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Miss Manners: I was accused of being racist while thrift shopping

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: While searching for bargains at a local charity thrift shop, an older lady near me suddenly asked me why I was ignoring her. I’d had no inkling that she had even addressed me. I apologized and asked what she wanted.

She immediately fired back, “It’s because of my skin color. You Whites drive me crazy. Your s--- stinks just like the rest of us.” I was floored. I just mumbled something like “I guess so,” and scampered away. She raised her voice to deliver more racist attacks. The thing is, I am Latina, just as she was, but I do not necessarily look it.

How should I have reacted? Should I have identified my cultural background? Should I have verbally sparred with her instead of hurrying away to lurk in the glassware area until the all-clear sounded?

Insult collecting — taking offense when none was intended — seems to have become the national sport. Tempting as it surely was to point out that this person had failed to notice your mutual heritage, Miss Manners admires you for refusing to play. People spoiling for a fight are not put off by facts, any more than by common decency.

Dear Miss Manners: I grocery shop multiple times a week and frequently use the express lane. The policy for this lane is 10 items or fewer. If I’m thinking of using it, I always, and I mean ALWAYS, count my items to make sure I have 10 at most.

I often see people in front of me with an item count above the posted limit. Is it bad manners to be one or two items above the limit? What about four or five above? I’ve never said anything to the other customers for breaking the policy. Would it be poor manners to do so? Should I complain to the cashier?

I’ve never said anything to the other customers for breaking the policy. Would it be poor manners to do so? Should I complain to the cashier?

Please don’t get into an altercation in the grocery line. Miss Manners has had so many reports of that being a staging area for sniping that it’s a wonder people can stock their larders without risk.

The cashier is well aware of the number of items each customer presents and has probably chosen not to make an issue of it. But go ahead and ask that employee, “Isn't this the express lane?” if you think it will help.

Dear Miss Manners: I have breakfast once a month with a friend I went to school with. For the most part, our time together is enjoyable.

However, I have noticed that she has a problem with people who are overweight. She will make nasty comments about them as they walk by our booth, sometimes loud enough for them to hear. I remain silent. This friend was a bully in school and seems not to have grown out of that persona. What is a good comment I can say to her that does not bring me down to bully level?

Other than “Sorry, I’m not free for breakfast?” Well, you could try saying, “Why are you making these people feel bad?”

If the response is anything like, “It’s for their own good,” Miss Manners resubmits her first suggestion.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2024 Judith Martin