DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a courteous way to impose a limit on, well, courtesy? I was disembarking from the rear door of a bus when an elderly gentleman immediately in front of me had trouble pushing the door open. I reached over and assisted him, and then exited myself.
I held the door for the person behind me, so as not to let it slam in his face, assuming that he would take the door from me. He didn’t. Neither did the four people behind him, who ranged in age from adolescent to elderly.
Eventually, a couple struggling with two strollers disembarked, the last of the departing riders, and I felt that I shouldn’t release the door, and so I didn’t.
Was there a point at which I could have relinquished my job as door person pro tem without being discourteous?
GENTLE READER: Your services were offered graciously, if unintentionally, and Miss Manners is pleased to return the courtesy by solving your problem, though not by herself relieving you of the door.
Wait for a person who can be expected to hold a door, and take a half step in front of him before he comes through. The movement will bring him up short, at which point you can catch his eye and then slowly release the door, eventually letting go.
This maneuver must be so executed as not to leave anyone lying prone on the sidewalk, and it is meant for the extreme situation you describe – not to punish a lone, lazy teenager who slips through after Miss Manners.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can you politely say “no” when a person gives you a book to read that you have no interest in reading?
GENTLE READER: “Thank you so much. I cannot wait to get to it.”
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