DEAR MISS MANNERS: I go to the grocery store several times a month. It never fails that as I'm going through checkout, the cashier will pick up one of my purchases to scan it and make a comment about the item. Sometimes he or she will say something like "Oh, these are new. Do you like these? I haven't tried them yet." They comment on snacks, drinks, make-up, clothing, etc.
One time, a female cashier actually asked me about my choice of tampons. She noticed that I had a certain type that was new on the market and held the box up asking me if they worked better, and some other questions. I thought this was very rude. There were many shoppers behind me who started giggling or looking away.
Why do these people, these cashiers who scan my purchases, have to look and comment over the items I'm buying? Does anyone want to have a conversation with the cashier about medications, foot powders, dog food or anything?
I certainly don't. It irks me to the point that I've been using the self-scanners even though they take forever on large purchases. What do you suggest I say the next time a cashier comments or questions my purchases?
GENTLE READER: "Ummm, You probably know the merchandise better than I do."
The "ummm" part represents your visible effort to pull yourself away from whatever was occupying your mind -- your thoughts, the headline about the alien space baby in the checkout scandal sheet -- to which you return immediately.
It should be repeated if the probing continues, to which you can reply, "I'm sure there must be someone here you can talk to who knows the merchandise."
As for why this happens, Miss Manners can only guess. Perhaps these are people who don't know the difference between being pleasant and being intrusive. But it is also possible that they have been instructed to chat up the customers, either because it is believed that the customers are as bored as the employees, or because it drives people like you to use the self-scanners.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When two people are eating at home, and one is serving the other "seconds" from the kitchen, perhaps microwaving it, what does the person eating do with the fork/spoon while waiting for the plate to come back? Short of getting a new/clean one as though one has servants to wash the dishes, is there a better alternative than licking it off and setting it on the table?
GENTLE READER: Just in time, Miss Manners stopped herself form making the automatic suggestion that the silverware travel into the kitchen with the plate. She hates to think what would have happened in the microwave.
But to keep up, she must go backward. What you need is a knife-rest, one of those little bars on feet, sometimes whimsically fashioned, that hold the blade of the knife (and the tines of the fork in this case) off the table, where the handles remain. Check your local flea market.