Best “Miss Conduct” moment EVER

January 29th, 2010

So, last night, Mr. Improbable and I went to see “Indulgences” at New Rep. It’s a very good play, funny and sharp and well-acted, hip but not too knowing. Highly recommended.

At any rate, during intermission, I was in the lobby when the house manager came in through a staff-only door and almost bumped a couple of older women. “Oh, my goodness, sorry, guys,” she gasped. “We’re not guys, we’re girls,” one of them snippily responded. Neither of them acknowledged her apology.

So after my trip to the ladies’ room, I went to the ticket counter and asked to speak with the house manager. “Hi,” I said. “I’m Robin Abrahams, and I write the ‘Miss Conduct’ etiquette column in the Globe. And I want you to know that it’s colloquially acceptable to call more than one woman ‘guys,’ and that it’s not acceptable to criticize strangers for minor faux pas. Those women were very rude, and I think you’re perfectly fine.”

Well, she had been feeling bad about it, so she was was delighted, and so was I. I felt like some minor little superhero or something! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being “Miss Conduct” quite so much. (Actually, I sometimes find being “Miss Conduct” in public to be kind of a pain, but I’ll write about that some other day.)

But of course you don’t have to be an official etiquette columnist to do this. On the other blog we’re talking about rudeness, and how to respond to it. If the rudeness isn’t directed at you, but at someone else, don’t scold the offender — comfort the offended. Say, “That was unfair. What you did wasn’t wrong” or “You handled that very gracefully,” or even simply, “I’m sorry that person did that to you.” It can make a world of difference; really, it’s like you are taking a shamed person and leading them back into the light by the hand.

I mean, it’s a heck of a lot funnier if you’re Miss Conduct, but it’s just as kind no matter who you are.

10 Responses to “Best “Miss Conduct” moment EVER”

  1. ccr in MA on January 29, 2010 7:28 pm

    Very well done! Kudos to you.

  2. RH on January 29, 2010 8:51 pm

    If this were on Facebook, I’d “like” your posting. ;)

  3. Carolyn on January 29, 2010 11:08 pm

    Those are my good moments in customer service–when somebody has a bad day in my direction, and I handle it gracefully, and somebody else gives me a thumbs up for it.

  4. Hope on January 30, 2010 10:33 am

    That’s pretty awesome!

  5. MelissaJane on January 30, 2010 4:49 pm

    I just love this. In my head I’m trying to design a Miss Conduct capelet you could whip out of your purse and don just for such occasions. Something tasteful and without ostentation, but undeniably stylish. A tone-on-tone monogram, perhaps – “Miss C,” very subtle.

  6. Shulamuth on January 30, 2010 11:56 pm


  7. Robin on January 31, 2010 10:18 am

    MelissaJane, my husband has often said the same thing. Only he wants me to have some sort of leotard under my clothing, so I can rip off my shirt and announce, “I’m MISS CONDUCT!”

    I told him I’d consider it if *he’d* be the one to keep finding all my shirt buttons and sewing them back on. I think he just likes the idea of me taking my shirt off. You know how men are. ;-)

  8. Dmajor on February 1, 2010 12:00 am

    The moment reminds me of Woody Allen suddenly producing the actual Marshall McLuhan, from behind a poster in a theater lobby, to refute the McLuhanesque posturing of a know-nothing on the ticket line.

    I don’t think you should get a capelet or leotard. Something more akin to the Lone Ranger’s silver bullet:

    — Who was that knowledgeable and polite woman?

    — I don’t know, but she left behind this silver bulleted list.

  9. Molly on February 4, 2010 8:36 am

    Just one more reason why you are made of awesome.

  10. Ladylipstick on February 21, 2010 10:44 pm

    I am a friend of the house manager that you so thoughtfully comforted, and I can tell you that you made her night!

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