ALTHOUGH MISS MANNERS is a great believer in fresh air and acting out one's beliefs, she cannot say that she is happy to see so many people out picketing these days. The weekly sums that unions are able to allow to members who engage in this activity do not seem to Miss Manners to be commensurate with the strenousness of the job and the working conditions on most sidewalks.
It is for this reason that Miss Manners would especially urge consideration to picketers on the part of the public. This is not to suggest that the moral decision of whether to cross picket lines is a matter of etiquette. It is not, and therefore Miss Manners will remain silent on that subject. What she wishes to discuss is not respecting picket lines, but respecting picketers.
Miss Manners also expects picketers to treat the public with courtesy. So does the law, for that matter.
The conventions of picketing allow the striking workers to make known their views through ritualistic marching in an orderly oval pattern, the carrying of signs, and distributing of leaflets. Miss Manners expects them to observe the amenities by not making their signs obscene or forcing leaflets on those who do not wish to take them.
Proper dress for picketers is either outdoor apparel appropriate to the weather, or the working clothes of the profession that is striking. Miss Manners was glad to see Washington striking musicians wearing white tie, and was even willing to waive for the occasion the general rule about not wearing evening dress during the day.
In return, Miss Manners expects the public to remember the dignity of labor and not engage in undignified behavior toward its representatives. This means no shouting at them, no throwing of fruit or other objects, and no deliberate jostling. It also means that while one can decline to accept a leaflet, one may not take it and then visibly treat it with contempt, such as tearing it up or throwing it on the sidewalk.
Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness.
Miss Manners Responds
Q: I have a wall in my dining room where I have each of my sons' graduation pictures. Under each picture I have that son's wedding picture, and under each of those, a picture of their children. Everyone thinks it is such a novel idea and how nice they look. Here is my problem. My oldest son was divorced. He has now remarried a woman with one boy. What do I do about them? I can't take down his first wife's picture since she is the mother of my grandchildren. She also still comes over here to visit with me, as do my grandchildren. His second wife and her boy also come over. How can I arrange something so as not to hurt her feelings, either? They are all 8-by-10 pictures.
A: Congratulations: Your pictures collection has now moved into the now fashionable style known as eclectic. Miss Manners, who is very orderly, sympathizes with what has happened to your careful symmetry, but is afraid that people take precedence over wall decorations and one must face the fact that a great many families these days are eclectic.
Q: Please, sometime, offer some putdown for people who seek instant information for complete strangers who are going about their business and not bothering anyone. I seem to be the born victim of such people, who stop me on the street wanting to know the time (because I am wearing a highly unreliable watch) or where the Door Store is or when the shops open or, in the case of tourists (with cameras for indentification as such), where one can get a good breakfast. This always seems a particularly stupid question to fire at an obvious resident (without a camera) who has to get up and make it herself for her family! Then there are the people who want to know why the plane is so late in arriving or departing, what they should do about their tickets (when you've obviously just arrived at the airport), then why the service is so slow, whether we're to get a meal before we get to Oshkosh, and so on. What's the best way to squash such people? They usually ask for directions when your arms are full of bundles so a blunt instrument isn't too practical.
A:: Miss Manners is not in the business of disseminating "put-downs" for the purpose of humiliating problem-ridden strangers. It seems to Miss Manners that even with a bad watch and full arms, the quickest way to dispense with the problem is to say "Sorry - I don't know." May you never be lost in a strange city where everyone else is busy minding his own business.