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by Abigail Van Buren

Guests Get Tongue Lashing for Beating Hostess Home

DEAR ABBY: I am an 83-year-old widow and live with my divorced son. We are both in fine health and recently moved to a new community, where we're trying to make friends. I joined a bridge club and have met some very nice women.

One of the members was having trouble assembling some furniture she recently purchased. I offered my son's services to help her (he's very good at this sort of thing). For my sake, my son agreed, and we all settled on 11 a.m. My son and I drove to "Sarah's" and arrived at 10:55 a.m. No one was home. We decided to wait. At 11:15, Sarah drove up. She offered no explanation for being late. My son assembled the piece, Sarah thanked him, and we left.

A couple of weeks later, Sarah called and invited us to lunch as a thank-you for my son's work. Lunch was to be at 11:30. We arrived at 11:25 and, guess what? No one was home! We waited in the car. At 11:40, I wrote a note, "Did you forget you invited us?" I left it on her door and we drove home. When we arrived back home, there was a nasty message on my answering machine. Sarah yelled at us for leaving and called us rude.

When she called a second time, I told her I expected a hostess to open the door when I was invited and had arrived. She replied that we were early and could not expect anyone to be home when we arrived early. She said she had just run to the bank. I pointed out that the bank is open until 6 p.m. and she could have gone after we had lunch. She said maybe it is OK to be early where I come from, but not in this country.

Abby, I was not born here, but I have lived in America for 50 years. I thought I was brought up with good manners, and nobody has ever said my "old country" ways are strange. Am I missing something? -- SURPRISED SONJA

DEAR SURPRISED: No. It's Sarah who's missing something -- common courtesy. A host should be home to greet guests when they arrive, even if they're slightly early. Shame on Sarah.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to comment on something in Donna Williams' letter to you about guests in restaurants. She said, "Guests are our livelihood! Without them, we might as well be dishing out food at a school cafeteria, instead of practicing the fine art of restaurant service, one in which many of us take a great deal of pride."

Abby, I have been employed in school food service for 25 years. In every school cafeteria I have worked, the fine art of service to our customers has been practiced. We, too, take a great deal of pride in our work and in servicing our customers.

I am an assistant manager in one of the largest high schools in Alabama. We serve almost 2,700 students plus faculty and staff. We do not just "dish out" food. We service all our customers in a two-hour shift at eight food bars with a total of 16 to 18 entrees, plus fruits, vegetables, salads, milk and about 15 other beverages. We do take pride in our work, and we do serve good food.

Satisfied customers are as essential to us as they are to restaurants. Remember, if we don't satisfy them, they won't buy from us. I invite Donna Williams to our cafeteria any day, and I'll be happy to treat her to lunch. -- MARGARET SELLERS, BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

DEAR MARGARET: Perhaps when Donna sees your letter, she'll stand corrected. She may harken from a time, as do I, when the choices in the school lunch program were fewer and less imaginative than they are today.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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