Dear Miss Manners:
I am a high school student volunteering time to support a candidate for the U.S. Senate. The neighborhood I was assigned to canvass clearly subscribes to the opposing political ideology. Many a time, a door has been slammed in my face, or worse, derogatory comments made regarding my candidate or myself.
What has become of our democracy when opposing viewpoints are met with abject ire?
Would you kindly do me the favor of suggesting several alternatives these good but misguided citizens could substitute while declining to entertain gently persuasive comments regarding a viewpoint other than their own?
The only polite way to shut a door in someone's face is to say, "Sorry, I'm not interested," preferably with a regretful smile, and to close the door gently without having to hear the argument about why one should be interested.
Miss Manners fears that this may be disappointing to you, primed as you are to articulate and defend your reasons for supporting your candidate. But you should remember that the time-honored custom of canvassing violates two everyday rules of etiquette: against invading the privacy of people's homes, and against challenging other people's politics.
This is not to say that you are wrong to do it, or that anyone is justified in being rude to you. It is just that you -- in common with religious proselytizers, traveling salesmen and collectors for charity -- must expect some irritation when you ring doorbells. Sadly, it is often rudely expressed.
Miss Manners agrees with you that political discourse is in a bad way, but not because there are people who have already made up their minds. You have.
Dear Miss Manners:
My family had a special occasion in another city and stayed at an elegant hotel, thrilled with the luxury. When I arrived at the complimentary breakfast buffet, within a half-hour of closing, there were at least a dozen people in line.
When I got up to the food, plate in one hand and tongs in the other, a man who had not been in line darted in front of me and began to grab the cut fruit with his hands from the plate in front of me. I was so startled that I just stood there, agog at both the cutting in line and the barehanded grabbing.
Since the melon was slippery, he had some trouble and reached again and again. He then went on to snatch and grab at whatever he could reach of the other plates.
Finally, after a few minutes of this, I icily said, "Pardon me!" He looked somewhat surprised and left the line, plate full.
My question is whether I should have offered him the tongs, or continued to hold the tongs and not assist this behavior further? I feel that I was less than considerate, but I was really so shocked and appalled that I was almost frozen. I have only seen this type of behavior on TV in unfortunate situations such as starving refugee camps, but this fellow looked a lot more prosperous. What does one do when people act this way?
Get out of the way.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin