Escalation Clause

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dear Miss Manners:

On the public transportation system where I live, it is the unspoken rule of the escalators that the right lane is for standing, while the left lane is for walking.

One day, I was in an enormous rush to catch the next train approaching the platform, so I was walking down the left side as fast as I could.

About halfway down the long flight of steps, a woman with a walker, standing in the right lane, confronted me as I tried to pass her on the left, screaming that I didn't have the right to do such a thing -- because she was disabled, I suppose.

Because there was enough room for me to pass her without touching her or her walker, or inconveniencing her in any other way, I ignored her screams and passed her, even though she actually tried to block my passage by picking up her walker and placing it squarely in the left lane!

I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, but I apologized to her, due to her apparent distress, even though I kept on walking down.

Did I, in fact, do something wrong that I can't see?

That depends. Did you check whether walking on the escalator was legal?

And did you look back to check whether the walker was bouncing down the stairs after you? Miss Manners would take that to mean that you had either thrown the lady off balance, or started a public fight that was escalating to escalator violence.

The fact that you apologized is appreciated by Miss Manners, if not by the person to whom you addressed it.

And she can hardly blame you for getting out of the way of a screamer.

Dear Miss Manners:

I was invited to a Celebration of Life for a friend who had passed a few months ago. What is the proper etiquette to attending a party like this? Do we bring a gift?

Congratulations on finding the only social event left that the guest of honor has not turned into a free shopping bonanza for himself.

If you can't handle that, you could send flowers. But as the nomenclature for the event de-emphasizes death, funeral flowers may seem out of place. It is also late to send flowers and food to the bereaved, as is customary in the first weeks of mourning, and Miss Manners trusts that you have long since sent your letter of condolence.

So just go and celebrate. If Miss Manners was mistaken and your friend left a list of places he registered for the event, you may ignore it. He'll never know.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) atMissManners@unitedmedia.comor mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2006Judith Martin


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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