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Typical travel attire deteriorating from skimpy sight to fright

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Tourists are not generally admired for their fashion sense. Indeed, it is customary for those lucky enough to travel to give something back by amusing the homebound locals. While the tourists entertain themselves by looking at the sights, they are supposed to look a sight for the entertainment of those who have to look at them.

Miss Manners used to worry that tourist-baiting was being overdone. The accessory for which they are most ridiculed is the camera; and a camera strikes her as a sensible thing to carry around if one wishes to take photographs.Nevertheless, the situation is deteriorating from sight to fright. Every year, Miss Manners notices less difference between dressing for venturing forth to see the world and for staying home and watching it on television.

Jogging clothes are now among the most formal costumes one sees on long-distance transportation. Shorts, tanks and shower thongs are commonplace. The amount of bare skin showing on legs, feet and midriffs is increasing by creeps and bounds.

While the disapproval of stay-at-homes is generally written off as bitterness because they are working while others are at play, it has gotten to where the tourists are complaining about one another.

"It's offensive to have to sit beside someone in this undressed fashion for an eight-hour flight," writes a Gentle Reader after staggering away from a half-naked seat-mate.

"People on their way to a vacation think they can wear anything," reports another G.R. "It is especially annoying because men seem to spread out into as much space as they can, and doing that with bare legs is particularly offensive. I say cover your legs, or at least your knees, on public transportation."

Miss Manners doesn't expect anyone else to remember that people once actually dressed up for travel. She is aware that when people discover that in pre-air-conditioned days, the only concessions their ancestors made to summer were to lighten the color and weight of their voluminous clothing, they do not marvel at their fortitude. They marvel at their stupidity.

Even she does not altogether scorn the argument of comfort. Since the mighty concept of Being Comfortable With That has taken over the moral realm (modern moral argument: "Are you sure you would feel comfortable embezzling?"), she can hardly expect it to be absent from considerations of the body.

Nor would she want it to be. People who are constantly being pinched, if only by their own shoes, have a hard time being polite.

But the comfort standard should apply to the comfort of others, as well as to oneself. People get uncomfortable when they have to sit close to strangers who are airing their sweating flesh.

They also get uncomfortable when they watch strangers approach their monuments, national symbols or houses of worship as if they were going to the beach. And in such cases, "uncomfortable" is a euphemism for hopping mad.

Dear Miss Manners: When one is occupying a restroom, be it public or private, and someone knocks on the door or rattles the doorknob, is there a proper response? It's no doubt a slightly uncomfortable situation for both parties.

Gentle reader: Miss Manners doesn't doubt that it is, and for more reasons than she cares to imagine.

The proper response follows from properly understanding the question, which is "Can I get in?" (No, not "may I"; no one expects to elicit a cherry welcome from the other side.)

The only difference between the knock and what you call the "rattle" is that the knock arises from a belief that there might be someone already there, and the rattle of turning the doorknob arises from the more optimistic assumption that there might not be.

The answer, which is intended to give pause to the optimist and hope to the pessimist, is, "I'll be out in a moment."