Q: My husband and I went to a bookstore/coffee place and looked forward to a relaxing moment. Within seconds, we realized we were not sitting in the right area.
A woman was hooked up to her computer with a headset and was speaking above a normal level to explain her publishing company’s products and ask for feedback. We gently looked her way, but she was in full work mode.
We tried moving, and only on our third move were we able to get away from really distracting noise. There also has been an increase of workers on computers in coffee shops, where they take up seats for long periods of time.
In your gentle way of restoring civility to our culture, could you please comment on this?
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A: Yes, but you may not like it. If Miss Manners banned people who worked on their computers or talked on their phones in public places, she would do little else. And she would likely shut down businesses everywhere.
Is it the volume of the call or its content to which you object? For either, you could say, “I am so sorry, but we do not want to disturb your phone call with our chatter. Perhaps a quiet corner would be more conducive to your getting things done.”
If that does not work — and if moving and throwing glances are also not effective — then you may ask the establishment to create and enforce rules (perhaps written and posted) that request a limit to the time spent there.
But know that it would be exceedingly difficult — and set a frightening precedent — to try to determine which calls are for work and which personal. Especially since most people seem to have trouble making that distinction themselves.
Q: In a few months, my family will be relocating from a very large home in the Midwest to what we anticipate will be a much smaller home in a busy East Coast city.
My husband and I are both in our 40s, and our daughter is in elementary school. Over the years, we have acquired many nice things, including furniture, toys, books, household items, etc., that we realize we cannot take with us.
I wonder if I might have an “indoor downsizing party” with my friends, during which they could come over and select items. My thought was not to price items, but rather to allow them to contribute what they felt was appropriate. I thought it would be a fun way to help us tackle the downsizing, but I am concerned it may appear tacky. What are your thoughts?
A: That this is unfortunately the worst of all possible combinations.
It is neither a yard sale with price tags nor a generous donation of items for which you no longer have use. Miss Manners feels certain that what your friends will likely feel is “appropriate” is to know what kind of party they are attending. And not to have to put a value on their friends’ belongings.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.