Miss Manners: Why can’t my co-workers knock before trying to open the door?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in an office with around 30 people. There are several bathrooms available to the staff, and I have used all of them at one time or another.

When I am occupying any of them, I’ve noticed people never knock before trying to open the door. They will grab the handle and pull several times before they walk away. It is easy to see from the outside when the bathroom is occupied because of the type of door lock.

Is it not common courtesy to knock before attempting to open a single-occupancy bathroom? I do this even at home, and definitely when entering a public restroom.

GENTLE READER: Uh, you do realize that they are in a hurry, don’t you?

Not that Miss Manners would excuse bad manners on that account. But for your colleagues to assume that the stall is empty and that they can therefore go ahead and open the door does not strike her as callous. Merely expedient.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a book club meeting at our local library, the conversation got slightly off topic for a short period of time. One of the participants said, loudly, “For (expletive’s) sake, will this ever end?”

Everyone in the group ignored her, pretending to not hear, and the conversation quickly returned to the book we had read.


My daughter (who is also in the group) and I wished we had said something to her. How could we have told her that her remark was unkind without humiliating her?

GENTLE READER: What would you have said? “If you talk like that, we’re going to wash out your mouth with soap”?

Wait -- Miss Manners just realized that that is what you could have said. Club members can make rules with consequences for violations, but they cannot randomly scold one another.

So your best response is either to ignore the remark, which is a reproof in itself, or to make a joke of it.

• • •

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I placed a rush order (two hours’ notice) for four items for my local grocery store’s curbside service. I parked in the appropriate spot, informed them I was there, then proceeded to wait almost 30 minutes for my items. (Someone from the store did assure me, about 10 minutes in, that my order was coming.)

When my order arrived, the young man apologized for my long wait with what seemed like great sincerity. I told him “thank you” and asked him to place my items in the trunk. He then apologized again, wearing a look that seemed to indicate he was waiting for a different response.

I thanked him again, both after the second apology and after my groceries were safely in my trunk. Was there something else I should have said?

GENTLE READER: Of course you know that he was hoping for a tip. And while Miss Manners sympathizes with tip fatigue, you should have given him one. He may or may not be paid a pittance, but he depends on tips. And it wasn’t his fault that the order was delayed.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to