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Miss Manners: How to deal with a loud, belligerent and wrong stranger?

2 min

Dear Miss Manners: While shopping in a large warehouse store, I saw an elderly woman using an electric shopping cart that was at the end of its charge. It was clear that she wasn’t likely to make it the end of the aisle, let alone all the way across the store.

I told her that if she would stay put, I would go try to find her another cart. At the front of the store, there were two or three available, so I got on one with a full charge. Before I could drive away, I was accosted by a belligerent man who loudly admonished me for taking a cart designed for the disabled.

I’ve never felt the need to explain myself to random strangers and he wasn’t in a mood to listen, so I drove around him as he shouted after me and created quite a scene. I was really shaken by the incident, but don’t know how I could have handled the situation differently. Employees can be hard to find, and the woman clearly needed help.

Is there a better way to deal with corrections from the loud and belligerent?

Although it does amuse Miss Manners to think of your driving away and shouting back at him, “It’s not for meeeeeee!,” she agrees that it would be futile. Loud and belligerent people are not generally open to reason and logic.

Better that you and the cartless woman knew your true intentions. But it is a lesson for us all not to make assumptions about situations in which we are not involved.

Dear Miss Manners: As a gentleman should, I offer my wife the first choice when there are two of something left. For example: “Dear wife, we have two tomatoes left. Would you prefer the red or the yellow?”

Her response invariably is, “Either one is fine. I have no preference.”

I contend that this is rude, and that proper etiquette would dictate that she choose one, rather than deferring the decision back to me. What say you?

That Miss Manners, like your wife, has no preference in the matter.

Knowing this, you might spare your wife the decision and just take the one you want. But other spouses, beware: Not everyone will appreciate this kind of brazen tomato decisiveness. It usually takes only one such violation to find that out.

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

©2022, by Judith Martin