DEAR MISS MANNERS: On three separate occasions during the past month, my husband and I have come across somewhat elderly gentlemen who have been eager to share their life experiences. Two of these were volunteers at historical sites, and one was a neighbor who approached us in the driveway.
In each instance, it quickly became apparent that the person was so interested in sharing his experiences that our interaction was not so much a conversation as it was a monologue. Each seemed oblivious to the fact that we might have other needs to attend to after awhile, such as (literally) having a plane to catch.
Even after several attempts to jump in with a comment of my own, followed by a “Goodness, look at the time!” it seemed impossible to get away without being quite abrupt. I feel rude just cutting someone off and walking away, especially when it involves an elderly person, but after 20 or 30 minutes of a one-way information session, I find myself at a loss as to how else to respond.
GENTLE READER: Being on the elderly side herself, Miss Manners will try to keep her answer brief. But if you find yourself drifting off in the middle of it, you only have yourself to blame for asking.
If reasonable attempts to interrupt politely do not work, that sudden gasp at the passage of time, with a flurry of apologies, might. Just be careful not to alarm the stranger to the point that the need for medical attention further delays your retreat.