Dear Miss Manners: Is there a courteous way to impose a limit on, well, courtesy? I was disembarking from the rear door of a bus when an elderly gentleman immediately in front of me had trouble pushing the door open. I reached over and assisted him, and then exited myself.
I held the door for the person behind me, so as not to let it slam in his face, assuming that he would take the door from me. He didn’t. Neither did the four people behind him, who ranged in age from adolescent to elderly.
Eventually, a couple struggling with two strollers disembarked, the last of the departing riders, and I felt that I shouldn’t release the door, and so I didn’t.
Was there a point at which I could have relinquished my job as door person pro tem without being discourteous.
Gentle Reader: Your services were offered graciously, if unintentionally, and Miss Manners is pleased to return the courtesy by solving your problem, though not by herself relieving you of the door.
Wait for a person who can be expected to hold a door, and take a half step in front of him before he comes through. The movement will bring him up short, at which point you can catch his eye and then slowly release the door, eventually letting go.
This maneuver must be so executed as not to leave anyone lying prone on the sidewalk, and it is meant for the extreme situation you describe – not to punish a lone, lazy teenager who slips through after Miss Manners.
The line on gift giving
Dear Miss Manners: Am I lacking in the manners department if I do not always buy birthday gifts for my friends?
I had a friend who was very offended when I did not get her a gift for her birthday, and who made sure to remind me about the gifts she had given me on my “special day.” We are in our mid-20s.
Am I on the wrong side of this? At what point, if any, should adults stop expecting other people to buy them gifts?
Gentle Reader: Immediately. There is no excuse for demanding presents for oneself.
However, with some exceptions, present-giving should be a roughly even exchange. It should not be confused with philanthropy, which is one-sided and highly admirable, but unrelated to the offering of symbols of fondness among relatives and friends.
By roughly equivalent, Miss Manners is not referring to immediate reciprocation, nor to the monetary value. It merely means giving something of equal thoughtfulness when the occasion presents itself.
This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.