DEAR MISS MANNERS: This weekend I went to do my usual grocery shopping. As I entered the store, the customer in front of me stopped and, due to this being a small store, there was no maneuvering around him and his cart.
He just stood there for a minute as a line of people and carts built up behind him. Eventually he noticed and moved to the side, saying, “Excuse me.” I gave him a nod and moved past him.
He yelled “Excuse me!” at my retreating back — twice. I just continued walking, without responding. I can only think that, for him, my nod was not enough and he wanted some version of “It’s OK” from me.
Well, it wasn’t OK, and I don’t feel that I should have given him the impression that being so inconsiderate is an acceptable thing to do going forward. Am I in the wrong here?
GENTLE READER: There seem to be a lot of altercations in grocery stores these days. Several have come Miss Manners’ way. Can’t you people just scoop up your nibbles without squabbling?
Yes, she understands that you did not cause the problem. But you now regret that you didn’t prolong it. Why? Surely a moment of absent-mindedness can be excused. You could have explained, as to a child, “Yes, I excused you.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several years ago, when I knew I would not be able to be with my family for the holidays, I decided to make donations in their names to what I believed were worthwhile charities that I happened to support. I sent them each a card, noting my gift and briefly explaining the mission of the given charity.
Much to my surprise, my family later told me that they were surprised and upset by my actions. My parents demanded that their names not be included on the charity’s mailing list. My sister made it clear that she only wanted me to donate to charities that she personally supported.
Honestly, I could not (and still cannot) see the difference between my making a donation in their names to my charities versus my donating to theirs. The way I see it, the organizations I gave to are dedicated to the same ideals that I am; since my family supports me, one would think that, in theory, they would not be offended by my gesture.
Clearly, though, I was wrong. What would you advise in this situation: Should I only give to charities that my family has preapproved? I almost feel as if that defeats the purpose of giving in the first place.
GENTLE READER: You have already defeated the purpose of giving presents, which is to please the recipients. Yet Miss Manners gathers that your pride in the virtue of giving to charity has prevented you from understanding why.
You gave to charities you support, so presumably you would have made these donations anyway. In what way does that connect with other members of the family, who have their own favorite charities?
Presents are a symbolic way of showing that one has noticed other people’s preferences. You have ignored theirs.
Never mind that it deprives them of the tax deduction and puts their names on a solicitation list. Unless your family has agreed to substitute charity for giving presents, you are claiming double credit for a single action.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.