DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a large medical center where colleagues frequently stop in the halls to converse. My quandary arises when these conversations occur with one participant on one side of the hallway and the other across the hall, leaving those passing no choice but to walk between them as they talk.
Must I excuse myself? I suppose I could pause and wait for them to finish their discussion so as not to interrupt them, but this seems extreme in terms of passive-aggressiveness.
I confess that this often happens on my way into work, when I have not yet had any coffee and am inclined to grumpiness. But I also feel that the chatting pair is forcing this quandary upon me by choosing to chat across the hallway. I suppose that is the crux of my disgruntlement: Their choice forces me to choose between rudeness and ridiculousness.
Are the conversation-holders entitled to an apology when I walk between them as they converse? Am I absolved of feeling guilty if I decline to extend that courtesy?
GENTLE READER: Could you have some coffee at home, and be not quite so easily thrown by your chatty colleagues?
Miss Manners is not defending them, but neither does she consider that they are committing a high crime. If you don't want to excuse yourself, she supposes you could plow ahead, calling "Coming through!"
But you are mistaken in thinking that "excuse me" is, in this case, an admission of fault on your part. If you say it in an authoritative voice, "Excuse me!" sounds like a command, and should prompt your colleagues to murmur the apologetic version of the phrase.