In the store yesterday, there was a customer who was filled with outrage. She was outraged about NCLB, and after all, who isn’t? She was also outraged that she had been “Highly Qualified” in Illinois but would have to take more tests to reach that designation in our state.

I was commiserating with her. So often people are expressing outrage over things that I can’t agree with them on for fear of offending other customers. It was nice to be able to agree and sympathize.

The Empress had a customer the other day who — having heard the end of some of those Are We Related? pleasantries she often shares with customers, being from here — started off his talk with her by saying, “Speaking of genealogy, do you know what ‘Caucasian’ really means?”

It could have been worse. He went on to tell her about the Lost Tribes of Israel and how Jesus was rich, what with having traveled the world with Joseph of Arithmea, built a house for Mary in England, and cleaned out the copper mines of New York.

She was glad when he left.

My outraged customer, however, moved on to express outrage that she had seen, in a workshop she had attended, a fellow teacher sitting and —

At this point she mimed knitting. Not very well. But well enough that I was prepared when the word burst forth; “Knitting! The whole time!”

A teacher over at the laminator chimed in that she had seen someone knitting in church!

I had to defend knitters.

The thing is, people who don’t knit think that the knitting means we are not paying attention. This might be true erin 2 with Erin (at right), or any other project that requires close attention to a chart, but a nice long spell of stockinette? We can pay rapt attention while our hands are busy. Didn’t Miss Marple and Miss Silver catch all those little discrepancies and clues while knitting endless quantities of matinee coats and wooly fascinators?

I wouldn’t knit in church, at work, or in any other situation where someone might be offended by the possibility that I wasn’t paying attention. A workshop? Could be. Not if I were presenting it, but if it were the kind where you sit still and listen for several hours, why not?

(I’ve come back after Ozarque’s comment to point out that plain knitting doesn’t have to be looked at, so I can make normal eye contact. If that weren’t true, I would feel differently about it.)

I don’t generally hesitate to work on a zombie project when I have guests, and my only problem with knitting in the movies is that it can be too dark to catch a dropped stitch.

Miss Manners says it is okay to knit during conversations, as long as you don’t explain that you are doing it so as not to waste time.

But there it is. A harmless knitter unwittingly adding to the overall level of outrage in the world. Perhaps you and I have done the same.