Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
What’s the etiquette for dealing with a boor? I am an author who attends various
artists and authors’ fairs. Usually it’s sitting on a bad chair for the better part of
the day and schmoozing with interested readers who might also buy my books.
But occasionally, like yesterday, I get tabled with a loud, annoyingly interrupting
boor. He tried to talk my ear off even though I said, “When I’m not with customers
I am trying to write.” Whenever someone approached me, he would interrupt the
conversation and try to snare them (his material was nothing like mine). I asked
the coordinator for a table swap and she rolled her eyes. Apparently other people
had made not being seated next to him a condition of participation. Advice?
This is the same etiquette advice I would give to a person with a bad airline seat
neighbor, or other randomly assigned seat in which you are temporarily trapped.
Be polite. Be firm. Be clear. That’s when you talk to the boor and to people with
the authority to move you or the boor or to enforce more polite action on his part.
Boors do not train easily. They’re used to commanding attention by their noise or
actions, and surrender airtime and the attention of others only if there appears to
be no other option. Even if you score a victory early, assume the behavior will
continue. If you do ask for help, try to identify if there is any penalty for continued
bad behavior. For example, recently airlines have ejected or banned such people
after inappropriate outbursts.
Travelling with noise cancelling headphones is a solution in some situations. But
unless you’re willing to also put a sign on your table that says, Writer at work who
will happily stop to talk to you about her book., they won’t help you attract new
readers. But they will keep you out of court if you crack and injure a boor.