You have a quirk, a rule, a particular peculiarity that everyone else indulges or tolerates. Everyone jokes about it, but they also know better than to cross you.

Let me explain what prompted this realization. I have been on vacation, visiting friends in England. My host rises early, and swims in the ocean. Sometimes he puts the family dog in the basket of the bike and pedals to the sea.

To which I say: "You're just doing that to seem like an eccentric but lovable resident of a remote coastal town populated with quirky throwbacks to another era. When does the murder happen?"

"What murder?"

"The typical 1990s British TV village murder. The vicar's done in by the pub, and they're holding Wally the builder, but Miss Blurple, who raises South African starlings for a hobby, solves the crime, just like she solved the other 37 murders in the village."

On the way back from the sea he stops at the village store, where they sell clotted eel and pickled budgie curry and watercress-and-curried-corn sandwiches, and picks up the paper.

It is a large journal. Unfolded, it has the dimensions of a twin-bed duvet. But it will not be unfolded for some time. It rests on the kitchen table, awaiting the hands of the one who bought it, and woe betide those who flounce into the room, pick it up and open the pages, ruining its unread purity.

I want to read it, but I know better. I don't even look at it. People who like a clean, unbothered newspaper know when someone has looked too hard at the headlines. Even if you had Superman X-ray vision you wouldn't read it. He'd pick it up and feel the paper tingling and know you'd scanned the letters page for one of those very British missives:

"Sir — I read with interest the story about the PM's decision to recommend the head of the BMRM for the OBE, and was reminded of Churchill's remark in 1947 that 'A man can have two feet, but he cannot have three when Labour's thrown the by-election.' I didn't know what he meant then or now. Yrs, Robbie Blurghton, MME, Nobby-on-the-Hock."

Of course, this routine is partly in jest. It's not as if he'd throw me out if I read the newspaper first — well, he would, but I could come back, as long as I had a fresh new paper.

One morning I was tempted to take the previous day's paper, crumple it into wreckage, and strew it about the table, but then you're calling 911 when it goes horribly awry and he's on the floor panting.

But then you think: Do they have 911? No, it's 999 over here, which is really bad if you have a rotary phone. You expect someday to see a news report: "British emergency number changed to 111, faster response saves thousands."

The thing is, I understand completely. I like a fresh paper, as well. I can live with someone getting to it before me, but there's something about an unsullied edition. This whole thing is completely lost on people who read news on their phones, of course; the rituals and romance of the printed product are lost on them. No one gets peeved because someone typed before they got to it.

So: What's your version of this? Or what version of this do you live with? We'll highlight the best next week in this spot. Online and in print. Just don't open next Sunday's paper until you have permission. • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks •