DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a crowded passenger ferry frequented by tourists, there was no room to sit on the benches, so I squeezed into a place at the rail. This afforded me a breeze, a nice view and something to hold onto, which was lacking near the benches.
A woman sitting on the bench behind me said angrily, "Would you please move? You're standing right in front of me and completely blocking my view."
I was so flustered by her icily commanding tone that I immediately moved away without a word. The idea that it was impolite to block someone's view had never occurred to me, and I'd been on the ferry many times.
Is it discourteous? How should I have responded?
GENTLE READER: Public spaces are, by definition, shared, a fact that surprises a remarkable number of commuters, theatergoers and restaurant patrons.
Your angry fellow traveler was entitled to her own place, but not to yours, no matter how magnificent the view. Miss Manners would have recommended that you counter rudeness with politeness by offering to trade places -- briefly letting go of the rail to demonstrate how necessary it is to maintaining one's balance while underway.