Q: I’m in college and work as a customer service representative at the campus copy and print shop. Frequently, customers will come up to the counter wearing headphones and will not remove them or pause their music while I discuss their order with them.
Although I always try to be patient with customers who do this, it frustrates me, and I consider it rude and disrespectful. It makes the transaction take much longer, because I will need to repeat questions and explanations several times (since these customers aren’t able to hear what I’m saying).
Is their behavior out of line, or am I just overreacting? And is there anything polite I could say to try to correct this situation, or should I just continue to smile and repeat myself in the most pleasant tone I can manage?
A: Why say anything at all to people who are obviously not listening?
You could just stand there smiling and waiting expectantly. When the customer inevitably demands why you are not speaking (and with any luck, takes off those headphones to see what is being missed), Miss Manners would say, “Oh, I was afraid that you wouldn’t be able to hear me, so I was waiting until you were ready.”
Q: My sister-in-law attended my mother’s funeral visitation as one of the first to arrive and the last to leave (a 2 1/2 -hour stay). She had met my mother only a few times and knew very few of the guests attending.
She managed to join in on every conversation, felt the need to inquire about who the guests were and why they were there, stated how hard the day was for her since it brought back memories of her own mother who died six years ago, and cried and hugged everyone in sight.
When she finally left along with the last guest, she stated, “How fun.”
Is it wrong for me to be upset that she used my family’s grief as her social outing for the week and her topic of conversation to anyone who is “stuck” listening to her for the next several weeks?
A: No, it is not wrong. But unfortunately, saying it is.
Miss Manners does not see any polite, or even reasonable, way to put it. “I am sorry, but your show of grief was excessive, given your limited relationship to my mother”? or “Please don’t socialize at my mother’s funeral”?
Controlling another’s demonstrated grief, no matter how misplaced and excessive it might be, is a fruitless and unbecoming task. At the very least, think of your sister-in-law’s antics as a momentary respite from your own more tempered and legitimate bereavement.
Q: My wife and I attended the wedding of a friend of hers. As we entered, an usher asked my wife, “Bride or groom?” then extended his arm, which she gladly accepted. He escorted her to the seat, never acknowledging my presence.
I told my wife I felt that was out of line. We entered as a couple, and why were you being led in another man’s arm? She disagreed and said this is standard practice. I am a photographer who has done plenty of weddings, but I’ve never seen this done. I need you to settle this debate.
A: It is standard practice.
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.