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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: Drop your vendetta against suspected ‘patient zero’

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: This past winter, I stopped going to most of my usual activities to try to avoid catching the flu. I was successful until the end of February, when I caught something (ironically, not the flu) that put me in the hospital for a week.

I’m still not able to resume normal activities because of medication side effects, and the condition that developed may be permanent. I am very upset – understandably, I think.

I can’t prove it, of course, but my guess is that I caught the “something” from a worker at a small local business (the one-person post office) who was very ill, which I discovered when I took a chance and went in there about three days before I got sick.

At the time, I commented to her that she should have stayed home, and she pleasantly agreed that maybe she should have. I’m thinking that she probably infected more people, although hopefully without the extreme issues I experienced.

I would very much like to communicate this to the worker, but I don’t know whether it’s really possible or appropriate. I’m not planning on going to that location again, but I don’t think that would be significant to her.

Can I, and should I, report this to the worker? It’s a real-life example of why people should stay home when they are sick, but nobody pays any attention anyway!

GENTLE READER: And what if you are wrong? How do you plan to prove it?

While Miss Manners is sorry that you got sick – and agrees that contagious people should, to the best of their abilities, avoid being out in public – she finds the need to target Patient Zero unpleasant as well as unprovable. Also, there is no way to gauge how one person may be differently affected by another’s symptoms.

In the unlikely event that you run into this postal worker again, you might say, “Oh, I hope your sickness did not turn out to be as bad as mine – and that you didn’t have to miss too much work. I was in the hospital for days.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When the lovely people at my workplace want to show their appreciation of my work, they give me a gift card to a well-known online company that is rapidly putting independent booksellers out of business.

My husband runs an independent bookstore. The folks at my work know what my husband does, but have clearly not put two and two together to realize that this gift will make me deeply unhappy and give my husband ulcers.

What would be the best way, in my thank-you letter, to express appreciation for their generosity while requesting that in future, they choose virtually any other gift in the world – or none at all?

GENTLE READER: Most online book companies inexplicably sell things other than books. If this one does, you could say in your letter, “We greatly look forward to using this card for novelty sweets or toys for our dogs.”

If questioned about why you would not want to get books, Miss Manners recommends you say, “Oh, my husband already owns an independent bookstore. Happily, we can get everything we need there.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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