Miss Manners: Public texting brings out rudeness on both sides

July 30, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was going down the stairs into the subway during rush hour behind a woman who was moving excruciatingly slowly. I looked to see if she had a physical problem and noticed that she was texting.

I then asked (very politely), “Would you mind finishing texting at the bottom of the stairs?” I naively expected her to apologize.

Instead, she angrily told me that I had no right to tell her when she could text. I mildly replied that she was right and that I was asking, not telling. She shouted that I was telling — and then I just walked away.

I know that the woman was rude to me, but was I wrong in asking her to not text on the stairs? It was raining, and I and the many people lined up behind her were all getting wet.

GENTLE READER: Let’s leave out your presumed selflessness in protecting others from the rain and your willingness to be patient if the delay had been due to a disability. For all you know, the obstructionist could have been texting emergency instructions to save a life, or herself suffering from a non-obvious disability.

This leaves you with the annoyance of being behind a slow person when you were in a hurry. Please, folks, can’t you just state your problems without gift-wrapping them in virtues?

Miss Manners counts three rudenesses here, petty ones to be sure, but the kind that sometimes escalate into urban violence. The first was indeed yours, and Miss Manners gives you credit for apologizing. But it was rude of her to snap at you, and even ruder to shout and reject your apology.

All this could have been avoided if you had addressed your problem, instead of the other person’s activity. “Excuse me, may I get by? A lot of us are caught in the rain,” is unlikely to have brought on that defensive tirade.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it traditional for the bride to pick the place and time for a wedding?

GENTLE READER: It never used to be. Really.

Miss Manners supposes that you are thinking of an era when a bride’s parents had the entire responsibility for giving the wedding, and the bride herself was too young, dependent and inexperienced in entertaining to announce that she would make all the decisions but would allow them to pay all the bills.

They probably took her preferences into consideration, perhaps also on the choice of the bridegroom, but they were in charge.

You may have noticed that things have changed. The bride has grown up, the power has shifted, and — amazingly enough — the existence of the bridegroom and his family has been noticed.

Also, the choice of venue has become complicated when the couple, no longer the girl and boy who grew up next door, may be living on their own, away from their respective parents’ homes.

Therefore, although everyone does now concede that the two of them (although collectively referred to as “the bride”) make the decision, the proper procedure is for them to consult the wishes of their parents and consider the convenience of their guests.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

, by Judith Martin

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