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Back off my food, please

Updated: January 13, 2011 11:50AM



Dear Miss Manners:

At the DMV for an extended wait to renew my license, I was reading my book and eating the sunflower seeds I brought to occupy my time.

Suddenly, a person from the row behind me (a person I had neither seen nor spoken to prior) taps me on the shoulder and says, "Can I have some of those- "

I shook my head, "No." Frankly I felt that person had "overstepped."

I seem to be the only one not horrified by my response. Was I wrong- Is there no boundary to sharing-

Had I been in a conversation with or sitting next to the person, I might have offered the food on my own. I may have felt more compelled to "share" if asked to do so, but it seemed rude to me for a total stranger to approach me from behind and request some of my food!

Gentle Reader:

How extended was the wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles-

Miss Manners wonders if this person hadn't had a meal in days, for fear of losing his place in line.

As for stepping out of line in the other sense, of course that person did. He didn't even say "please." But then you didn't even say "sorry," and it was probably your curt response that horrified people rather than your decision not to hand around your snack.

One rudeness does not excuse another. You should have shaken your head as if in regret and said, "Sorry, I only brought these to sustain myself. There might be a vending machine around here somewhere, and I'll be glad to hold your place."

Dear Miss Manners:

I have been trying to find out when reading is rude. My husband and I share a home with my sister. She reads a lot, which is fine; however, I think it is rude to come into a room or to a table when we are there having a conversation and sit and start reading. She doesn't get it!

Today I asked her if she would like some wine and cheese and crackers and she said yes, then came and started reading her book. I think it is rude.

Is there a book or article you know of on the subject- To me reading a newspaper or a magazine is different than being engrossed in a novel. Do I have a valid point-

Gentle Reader:

If you do, Miss Manners cannot figure out what it is.

Your sister is not a guest; she lives with you. Is she not entitled to use the common rooms of the house for the harmless pastime of reading- Do you suspect she is there to listen to private conversation, in which case, why don't you hold it in your private room- What on earth is the difference what she is reading-

Perhaps you simply want more of her company. In that case, Miss Manners suggests inviting her to agree to regular family meals, at which reading would indeed be rude.Had I been in a conversation with or sitting next to the person, I might have offered the food on my own. I may have felt more compelled to "share" if asked to do so, but it seemed rude to me for a total stranger to approach me from behind and request some of my food!



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