Miss Man­ners

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - COMICS, ETC. -

Dear Miss Man­ners: I’m a bar­tender at a small neigh­bor­hood bar. I have a great rap­port with many cus­tomers, who have told me they come in specif­i­cally on my shifts for the good con­ver­sa­tions. Most of my cus­tomers do un­der­stand that there’s a line be­tween us, and don’t try to ex­tend our good relationships out­side of the bar. But lately, I’ve been strug­gling with a pa­tron who very much wants a friend­ship out­side the bar.

I do not, un­der any cir­cum­stances, want to be friends with this man. He’s never said or done any­thing ter­ri­ble; I just sim­ply don’t find his com­pany very in­ter­est­ing and I don’t want to feel like I’m at work dur­ing my free time.

I’ve tried a num­ber of po­lite re­sponses in an at­tempt to de­fray the con­ver­sa­tion. He does not take the hint. I’m at a loss as to how to com­mu­ni­cate that I don’t want to hang out with him while also main­tain­ing his pa­tron­age. Hon­estly, it wouldn’t bother me so much if he stopped com­ing on my shifts, but I don’t want the bar to lose a val­ued cus­tomer be­cause I’ve of­fended him.

Gentle Reader: Some pro­fes­sions, by their nature, risk blur­ring the dis­tinc­tion be­tween the pro­fes­sional and the per­sonal.

It is nat­u­ral to think that your doc­tor’s in­ter­est in your health is greater than that a sci­en­tist feels for a lab rat. And the teacher who spends ex­tra time to make sure you un­der­stand the sub­ject can be for­given for de­vel­op­ing a more than pro­fes­sional pride in your ac­com­plish­ments.

But ev­ery­one needs time off, for which rea­son those pro­fes­sions cul­ti­vate dis­tanc­ing mech­a­nisms, from the doc­tor’s lab coat to the now-dis­ap­pear­ing habit of re­fer­ring to the teacher by last name.

Such pro­fes­sion­als, when ap­proached out­side the of­fice and the class­room, are trained to re­fer the client to a col­league who is on duty. While this might work in your case, Miss Man­ners has her doubts.

Bar­tenders in gen­eral, if not you in par­tic­u­lar, in­crease their busi­ness by in­ten­tion­ally pos­ing as pseudo-friends. That makes it easy to un­der­stand cus­tomers’ con­fu­sion. You can clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion by say­ing, “I’m al­ways happy to chat with you here, but I have a strict pol­icy of sep­a­rat­ing my work from my private life.”

You can send your ques­tions to Miss Man­ners at her web­site, www.miss­man­ners.com; to her email, dearmiss­man­ners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Man­ners, Univer­sal Uclick, 1130 Wal­nut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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