I SOMETIMES find strangers’ manners so lacking that I have started engaging in an odd kind of activism. I call it reverse etiquette: I supply the apology that they should be giving me.
When the ebullient young woman behind the cash register at the grocery store dropped my apple on the ground, she smiled nervously, picked it up and put it in my bag, but said nothing. So I offered, in a neutral tone of voice, “Oh, I’m sorry.” This did not elicit the remorse I hoped it would — she simply grimace-smiled and said, “That’s O.K.” So I added, “Sorry about that — I really didn’t mean for you to drop that.” At which she stared off into the mid-distance as if receiving instructions from outer space.
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