DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m interested in whether I should say hi to a comrade or somebody I know when I randomly meet him/her on the street, but he/she is on the phone and doesn’t see me.
In another scenario, I’m walking somewhere and I happen to see somebody I know walking few a steps ahead of me. Do I say hi while I’m behind him, or catch up to him so he can see me? This usually happens with my older neighbor, so I think giving him a pat on the shoulder so he turns back isn’t appropriate.
GENTLE READER: You really love to say hi. Miss Manners does not mean to discourage this, but as polite as the instinct is, when the person is not looking or is otherwise engaged, the effort -- on each party’s side -- can be more than the gesture is worth.
In the first scenario, it seems to Miss Manners that if the person is on the telephone already, the number of steps it will take to wave the speaker down and off the telephone is entirely too many. If it is someone with whom you really want to connect, call them yourself -- preferably with at least a 30-minute lag time, so as not to disturb the current conversation.
In the second instance, catching up to someone is generally preferable to shouting out a name in public. And back thumping, whatever the person’s age, could be startling, if not frightening.
But again, people would not blame you if you did not take these measures for a relatively inconsequential act. Or if they did, you could rightly say that they seemed otherwise occupied.