DEAR MISS MANNERS: I greet people at the airport for an elite limousine company that drives very rich people and celebrities. I am expected to be cooperative and gracious.
The first situation I have trouble with is huggers. Occasionally a client insists on hugging me. I’m a gregarious person, and I understand that in some cases this could be cultural, but I just met these people and may never see them again. How does Miss Manners deflect unwanted hugs?
The second is unwanted or inappropriate touching. (Sexual touching has never happened, and that’s easier to reject. You’re allowed to be rude in that case.) Here’s an example. I’m female, and a man once complimented my curly hair. I responded with a thank-you, but throughout the 10 to 15 minutes we were together, he touched my hair repeatedly.
I moved to put the luggage between us, but he moved around it so he could comment on and touch my hair again. I’m still kicking myself for not being more assertive, but I can’t think what else I could have said or done.
GENTLE READER: Actually, rummaging in your hair is sexual, and while Miss Manners condones neither rudeness nor violence, she would look the other way if you’d whopped him with his own luggage.
Try fending off those perhaps more innocent, but still presumptuous, hugs by holding the client’s name placard in front of you and reaching out for a pleasant handshake. Anything more intrusive should be met with the firm request that the client not try to distract you while you are doing your job.