Q: On a crowded passenger ferry frequented by tourists, there was no room to sit on the benches, so I squeezed into a place at the rail. This afforded me a breeze, a nice view and something to hold onto, which was lacking near the benches.
A woman sitting on the bench behind me said angrily, “Would you please move? You’re standing right in front of me and completely blocking my view.”
I was so flustered by her icily commanding tone that I immediately moved away without a word. The idea that it was impolite to block someone’s view had never occurred to me, and I’d been on the ferry many times.
Is it discourteous? How should I have responded?
A: Public spaces are, by definition, shared, a fact that surprises a remarkable number of commuters, theatergoers and restaurant patrons.
Your angry fellow traveler was entitled to her own place, but not to yours, no matter how magnificent the view. Miss Manners would have recommended that you counter rudeness with politeness by offering to trade places, briefly letting go of the rail to demonstrate how necessary it is to maintaining one’s balance while underway.
Q: My brother-in-law has a habit of sending me a text or email with simply “Hey” as the message. If he calls and leaves a voice message, it is always, “Hey. Call me back.”
He never says why he is calling. It is almost invariably to complain about a poisonous relationship or a horrible decision and to ask for advice, which he promptly refuses to take. (No, you should not bail out your girlfriend after she robbed you.)
If I don’t reply, he continues to simply text “Hey.”
He’s a sweet soul, but he’s hopeless and I don’t have time for his drama. I have two kids, and I’m a full-time student. May I just ignore him?
A: Whether you are being annoyed by your brother-in-law’s messages or just by your cellular telephone beeping, shaking or blinking until you pick up, Miss Manners advises you to ration your responses. Your advice is just as likely to be ignored, but you will not have to give as much of it.
Q: The majority of my friends are not sending Christmas cards except on social media or, if lucky, by email. The set with young children all send photo cards without even a signature, let alone a message.
I enjoy creating a simple card and I keep my message short, yet I have a feeling these are received with angst or irritation. If my cards do not bring a warm holiday feel, should I stop the process that now seems selfish since I get the joy of the creation?
A: How do you know that your personalized cards don’t create a warm holiday feel in the recipients? And if they also inspire the thought that unsigned cards are a bit pointless, Miss Manners would consider that another contribution.
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.