Miss Manners: How do I pass coworkers chatting across the hallway?

Dear Miss Manners: I work in a large medical center where colleagues frequently stop in the halls to converse. My quandary arises when these conversations occur with one participant on one side of the hallway and the other across the hall, leaving those passing no choice but to walk between them as they talk.

Must I excuse myself? I suppose I could pause and wait for them to finish their discussion so as not to interrupt them, but this seems extreme in terms of passive aggressiveness.

I confess that this often happens on my way into work, when I have not yet had any coffee and am inclined to grumpiness. But I also feel that the chatting pair is forcing this quandary upon me by choosing to chat across the hallway. I suppose that is the crux of my disgruntlement: Their choice forces me to choose between rudeness and ridiculousness.

Are the conversation-holders entitled to an apology when I walk between them as they converse? Am I absolved of feeling guilty if I decline to extend that courtesy?

Could you have some coffee at home, and be not quite so easily thrown by your chatty colleagues?

Miss Manners is not defending them, but neither does she consider that they are committing a high crime. If you don’t want to excuse yourself, she supposes you could plow ahead, calling “Coming through!”

But you are mistaken in thinking that “excuse me” is, in this case, an admission of fault on your part. If you say it in an authoritative voice, “Excuse me!” sounds like a command, and should prompt your colleagues to murmur the apologetic version of the phrase.

Dear Miss Manners: We have been invited to a small dinner party. When replying to the invitation, we volunteered to bring dessert. Our host then asked that we bring wine in addition to dessert.

My husband can’t drink any alcohol, and since I’m driving, I wasn’t going to drink any, either. Is it impolite to bring nonalcoholic wine?

When you volunteered to bring dessert, you were presumably trying to help your hosts. And now you want to sabotage them, knowing perfectly well what they meant by “wine.”

Perhaps you didn’t really want to help, but are among those who mistakenly believe that etiquette requires guests to contribute to any meals to which they are invited. (It doesn’t, and many hosts, who have carefully planned the meals they give, are annoyed by guests who insist upon adding to them.)

But neither do guests have to take orders about what to bring. You should have said, “Sorry, but we’ll just bring dessert.” Miss Manners only wishes that you had a better reason, such as a moral objection, for not wanting to bring wine. The fact that you will not be drinking it, and are therefore willing to deprive others, does not suffice.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it considered impolite to tie the string of one’s tea bag around the teacup? I usually do this to prevent the string and tag from falling into the tea. Whenever I drink tea at my friend’s home, however, she gets terribly annoyed by this.

Then why doesn’t she serve loose tea, in a proper teapot?

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.

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