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

People Don’t Like It When I Bark, ‘Leave Me Alone!’

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I often enjoy bike rides, and, for various reasons, I tend to stop a lot while riding. I’m an introverted and private person. The problem: Often when I stop and get off my bicycle, another bicyclist comes along and stops to ask -- or, rather, demands to know -- ”Are you OK?”

Each time I’ve been asked, there has been absolutely nothing about the situation that suggests that I am NOT all right. I am standing there, intact (not prone on the ground, not seated, not scraped and wounded, not looking upset or as if I just fell); my bike is intact; I am often on the phone; and what’s more, I tend to be turned away from the approaching cyclist, to attempt to dissuade them from stopping and interrogating me.

Yet, apparently, none of these things have proved useful to discourage this questioning. When I’ve voiced these concerns with those who’ve stopped to inquire about my state, these conversations have not gone well. Admittedly, I’ve been testy and sarcastic in my replies, which reflects my annoyance. I’ve explained that I have a mouth and two hands, and could very well call or signal for help if I needed it. Yet, such replies seem to always result in the other rider snapping at me that I’m quite rude, and insisting I should be grateful that they offered to help. These scuffles do not make either my ride or theirs more pleasant.

I could simply reply “yes, I’m OK,” but to do that would be to support their practice of rather inappropriately and invasively (as I experience it) interrogating any stopped person, which I am reluctant to do.

If I say nothing at all, I am treated to a hail of insults as they ride off. If I try to explain why I don’t appreciate being commanded to reply to an invasive question/interrogation, I’m again likely to be treated to a series of insults, but there’s the off chance I might be able to illuminate someone.

Then again, perhaps it’s futile to think I can have any impact at all, particularly if my reply evidences any of the annoyance that I feel. Do you have any words of wisdom?

GENTLE READER: Hesitant though she now is to offer help, Miss Manners reminds herself that you asked.

Very well. As irritating as you find people’s unsolicited solicitousness, discouraging people from showing concern for others is bad policy. Snapping at people makes the world a less pleasant place and, what may mean more to you, prolongs the encounter. Grit your teeth, repeat, “Thanks, I’m fine,” and go back to your phone.