DEAR MISS MANNERS: At what point am I allowed to adopt an angry tone -- and drop the “please” -- after repeated requests to the person behind me in line for “social distancing at 6 feet, please”?
In my experience, people back up for a short time, and then creep back up next to me. Repeatedly. I have to admit that the other day, I said loud enough for others to hear, “This is the fifth time I’ve had to ask you for the social distancing the CDC is telling us all to do. What is wrong with you?”
I finally got the reaction I needed. I’m so exasperated, I’m thinking of carrying a yardstick with me wherever I go and using it like a sword to fend off intruders.
GENTLE READER: No, no, no. You would only end up hitting someone with that yardstick, adding violence into a difficult enough situation.
Even before the advent of the virus, Miss Manners noticed that people often turn vicious in grocery lines. (Other lines, too, but especially in grocery stores. Perhaps, as their mothers told them, they are acting like that because they are hungry.)
And customer-to-customer corrections rarely succeed. To do so, these not only have to be polite, but also offer a face-saving way for the offender to retreat. Perhaps, “I don’t know if you heard me, but I’m worried about our sticking to the new rules about keeping distances.” Said loudly, it should encourage everyone in line to back up.
Far better to invoke third-party authority. You could ask the cashier to remind the entire line to keep to the spaces. But that, too, would have to be repeated. Please suggest to the store’s management the practice that some countries have started: placing tape at intervals on the floor to mark the proper spacing.