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Poor attempt at joke deserves another



 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate

Dear Miss Manners: As a wheelchair user, I am at a loss on how to respond to a certain fellow employee whose attention I am finding embarrassing. I have crossed paths with him more than a dozen times (in the elevator, cafeteria, etc.), always in the company of other workers, and he nearly every time makes a loud, joking remark like, “No speeding now!” or “Don’t run over me!”

I have encountered this with others over the years, but not so persistently nor where I was in a position to feel professionally somewhat vulnerable. I am a fairly new employee and he is much senior to me, both in age and position.

I have tried several things to try to influence him to stop doing this, including introducing myself to him personally since he did not appear to know my name or what department I work in; responding with silence and a chilly smile; and making a neutral reply like, “I sure am glad it stopped raining, aren’t you?” These have not changed his actions.

My husband suggested writing him a nice note about it, but I worry this might increase the discomfort or make him defensive/angry rather than make things better.

Gentle Reader: Quite aside from the matter of rank, Miss Manners agrees that a “Your remark makes me feel uncomfortable” letter would be discomfiting, not to mention vaguely pathetic. But surely one poor attempt at a joke deserves another.

Next time you get the remark about running him over, you might say with a smile, “You know, I never thought of running anyone over, but now that you’ve mentioned this so many times, I can’t get it out of my head. So let me apologize in advance in case I get carried away with the idea.”

Dear Miss Manners: I rent a home and was keeping my locked bicycle in an out-of-the-way spot outside. This did not deter the thieves who managed to make off with it. I really have no secure place outside where I can put my replacement bicycle, but there is an area inside the house, just off the foyer, where I think it would be fairly unobtrusive. Will I be committing some breach of protocol or etiquette if I have my bike “on display” provided (of course) that I keep it neat and clean?

Gentle Reader: Do you promise Miss Manners that you are not inveigling her into taking sides against someone else who lives in the house and has been tripping over the bicycle?

If all who are resident agree – and if you live alone, we can safely say that they do – Miss Manners has no objection. A stationary bicycle should not be in areas used by guests because exercise equipment evokes private functions, but an outdoor bicycle is more public. Besides, stranger and less attractive metal sculptures have been known to decorate foyers.

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