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by Abigail Van Buren

Aunt's Demanding Calls Need to Be Put on Hold

DEAR ABBY: My "Aunt Agnes" has a very annoying habit. She calls me and says, "Hi, what are you doing?" The salutation may seem innocent enough, but my Aunt Agnes expects a specific answer. If she doesn't think what you're doing is important, she'll have something for you to do for her -– such as make a delivery or run an errand. In other words, the person must stop whatever he or she is doing to do something for her.

Aunt Agnes is not a bad person. But when the phone rings and I hear her voice on the other end of the line, I know I must come up with an excuse or she'll put me to work. If I happen to be relaxing when she calls, even if it's not important to her, the excuse should be good enough. However, this is not usually the case. Aunt Agnes passes judgment on the activity and proceeds to "order" me to do something for her.

The more I encounter this, the more annoying it becomes. When the phone rings and she asks, "What are you doing?" I am tempted to say, "Nothing for you!" But I would feel guilty if I said it. Do you have any advice? -– EXHAUSTED IN WOODBRIDGE, N.J.

DEAR EXHAUSTED: Yes. While your reaction to your aunt's self-centeredness is understandable, in the interest of family harmony, refrain from making a snappy comeback. Be warm, polite and frank with her. If she asks you to do something that's an imposition, tell her it's not convenient at this time and don't apologize. When she realizes that you, too, are an adult with a busy schedule, she will find someone else to impose upon.

DEAR ABBY: I'm so glad you printed the "acts of kindness" letter from Barbara P. in Dana Point, Calif., about the teen-agers who warned her about her flat tire on the freeway.

I own a condo in a large congregate living facility. The residents eat in a dining room overseen by a staff of three mature adults. However, teen-agers and young adults show us to our tables and bring us our meals. Many of them are still in high school or attend a local community college.

To be frank, some of the girls' makeup and hair color can be startling, and not all the boys keep their cummerbunds neat around their waists. They all wear jewelry in places we would never have imagined –- but they are wonderful to have around, and do an excellent job.

Some of them tease us a little and laugh with us. When they tell us about their lives, it is always good. There are a few fuddy-duddies here who do not feel as I do, but I try to stay clear of them.

As for you, Abby, I appreciate your down-to-earth attitude. I like the letters you choose, because at my age, I usually have something to compare them to. -– S.R.K., WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.

DEAR S.R.K.: Bless you for your kind words. I suspect most of the people who read my column do so because they identify with the writers who pour their hearts out.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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