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Miss Manners: My daughter says it’s inappropriate for me to use an automatic door button

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Dear Miss Manners: On a trip to our local library, I used my elbow to activate the entrance door by pressing the handicap button on the side. I did this to avoid touching the door handle. My 7-year-old daughter said she thought it was inappropriate for me to use the button, because I am not disabled.

I started to explain why it was acceptable for anyone to use the button — unlike parking in a handicapped zone, it’s not unlawful to use the entrance button — but then I second-guessed myself. I began to wonder whether my daughter was correct: Just because the button is there doesn’t mean a non-handicapped person should use it. What say you?

Your 7-year-old has perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the moment. Righting wrongs — and there are always more than enough to choose from — is virtuous, if sometimes humorless. But inventing infractions merely to put people in the wrong is not.

Your use of the button was not a trespass, because it harmed no one. And if anyone is about to draw a parallel to the handicapped parking space by saying it was not being used, Miss Manners answers that you, not being 7 years old, know the difference.

Dear Miss Manners: Before the pandemic, I never shied away from shaking hands. But now, even being fully vaccinated, I shudder at the thought.

I recently attended a student career fair where everyone wore masks. It was the first one I’d attended in a year and a half. I didn’t even think about handshaking until students started coming up to me with outstretched hands. I couldn’t help but reciprocate, grabbing their sometimes damp, limp hands for a quick pump or two. My brain screamed “no” while my social reflexes took over.

Two days later, I came down with a runny nose and sore throat. Thankfully, after getting a negative coronavirus test, it was clear I merely had a cold.

Would there have been any way I could have warmly greeted them while pleasantly excusing myself from shaking hands? (Don’t think I didn’t thoroughly wash my hands and apply hand sanitizer as quickly as I could afterward!) I’m also wondering how to react when I again meet with clients and industry colleagues in upcoming gatherings. Is there any graceful way to handle this?

Begin to reach out your hand, stop, look as if you just remembered something, then convert your movement to the elbow bump that is now becoming commonplace. You can further soften the implied rejection by shrugging and asking, as if you did not know, “Is this what we’re supposed to do now?”

Miss Manners realizes this will not satisfy those who, unlike yourself, enjoy educating their colleagues about pandemic safety more if it involves public shaming. She simply observes that the latter isn’t working.

[Find the latest coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.]

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin

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