DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone enters an unlocked, single-stall restroom, only to discover too late that someone is using that facility, what is the proper response?
The few times I have accidentally disturbed someone, I leave as quickly as possible without saying anything and while avoiding eye contact. I do not apologize on my way out, as I believe it’s the job of the bathroom user to ensure that the door is locked behind them.
Regardless, do I owe them an apology on my way out for the embarrassment they likely incurred?
GENTLE READER: Avoiding eye contact and making a quick exit are the chief requirements in this awkward situation, so Miss Manners was about to commend you.
But why do you grudge tossing off a quick apology? That person was discomforted by your entrance. Yes, it would have been prudent to lock the door. But it would have been prudent of you to knock.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: We’ve lived in our house for 17 years, and the neighbors behind us have always been renters. I’ve only met the owner once when our mutual fence blew over in a windstorm. He set up a contractor to replace the fence, and I offered to pay for half of it, which he declined.
The problem is there’s an apple tree that was planted too close to the property line before we moved in. This tree has never been properly pruned by an arborist, the renters or the landlord. Every year when the apples ripen, approximately 50 to 75 apples drop into our yard.
I go out every day and throw the apples back over the fence so my dog doesn’t eat them. These apples also bring unwanted raccoons and porcupines to our yard, both of which could be harmful to our dog. Is it petty of me to throw the apples back over the fence?
GENTLE READER: Don’t you like apple pie? Or apple fritters? Or apple dumplings? If not, why not speak to the owner – whom you know, from that one encounter, to be gracious?
Miss Manners would strongly suggest politely alerting the renters to the problem. Pitching apples over the fence can easily be interpreted as a hostile act even if you first check to see that there is no danger of hitting anyone. You do check, don’t you?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When did we start answering “Is it too late to visit?” with “Of course, come on over”?
That now-common answer makes no logical sense: “Of course it is too late” is not the intended response. The logical answer should be “Not at all, come on over,” or something similar. But I see this “Of course” answer regularly in books and in person.
GENTLE READER: More likely, the answer should be, “Well, it is a bit late, but I’d love to see you some other time.” However, many people cannot say no.
And you are not even satisfied with the way they say yes. Miss Manners presumes that the phrase that offends you is actually elliptical for “Of course (it’s not too late); come on over.” Anyway, she forgives them because it is late, and you woke them up.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.