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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Public vistas are meant to be shared

Judith Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a crowded passenger ferry frequented by tourists, there was no room to sit on the benches, so I squeezed into a place at the rail. This afforded me a breeze, a nice view and something to hold onto, which was lacking near the benches.

A woman sitting on the bench behind me said angrily, “Would you please move? You’re standing right in front of me and completely blocking my view.”

I was so flustered by her icily commanding tone that I immediately moved away without a word. The idea that it was impolite to block someone’s view had never occurred to me, and I’d been on the ferry many times. Is it discourteous?

GENTLE READER: Public spaces are, by definition, shared, a fact that surprises a remarkable number of commuters, theatergoers and restaurant patrons.

Your angry fellow traveler was entitled to her own place, but not to yours, no matter how magnificent the view. Miss Manners would have recommended that you counter rudeness with politeness by offering to trade places – briefly letting go of the rail to demonstrate how necessary it is to maintaining one’s balance while underway.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother-in-law has a habit of sending me a text or email with simply “Hey” as the message. If he calls and leaves a voice message, it is always, “Hey. Call me back.”

He never says why he is calling. It is almost invariably to complain about a poisonous relationship or a horrible decision, and to ask for advice – which he promptly refuses to take. If I don’t reply, he continues to simply text “Hey.”

I don’t have time for his drama. I have two kids and I’m a full-time student. May I just ignore him?

GENTLE READER: Whether you are being annoyed by your brother-in-law’s messages, or just by your cellular telephone beeping, shaking or blinking until you pick up, Miss Manners advises you to ration your responses. Your advice is just as likely to be ignored, but you will not have to give as much of it.

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