Q: I was in one of three or four communal stalls in the ladies’ room of a restaurant, just finishing up, when another person walked into the stall next to me, closed the door, and then began to both sob and urinate audibly.
What is the appropriate response in such a situation?
I am one who would become more upset in the face of sympathy from a stranger, so I kept silent. But perhaps this was inappropriate.
A: Forgive Miss Manners — she knows that the answer you are seeking is in regard to the crying, but she can’t get past what you might think the response to someone audibly urinating might be. (“Could you tone it down? Some of us are trying to concentrate.”)
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In any case, you should ignore both. If the stranger’s … ahem … noise escalates, you can certainly ask if she needs assistance, and if you feel unable to provide it, send for an employee — or doctor — instead.
Q: My husband and I don’t wish to have biological children, and we are not currently interested in discussing adoption.
A few months ago, he started a job that pays much more than his
previous one. We are financially comfortable (not wealthy) enough that he suggested my quitting my previous job, which I hated and was underpaid for. I now have time to volunteer at an animal shelter, do shopping and errands for an elderly relative, take two classes at a community college, as well as care for our home.
Lately, when I see people we know, they often want me to explain what I “do all day” since we have no children and I am not working outside the home. This is usually followed by questions about how much time and effort each activity involves, as if I need to prove that I am not lying on a couch and watching television.
A couple of people have also asked me to baby-sit after I previously made plans with relatives or friends, assuming that I cannot possibly be busy with anything important. They expect me to be able to cancel my plans, since whatever I am doing is not a job and I am not a mother.
What is the best way to tell people that I do not think my schedule is their business?
A: While you have legitimate gripes about the people who are asking what you do all day, Miss Manners detects in your tone a pre-emptive fatigue. You do not need to volunteer any unnecessary information, nor justify any appointments you made. If friends are actually asking you to cancel plans, then you may say, “I’m sorry, but my schedule is confirmed.” However, be careful that you do not project your frustrations on those innocently asking about your availability.
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.