DEAR MISS MANNERS: More and more frequently, I see that when I am in line at the grocery store or anywhere waiting my turn to be checked out, other customers break in to get the clerk's attention for themselves by asking questions or even inquiring about the clerk's health.
They invade my space by crowding in to talk to the clerk while he/she is attending to me. Not only customers, but other employees want to talk to the clerk. Is there anything civil I can say that might cause these people to back off and wait their turn?
GENTLE READER: Before putting those people back in line, Miss Manners asks that you consider the context. There is no excuse for jumping ahead of 12 politely queued people. But some limited understanding can be extended to the shopper who finds that there are no salespeople elsewhere in the store, and signage or previously issued directions are incomplete or incorrect.
In other words, someone without reasonable recourse and with a question so simple that it can be answered by the clerk pointing -- without slowing down the line. In such cases, a pained smile and a glance at your watch is sufficient.
It is the clerk's duty to deal with the customer who jumps in line to give a lengthy, angry review of the fallibility of the electronic device he wishes to return. You may prompt with a polite, "Excuse me, but I've been waiting patiently in line for 20 minutes." A clerk who is incapable of handling this all-too-common occurrence should not be surprised to be reported to his or her superior.