DEAR MISS MANNERS: Often, when I purchase food or a beverage at a coffee shop which is attached to a large bookstore, I find there is no place to sit down because the tables are being hogged up by persons who have not bought anything to consume. They are writing letters, reading magazines or perusing books they have no intention of buying, doing homework on their laptops, or having conversation back and forth between two tables when they could easily be sitting at the same table.
The management seems oblivious to this problem. Is there a polite way to ask someone who is not a coffee shop customer to vacate their table and make way for the people who are real customers?
GENTLE READER: If you want to manage a coffee shop, Miss Manners suggests you first talk to those who do. It may be that they do better selling books by being a neighborhood center than they would by checking to see that the tables are occupied only by people who are eating and drinking.
In any case, they probably do not want you to scold their clientele. Your hope of changing their policy would be to tell the manager that you love coming there to eat but are discouraged by your inability to find space.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I do not like to be hugged. I am affectionate with my husband, and we hug daily and often in our own home. Also, I recognize that there are situations where you must bite the bullet and accept the offered hug as a greeting: children, the affectionate aunt who has hugged you every time she has seen you since the day you were born, etc.
My main problem is with random people, such as friends of my parents, who decide to hug me as a greeting after I have met them for the first time, or, more recently, my 35-year-old male cousin. He greeted me with what can only be described as a prolonged back-rub and when he left, he gave me a hug that would have gotten him arrested throughout most of the country!
When I mentioned to my parents that I thought this was inappropriate, they responded that "he likes to hug" and informed me that I should just suck it up.
Why should I submit to unwelcome (and often creepy) touching because someone else is completely clueless about what is and is not appropriate behavior? I usually avoid these situations by offering a hand for a handshake pre-emptively or by side-stepping the hug and giving a light squeeze around the shoulders. I have found that these methods usually get my point across without offending the person involved, but some people are just too thick to pick up on these cues. Suggestions please!
GENTLE READER: "Ow!"
This must be said just loud enough for others to hear, but in a tone that seems startled, rather than accusatory. Then Miss Manners insists that you follow it with a self-deprecatory laugh and an apology: "I'm terribly sorry; I'm a bit sensitive. But how very nice to see you."
No doubt the gentleman will attempt to recover by saying something like, "You sure are." But he will be wary of you of you in the future.