DEAR MISS MANNERS: At the grocery store, I was walking down a narrow aisle with my cart, keeping to my side of the aisle. While you could fit two carts passing side by side, it would have been a tight squeeze.
I was two-thirds of the way through when an older woman approached the aisle. She saw me coming, backed up a few steps, and moved aside for me to pass through. I smiled and nodded and continued on, out of her way.
As I passed, she irately yelled, “YOU’RE WELCOME!!!” at my back. Reflexively, I turned and said “Thank you,” but as I walked away, chastising myself for being rude, I began to question who was in the wrong in this scenario.
I had the right of way, since I was already in the aisle; I didn’t need or ask her to step aside, as we both could have fit through; stepping aside and waiting was her preference, and I obliged her by quickly getting out of her way so she could proceed comfortably.
Doesn’t she, in fact, owe me a “thank you,” if one is owed at all? Also, wouldn’t my smile and nod have sufficed in a situation of mutual convenience?
Miss Manners, I pride myself on etiquette and manners, and this situation has been eating at me for far longer than it’s worth.
GENTLE READER: To thank is polite; to demand thanks is rude. Miss Manners therefore declares that this etiquette competition is nullified. But she wonders why you would want to pursue the opponent’s way of thinking.