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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners 9/22

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We all know that cutting in line is rude. At grocery stores, we line up nicely, as at banks. Why then, when we are driving, do some people insist on cutting?

I’m referring to those times when a construction zone is ahead, and we are supposed to move into one lane. Most cars do, but a few will use the still-available free lane to zoom ahead and scoot in front of the polite (or gullible) drivers. As a result, the rest of us behind end up going even slower.

I have tried something that my husband claims is dangerous. Perhaps it is – but is it also rude? When there are only two lanes going in my direction, and I see a long line ahead in one lane – and when I know that all traffic in the other lane will eventually have to merge, as there is no exit ahead – I move into the free lane.

But instead of zipping ahead, I stay slow, going at the same speed as of the rest of the traffic. I’m not cutting, but I am keeping others from cutting in front of me.

When I get to the very front, I then signal to merge back in. I may have to wait, but only for a car or two, instead of the many that would have cut.

Do I merely risk being shot at by an angry and rude driver, or am I also being impolite?

GENTLE READER: We all laugh dismissively when a character in a play or movie makes the most minimal change in appearance – glasses, a hat or a cape – and is no longer recognized by the other characters in the drama.

But the joke is on us. Most people do fail to recognize that the driver in the car or the person receiving the email is a fellow human being, and those disguises are no more convincing.

Miss Manners says this not to justify rude behavior on the road but to agree with you how bizarre it is in otherwise polite and sweet-tempered individuals. The underlying tenets of manners do not change on the highway, which means that while she agrees that it is rude to cut in line, it is also rude to call other drivers rude.

While you could claim that your solution does not do that, we both know what is in your heart. Fortunately, etiquette does not probe there.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a student living on campus. When I am having a conversation with someone and an acquaintance walks by, I usually wave or smile at the other person; this seems preferable to pretending not to see someone.

However, when I was speaking to a friend the other day, and she waved to someone else, I felt that she wasn’t listening to what I was saying.

What is the correct way to respond? If we were on the street, the unlikelihood of running into an acquaintance would, I think, make acknowledgment proper, but on a campus, it’s likely that we would see each other again very soon.

GENTLE READER: A very modest addition to your usual behavior will solve the problem: A quick “Sorry” when you turn back to the speaker should be sufficient to acknowledge that no rudeness was intended to anyone. Miss Manners prefers this to the other option: pretending not to notice the world around you.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website