DEAR MISS MANNERS: It is my understanding that when walking on a sidewalk, one should walk on the right side of the path. And now, with the requirement for social distancing, couples or groups should walk single-file when passing others coming in the opposite direction to allow for a 6-foot clearance, if possible. What is the proper response when people either don’t understand this or choose to ignore it? I often find myself stepping off the sidewalk and into the street or a driveway in order to avoid these people. Other than glaring at them as they pass, is there a proper way to inform them?
GENTLE READER: Not having the power to lock people up, etiquette can seldom guarantee that you will change another person’s behavior – only that you will have made every effort short of rudeness or force.
This is why governments get involved in pandemics. Miss Manners assures you that crossing the street to avoid someone, stepping onto a driveway and waiting, or stepping into the street – presuming that you are not putting yourself in even more imminent danger – will make your point. The glare is optional.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son is 19 years old and eats like he’s a 6-year-old. He uses his hands and eats very quickly. How do I nicely tell him to slow down and eat with more manners and couth?
GENTLE READER: Teaching table manners is high on the list of parental responsibilities, so it concerns Miss Manners that you have only interested yourself in the problem at this late date.
But she is encouraged that you were on track at one point, since 6-year-old eating habits differ from those of infants. It is time for a serious talk – two, actually: you with your son, and Miss Manners with you. Explain to your son that when he goes out into the world, people will judge him by his behavior, not just his good heart.
It is therefore time to work on his table manners. This will be more convincing if you can demonstrate and correct, rather than merely observe.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone sends out an email invitation to multiple people, how should you respond? Just to the person who sent it, or “reply to all”? I usually respond to all, but I’m wondering if this has been rude.
GENTLE READER: In sending a single invitation to multiple people, your host obscured the nature of the communication, which was a series of separate invitations to individual people; etiquette sees no direct connection between the invitation to Mary and the one to Bob. The proper response by the guest is therefore to the host, not the entire list.
Miss Manners recognizes that this means that Mary – who, after the divorce, has stopped attending parties at which Bob will be present – will have to find some other means of divining his location. But it cuts down on a great deal of unnecessary email, an outcome she recognizes as beneficial even if she is not as passionate about extraneous email as some of her Gentle Readers.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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