DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have "one of those faces" people often find familiar, somehow. Friends have often "spotted me" in places I've never been. When I lived in L.A., strangers would say they saw me on TV shows.
Other than the boyfriend who insisted he saw me out with another man, my apparently numerous dopplegangers have caused few problems. But recently, while attending my daughter's softball game, I was approached by a woman who sat down beside me and my 3-year-old and asked, "Do you have another daughter. I said, yes, one that was playing on the team.
"No, another one," she said. No. "How about a son?" No. "Well, where do you work?"
At this point, I said I was feeling uncomfortable. I said. She looked at me as if she didn't believe me. "Anywhere else?" No.
"You look very familiar." She didn't look familiar to me, at all, but I thought saying so would be rude, so I just continued to watch the game.
"Where would I know you from?"
I was not about to give her a list of my personal affiliations. Not only was it none of her business, but I don't like discussing religion or politics with acquaintances, let alone complete strangers.
"I'm sorry, I don't know," I said. At this point, my daughter was going up to bat, so I was watching and cheering for her.
The woman pressed on. "Well, where do you live?" I told her my city. And she continued her questioning with, "Whereabouts in (the city)?"
I gave her a vague reference to our side of the city ("off of such-and-such highway" which could have been anywhere on the northeast side), and inadvertently drowned out her next question with our family's cheering for my daughter, who'd just had a hit.
I then started to say to her, "I'm sorry I can't be of more help," but she got up and left, as if she were angry.
I didn't think I was under any obligation to provide personal information to someone who was utterly unknown to me, and who was interrupting our family's enjoyment of the game.
Was there some better way I should have dealt with the situation? And, just out of curiosity, is there any kind of etiquette involved in approaching someone who looks familiar? In my past experiences, people at least offered some suggestions, such as "Do you attend this church?" or "Do your children go to that school?" But she offered me nothing. It was very strange.
GENTLE READER: You didn't think of offering her the explanation about often being mistaken for others?
Miss Manners agrees that your inquisitor was rude in her relentlessness. Two guesses, such as you suggest, ought to be the limit in such an inquiry, and then one should be obliged to give up. You are hardly responsible for the continuation of rudeness in that show of dissatisfaction.
But surely you could have spared yourself the ordeal by a pleasant admission that this happens often, and the firm statement, "And I don't believe we have met before."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a call center/sales position. When speaking to potential clients or offering customer-service on existing sales, is it improper to address them as Sir or Ma'am?
GENTLE READER: No, but many of them are so eager to be mistaken for youngsters that they don't realize that.