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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Two weeks ago, my friend "Shannon" came over with her children for a play date. As she backed out of my driveway, she accidentally hit my mailbox. She was very shaken up at the time. I was more concerned that no one was injured because my mailbox is set into a large concrete post and Shannon's car was damaged. She promised she'd "take care of it." I told her to drive home safely; we'd discuss it another time.

My husband, who is not fond of this couple and vice versa, said I should have filed a police report, given the cost of the damage was $350. I told him I didn't think it was necessary because Shannon had promised to take care of it.

Two weeks went by; she never called. Because of my husband's dislike for her, the situation escalated into a daily argument at my house.

When I finally called her, Shannon informed me she wasn't interested in spending money on my mailbox and didn't understand what I needed a $350 mailbox for.

My husband called her husband the following day to ask why he and his wife thought they were not responsible. The husband said, "Your friendship isn't worth $350. A friend would never ask a friend for the money. I'll send you $150 and don't ever call us again."

A short while later, Shannon called me screaming, "How dare your husband call mine at work? I'll send you the $150, and I'm never speaking to you again!" Then she hung up on me.

I'm so hurt. I thought these people were friends. Was I wrong to expect them to pay for the damage? Was my husband out of line to try and discuss this with them? Aren't they responsible?

My husband wants to sue them in small claims court. Her husband even told mine to go ahead and try. I don't want to drag myself through it.

Your thoughts, please. -- HURT IN CORAL SPRINGS, FLA.

DEAR HURT: Regardless of what you thought, the couple were not only not friends, they are also seriously lacking in character. Mature and responsible people live up to their obligations. Since you heard nothing from Shannon for two weeks, your husband was within his rights to follow up by calling hers.

Small claims court is there for just the kind of dispute that you have described. I see no reason to let these people get away with it. The friendship is over anyway. Why should you be out the money, too?

DEAR Abby: This is for "Name Caller in Texas," who didn't know how to address her stepparent during introductions.

When my husband's son began to introduce me to his new college housemates, he became embarrassed and blurted out, "What do I call you anyway?"

I quickly replied, "Why, Wicked Stepmother, of course!" Said with a smile, it works every time! -- SHELAGH M'GONIGLE, OTTAWA, ONTARIO

DEAR SHELAGH: You are blessed with a wicked sense of humor. I'm sure it was appreciated by all.

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