DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in the ground-floor apartment of a condominium building with seven floors. The sons of the tenants on the sixth floor had a party, and they started throwing drinks, cigarettes, food, etc., onto my terrace, which is my private property.
I wrote the parents an email asking them to have that stopped, and asked the doorman to let them know about my complaint. As is customary in our small building, that email was sent with copies to all the other neighbors. The mother of the kids answered that it had been unintentional, and that she had asked them to stop.
However, they continued throwing drinks and spitting on my terrace, even when I walked outside to see what was going on. I then told her that I did not believe it was unintentional, since they had continued to throw things even with me present on the terrace, and that even though I don’t mind anyone having parties and making noise, I thought that throwing waste and drinks on someone’s private property was almost a criminal practice since it could be considered vandalism.
I expected an apology and a stop to their actions, but instead I got an angry email, with copies to all other neighbors, asking me to stop slandering her children.
Am I mistaken? Am I missing something here? Does she have the right to be offended?
GENTLE READER: Even assuming, for the moment, that it is not the custom in your building to send emails accusing you of slandering people’s children, Miss Manners questions the wisdom of sharing complaints so widely.
It seems that your neighbor was initially apologetic and willing to take action to correct the offense. This is as it should be. But things escalated for two reasons. First, you argued with her apology, which was both unseemly and, as you discovered, unflattering. Second, the wide circulation of the correspondence added a wholly unnecessary element of public flogging to what should otherwise have been a simple problem.
It is time to change the custom, and write a note to your neighbor thanking her for addressing (or attempting to address) your original concern, and yourself apologizing for making your complaint so publicly. It is to be hoped that there will not be a future, intentional occurrence to give you the opportunity to test your theory about what constitutes vandalism -- or assault.