DEAR MISS MANNERS: Now that I am working every day, I take a bus from my local park-and-ride to my stop in town, which means I often see people I know. Because my commute tends to be about 35 minutes to 40 minutes one way, I will bring a book to read, which I enjoy very much.
When I see an acquaintance on the bus, am I required to converse with them beyond a simple "Hello"?
Ideally, I would like to pass the time by reading my book in peace, but I always refrain from fear of being rude. Usually this means I am stuck conversing with the person for the whole ride, since it is not as if I can excuse myself and step away.
Moreover, does the seating in the scenario make a difference? One time I had to twist myself around in order to see my acquaintance, who sat behind me, because he just kept asking me questions. What about when the person is sitting next to me? Across the aisle?
On average, I probably see someone I know every week and a half, so I suppose it isn't a huge issue. Should I just suck it up and be social? Or is there a polite way to deflect conversation?
GENTLE READER: Discussions require a minimum of two participants. And for all you know, your partner may feel equally trapped.
While it is rude to ignore another person, there are polite ways to discourage chatty fellow commuters on public transportation. Miss Manners recommends that after an initial bout of friendliness, you refrain from an excess of effervescence.
Allow a lull in the conversation, and then say how lovely it was to catch up, quickly diving into your book. The person who instead wishes to deliver a monologue would be guilty of being rude, and can be handled with a pleasant explanation that you are at an interesting point in your book and really want to find out what happens.
The explanation can be reworded, if necessary, perhaps with a look of alarm, if you are reading the financial papers.