Dear Amy: This morning I was having breakfast in a cafe and overheard the interaction with our server at the table next to us. Our server was an attractive young woman. Two older men were seated at the next table. They were being rude, asking her questions about her race: “What are you mixed with?” “What are you?” “Do all your women look like you?”
One man reached out and was touching her arm and her wrist, while her body language clearly showed she was uncomfortable. At one point one of the men said something quietly that I couldn’t hear, but her response was, “Oh, that’s a bit creepy,” with a polite laugh.
Although she remained professional serving them, she looked very upset when she left their table. I wanted to scold them, but I didn’t want to embarrass our server. It makes my blood boil seeing someone touch a woman when she clearly doesn’t want to be touched but can’t escape because of professional expectations.
As a fellow diner I feel like I have a special power to defend a server in a way she couldn’t defend herself. What should I have done?
— See Something, Say Something?
Dear Say Something: One of my daughters recently called the police when she witnessed verbal and physical harassment on a crowded subway car. When I asked her why she had done this, she said, “I guess I have finally just had enough.”
Of course, your diner episode does not rise to the level of police involvement. But yes, you should say something. I think we should all say something.
You could have said, “Gentlemen, I think it would be swell if you would stop harassing this young woman and let her do her job. In fact, I could use a refill.” (This would give her a reason to exit from their table.)
Then you could have spoken with the manager, describing the episode and giving them a heads-up to how professional she is. An extra-large tip (for her) would have demonstrated your support and solidarity.
Yes, your intervention might have embarrassed the server (and the older men) in the moment. But the fear of embarrassment has kept too many of us too quiet for too long. So speak up.
Dear Amy: Several years ago, I needlepointed a small Irish poem as a birthday present for a very dear friend of Irish ancestry. It was a labor of love, expensive to make and meant to be hung on the wall, but she has never hung or displayed it.
Once, at a convenient moment, I wondered aloud in front of my friend and another person where it was. My friend said they just had painted the walls, but I’m sure she was avoiding the truth. It has bothered me for a long time (although we share many happy times together) and I don’t know how or whether to approach her again.
If she doesn’t care for it, I feel like asking for it back but realize that would be inappropriate. What do you suggest?
— Friend in a Quandary
Dear Friend: You did a very nice thing. But this was a gift. The joy was in the making and the giving. You stitched your friendship into this gift, and even if it is in a drawer — or on someone else’s wall — you are supposed to surrender control of the gift once you give it away.
The recipient should honor your gift, and your friendship, by being grateful and making sure you understand how appreciative she is. She is not obligated to display it.
You should convince yourself to stop wondering about this. Let it go. Stitch another version of this, frame it nicely, and put it on your own wall as a tribute to all of your friendships.
Dear Amy: You have fairly graciously published grammatical corrections — or word-choice corrections — from readers. Most recently, “champing” versus “chomping” (“… at the bit”) seems to have excited many people.
I recently saw a T-shirt bearing this slogan: “I am silently correcting your grammar.” I wish I had the nerve to wear it!
— Word Person
Dear Word Person: I always welcome a gentle correction. In this instance, I received hundreds. (Some weren’t all that gentle.)
As I’ve said, the good news is that people are paying close attention. The best news is that there are a lot of people out there who really know their stuff and aren’t afraid to wear that T-shirt.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: email@example.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.)
Copyright 2019 by Amy Dickinson
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