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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Does Common Courtesy Extend to Inanimate Drivers?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was always taught that when a car stops to let you cross the street, you should give a quick wave as you pass to thank the driver for their courtesy. I now live in a city with a number of self-driving cars, and I don't know whether to wave to them or not.

Though I am causing the passengers some small inconvenience, the car is the one actually making the decision to stop. I've been defaulting to waving so far, but the time is fast approaching when there will be cars without any people in them. Do I wave to the robots even if it feels a bit silly?

GENTLE READER: Technically, you shouldn't have to, and Miss Manners agrees that it is colossally silly to anthropomorphize technology.

And yet. And yet.

She is weaseling because this has become a common phenomenon, even a requirement in using various devices that have names and respond to voice commands. As they do not require courtesy, they are getting people in the habit of omitting the phrases with which we soften our speech. Surely an occasional feeling of silliness is better than the habit of rudeness.