Miss Manners: I am distracted by background noise during business calls

Dear Miss Manners: The pandemic has altered life in many ways, perhaps permanently. One change that gets on my nerves is basic telephone courtesy.

With so many of us working from home, it’s now common to be on a business call while listening to dogs barking, babies crying or dishes washing in the background. One person I work with seems to only call me while eating lunch. I guess these callers are not aware of how distracting these sounds are.

I had to ask a client to call back when he was done at the gym because the sound of someone doing reps on a machine was so obnoxious: wheeze, grunt, bang, wheeze, grung, bang, repeating constantly in the background. He was great, but I was out of line? Are we supposed to accept this disregard as the new normal?

Lunch and gym the wheezing is really extreme. (“Lunch Munching and Gym Wheezing” would also be an excellent name for a cartoon show.)

But, Miss Manners points out, none of us are immune to the occasional barking dog or wayward car alarm when we work from home, even if the sound is from across the street . So suggest a simple, non-accusatory, “Why don’t I call you back at a better time?” And then I hope like crazy that there is one.

Dear Miss Manners: I have a coworker who is obsessed with a particular movie series that came out when they were younger. They love to talk about it, which is fine. I’ve seen them get very defensive, even a little angry, when someone said they didn’t care about the series.

When I was asked the other day for my opinion, I avoided the subject, because I personally don’t like movies. We work in a small business, and it can be obvious when just one person is being avoided. How can I tell them that I am not interested in this topic?

“If you don’t I want to hear my opinion, then you probably shouldn’t be asking.”

Dear Miss Manners: My nephew is getting married soon. I got the wedding invitation and it says “vegetarian or vegan with special dietary request”. My nephew’s family are all meat eaters; none are vegetarian or vegan. I found it strange. Vegetarian/vegan options are usually by special request.

do i mention Or is meat a special dietary request? It’s a new world so I wasn’t sure.

I was thinking I would go with him and have a big lunch beforehand. His grandmother thought it was funny.

Grandma would find it’s even funnier if you wrote in pencil that your special dietary request was meat.

But your hosts won’t be so amused. Miss Manners suggests that you and Grandma therefore make plans to eat your big slab of cow sooner or later, and keep the humor of the whole situation to yourself.

Miss Manners’ new columns are published Monday through Saturday You can submit questions to Miss Manners on her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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