DEAR MISS MANNERS: While in line to check out at a grocery store, I fumbled my coffee and it ended up on the floor. The cashier called for cleanup and went on with scanning our items.
A few moments later, I glanced up to see a man standing behind me with a mop. I stepped aside as best as I could, but he just stood there, spinning the mop and staring at me. I eventually paid and left.
Should I have offered to take the mop or something? I felt as if that’s what he was waiting for, but I’ve never been offered a mop by an employee before, so I was (and still am) confused by what was expected of me.
GENTLE READER: Here is how, in Miss Manners’ experience, the situation you described might play out:
Clumsy Customer: “Oh dear! I am so sorry, please let me clean that up.”
Person with Mop: “No, that’s OK. I’ll get it.”
Clumsy Customer: “Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you. I really am very sorry.”
Person with Mop: “Of course, ma’am. It happens. Happy to help.”
Miss Manners realizes that you may not have had the chance to offer, and you encountered an unusually surly mopper. But it also sounds as though it was never your intention. That may be what the Person with the Mop was responding to, however rudely it may have been expressed.
Next time, Miss Manners suggests you stick to your part of the script -- and be prepared to graciously improvise if the Person with the Mop does not.