrated (specifically, a gift for my new baby while out for a friend’s birthday). I thanked the giver and quietly tucked it under the table to be opened later.

When I called my friend the next day to thank her, she mentioned she wished she could have seen my face when I opened it. Was I right not to open it on the spot, since my new baby was not the reason for the celebration? Or should hand-delivered gifts always be opened immediately when given?

GENTLE READER: As your friend delivered this present at her convenience, it is only fitting that you opened it at yours. You were tactful to wait. Miss Manners hopes your friend will realize that and not deprive you of future presents – delivered when you are the one being celebrated or the two of you are alone – so that she can fully enjoy your face.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.