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Miss Conduct

Advice: Strangers keep piggybacking on my T pass

I want to confront people who follow me through the turnstile. Plus, dinner parties with dietary restrictions.

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What should I do if someone follows me onto the T without paying the fare? On the one hand, people are struggling. I think everyone has snuck on at one point and it’s totally fair to want to help people. But sneaking on damages an already challenged MBTA — and the girl who did it last night had shopping bags with her, so I was conflicted. Do I be cool and help her? Or do I not swipe my pass and explain that she needs to pay her fare?

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J.V. / Boston

Etiquette-wise, a person should ask if the pass holder will let him sneak on , forcing the pass holder into an ethical conundrum just when it’s time to get home after a long day or night. (This might also be the place to give a shout-out to the gentleman who let me follow him on after seeing that the scanner was refusing to even recognize my valid and topped-up card. Thanks, buddy! You helped me be on time for the important thing I was going to.)

But back to you, J.V. It’s not your responsibility to police the T, just because it’s possible for someone to use you as a human subway slug. Confronting strangers about their behavior in a public place is a serious move. You don’t know who you’re dealing with — and neither does the other person. If you’re big and loud, you might alarm someone more than you intend. In general, such confrontations with strangers are only worth it if they appear to be a danger to themselves or others. Costing the subway money? Not cool, but the risk analysis of speaking up doesn’t compute.

I am having a small dinner party, six people. One of us has dietary restrictions. I have chosen food that will satisfy her needs and still be yummy as far as the main dish, side dishes, and dessert go. Would it be rude to include an appetizer she can’t eat (it has cheese and wheat, and she avoids dairy and gluten), as long as I also have apps that she can eat?

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K.C. / Boston

That’s perfectly fine, assuming her allergies aren’t at the atomic level where cross-contamination becomes an issue. You know for sure that they aren’t, correct?

I’m impressed that you managed to put together a dinner party of more than two with only one person having food restrictions! So often it’s one vegetarian, one gluten allergy, one kosher-keeper and a couple of people who won’t eat anything white. If you find yourself hosting a party like that, with a patchwork of dietary restrictions, you don’t have to limit your menu to only those foods that fall in the center of the Venn diagram of what everyone can eat. Especially if that narrows it down to, like, unseasoned brown rice. In those cases, make sure everyone can get a balanced and delicious meal and eat at least one dish from each course, and label all the dishes very carefully.


Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.