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Miss Manners: How to politely end unwanted political conversations

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: As someone with limited mobility, I must often take cabs. I once found myself in a taxi, for an hour-long ride, with a driver who read “alternative” news sites, believed in conspiracy theories and apparently wanted to talk about them. I’m not sure how the conversation began, nor could I determine the best way to bring it to a close.

After approximately 15 minutes of this one-sided exchange, I blurted out, “Can we not talk about this? I find it very upsetting.” The driver apologized, and the rest of the ride was uneventful.

I’d like to know if there is a gentler way to end these types of conversations — both for etiquette’s sake, and to avoid upsetting someone enough to be left on the side of the road.

Time was when taxi drivers’ political talk was considered a significant indication of public opinion. Reams about the state of the nation were written by pundits based on conversations during their transportation to the office.

How enlightening that was, Miss Manners cannot presume to say. But the toxic state of current political discourse makes the casual airing of opinions among strangers unappealing, if not dangerous.

Even stating why you find this upsetting could open a debate. All you need to say is, “I'm afraid I need some quiet time.”

Dear Miss Manners: The woman ahead of me in line left her overflowing grocery cart to take her toddler to the bathroom. When the line moved forward, I stepped around her cart and put my (few) items on the conveyor.

She came back before I finished checking out and proceeded to shame me in a loud voice for “cutting in line.” To my chagrin, another young matron, also with an overflowing cart and a toddler in tow, was bagging her items ahead of me and chimed in.

Caught in the crossfire, I was at a loss for words (and so was the cashier). I completed my transaction and left, but I wish I had had the presence of mind to explain that since she left, no, I did not cut in front of her.

I feel the rules of etiquette have been turned upside down. I think I did the right thing in not saying anything, as it would have made things worse. I felt terrible and spent the day depressed and wondering if this was a harbinger of things to come.

Oh, not again — another grocery line fight!

Miss Manners has gotten dozens of these lately. Aren’t people advised to eat before they shop, so they won’t overbuy? Maybe if they weren’t hungry, they wouldn’t be quite so growly.

Leaving is the best solution to such public rudeness. But if you had to stay to retrieve your groceries, you could have said, “I didn’t know how long you would be away, and I didn’t want to hold up the line.”

Dear Miss Manners: When meeting other people at a restaurant, often the host asks the first to arrive if they wish to be seated or to wait for the rest of the party to arrive. Is it proper to be seated ahead of the others? If so, is it proper to order drinks or appetizers while waiting?

Only if they are really late, and you greet them by saying, “I know you wouldn’t have wanted us to wait.”

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.

© 2023 Judith Martin