DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m in my 60s, and though I have aches and pains, I try to take a daily walk. Often I encounter a robust young lady striding along the sidewalk coming the other way. She always gives me a friendly smile, and seems like a good soul generally, but she barrels down the center of the sidewalk, forcing me into the gutter.
A friend who uses a walker says she has the same problem in her city, but as the young athletes bear down on her, they always say, “Excuse me.” How should we handle this situation?
GENTLE READER: Stop!
A stationary object is easier to avoid than a moving target, and you will be less likely to be injured if you are not throwing yourself into a ditch.
There is an unstated assumption that the object in motion bears the responsibility for avoiding a collision. Yet Miss Manners does not recommend that you increase the chances of your getting hurt. Therefore you will have to display mental, in place of physical, flexibility if you are to escape unscathed. A robust young lady should have the ability to avoid barreling into you -- particularly if you stop as soon as you see her coming -- and may not have swerved in the past merely because you already moved out of the way.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 28-year-old woman who was adopted from South Korea as an infant and has lived in the Midwest ever since. I wait tables on the weekends at a downtown restaurant.
I find that during almost every shift I work, at least one customer feels compelled to ask about my ethnicity. It’s usually people in their 40s-60s who wish to tell me that they used to date a Korean woman, know a Japanese girl or have a daughter-in-law from Vietnam.
I enjoy talking and laughing with my guests and am open to many topics, but I don’t understand why people feel comfortable asking this. When they ask what my nationality is, I respond “American,” but I have not crafted a good response to the question “What is your ethnicity?”
A simple “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question” and a change of subject make me seem standoffish and can affect the relationship with a customer. I generally like to respond with a little sarcasm so it can seem lighthearted. I’m not trying to lecture anybody, just show them why that was an impolite question.
GENTLE READER: ”As you can see, I look typically American.”
Or you could just get distracted in a way that demonstrates solicitousness for the customer: remembering one of the specials, excusing yourself to get the drinks list, or saying that you would love to get their order in so that they get their food quickly.
Yes, the question is impolite. And while Miss Manners assumes you never mean to offend, she recognizes that your interest in the customer’s satisfaction is about more than just etiquette.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)