Don't you people even know how to walk down the street without getting into etiquette trouble?

Apparently not. In crowded cities, and in the crowded neighborhoods of otherwise peaceful cities, a new source of street crime, Miss Manners has heard, is the rudeness of pushing and shoving on sidewalks. One person bumps another, the bumpee whips about and retaliates, and pretty soon nobody can move along the sidewalk because there's a body lying on it.

This will not do. Those who believe that practicing manners is too much bother in a fast-paced modern world have failed to prove that the alternative of violence is more efficient.

It is not that Miss Manners is claiming that cantankerous pedestrians are a new phenomenon in this world. She seems to recall that Oedipus's troubles began when he refused to yield the right of way.

Well, actually, she doesn't recall it; she read about it after the fact. But she does remember that that one incident led to no end of trouble.

She will therefore trot out all the old rules of etiquette for urban walking, and wearily request once again that they be obeyed. These rules are only in need of some slight updating to be as useful as ever.

Perhaps you will be good enough to recall the rule that a gentleman does not recognize on the street a lady who does not signal that she wishes to be recognized by him. The signal may be "Hi" or "Looking for some fun?" but it is her call.

Miss Manners no longer strictly insists that a gentleman refrain from politely calling the attention of a lady of his acquaintance to his presence in her path. But she does insist that he cannot call the attention of a lady he does not know to how much he would like to know her and what he would like to do about it should he have, or seize, the opportunity.

The traditional rule in America was that a gentleman accompanying one or more ladies walked on the outside of the sidewalk, doing an amusing little minuet at street crossings to maintain his relative position. Miss Manners will allow a modernization of the rule to the extent that the more dedicated window shopper of any pair or group should be allowed the inside track, regardless of gender.

Perhaps then she may be spared an argument against maintaining opposite hat rules for ladies and gentlemen. When greeting a lady outdoors, a gentleman lifts his hat. (Note the correct, if uncatchy, usage: The expression to "tip" the hat was considered fast. Aren't you glad not to be the kind of person who knows things like that?) A lady does not lift her hat.

The only adjustment a lady was permitted to make in her headgear was to remove the 12-inch hatpin from her hat in order to insert it neatly into the eye of any male violating the rule about soliciting an unknown lady's attention. Having come out squarely against violence, Miss Manners does not endorse this solution; she merely mentions it as a matter of interest to anyone assuming that proper-looking ladies must be defenseless.

Non-aggressive importunings, whether from political, religious or commercial petitioners or from beggars, may be ignored or not, as the pedestrian chooses. It is not rude to shake one's head or to say a firm "Sorry" as a refusal to participate in street transactions, even of the sort to which one might be receptive in principle, such as moral debate or philanthropy.

But we started about the basic matter of merely advancing along a sidewalk without causing offense. It seems necessary, Miss Manners regrets to acknowledge, to inform people that they are responsible not only for themselves but for whatever backpacks, shoulder bags and totes that enlarge their silhouettes; that when people are walking in opposite directions, they should all keep to the right; and that any contact between strangers should be distinctly declared inadvertent by means of an apology.

Really, Miss Manners sighs, this is discouraging. Can't she even trust you to go down to the corner without getting into trouble?

On an airplane the young gentleman sitting next to me wore a lovely suit and carried an expensive briefcase. Then he blew his cover.

When served breakfast, he first cut up each piece of french toast into eight bite-size pieces and then ate them. He did the same with his sausage.

I have no doubt that his mother must have done this for him when he was a child, but I see no reason that when he is 30, his meal must be completely cut up before he can start eating it. I have seen other such offenders, usually men, but occasionally women err as well. Please, Miss Manners, tell these people to stop.

Suppose they ask Miss Manners to stop their seat mates from monitoring their eating habits?

Cutting up food as you describe is an etiquette violation, but cutting up strangers, as you describe, who are minding their own business is a worse one.