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Miss Manners: In a traffic dispute, shaking one’s head isn’t minding one’s own business

Dear Miss Manners: I was standing about 20 feet away from a four-way intersection where two drivers had a disagreement about the right of way. A man standing at the corner of the intersection, facing traffic and with his back toward me, made a hand gesture to express his disagreement with one of the drivers.

As I saw this happen, I shook my head, thinking the man had no reason to be involved and should mind his own business. He saw this when he turned around and then made a comment about bad drivers.

I wanted to let him know that I was shaking my head not to agree with him, but because I was stunned that he chose to be involved.

But yet, I was now getting involved — when I was advising him to mind his own business. Perhaps my only defense is that he turned to me, versus my calling him out.

Please share your opinion on how to handle this situation.

Minding one’s own business is in mighty short supply these days. Of the four people in this scenario — two of whom could have yielded or driven off, and two of whom had no stake in the conflict — you are apparently the only one who even had any (retroactive) hesitation before jumping into a public dispute.

Miss Manners cannot be the only person who has noticed that confrontations among strangers usually turn ugly. What they never turn is helpful. Never yet has someone humiliated by a stranger conceded being in the wrong and begun a life of reform.

Dear Miss Manners: My family and I have once again been invited to an annual barbecue party at the hosts' summer house. And once again, we have been instructed to bring our own food to be grilled, as well as a side dish to share. The hosts will supply paper goods and dessert.

I can no longer take part in this travesty. This isn't a party in the tradition that I know, where the hosts open up their home and provide the basics (food and drink).

I can stay home and grill my own dinner, rather than share one grill with the other guests trying to maneuver their own dogs and burgers.

Do you agree that hosts shouldn't have a party if they demand that guests bring their own food?

It is the terminology that bothers Miss Manners. Families and friends may agree to have cooperative meals — the key word here being “agree.” And although someone provides the venue, and someone organizes the food assignments, no one is really a host or a guest.

It is true that hotels speak of “guests” when they mean “paying clients,” but it should still mean “someone who is entertained by a host” — a host being someone who arranges the occasion and provides whatever is necessary.

It does not mean being asked to eat your own dinner at someone else’s house. And all that scrambling over the grill sounds like an unpleasant way to do so.

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.

2021, by Judith Martin