DEAR ABBY: I frequently talk on my cellphone in public, and I'm often irked by the comments I get from people to put my phone away. Personally, I don't see a difference between a cellphone conversation and an in-person conversation, provided I keep the noise level down. It's not like I'm talking about excessively personal subjects or anything.
I spend an hour on the train going to and coming from work, and I like to use that time to catch up with my friends. Am I wrong for constantly talking on my cellphone in public, or do people just need to get used to the era of mobile phones? -- ON THE LINE IN PALO ALTO, CALIF.
DEAR ON THE LINE: It may not be what you're doing, but rather how you're doing it. If people "often" tell you to put away your cellphone during your commute, then I have news for you: You're talking too loudly. Also, those seated around you may not want to overhear the details of your social life. A root canal can be more pleasant than hearing someone drone on for 30, 45, 60 minutes straight. So be mindful of your surroundings and considerate of others. Whether you're having an in-person conversation or talking on a cellphone, the rules should be the same.
DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, "Dara," who is a single mom. From time to time she has watched my kids while my husband and I have traveled on business. For this reason I have given her our garage door combination. Now, every time she visits, she uses our garage code and walks in through our back door. She drops off items for us and lets herself in when we're not home, then texts me afterward about "how happy the dog was" to see her or tell me to look for something she dropped off.
I have told Dara she scares me and my kids when she comes in unexpectedly. We expect her to ring the doorbell like a normal guest. I have made light jokes, but she hasn't picked up on them. What she's doing is rude, and I don't understand how she can be so comfortable doing it. Do you have any advice for me? -- INTRUDED UPON IN WISCONSIN
DEAR INTRUDED UPON: Obviously, making "light jokes" about Dara's intrusive behavior hasn't been enough to get your message across. That's why the next time she walks in on you, you should tell her plainly, directly and in all seriousness that you expect her to ring the doorbell when she visits, and to refrain from coming into your home in your absence unless she has been specifically requested to do so. And if it happens again, change the code on your garage door.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I live in a small town, so we invariably run into someone we know when we're eating out at a restaurant. If we run into people we know who have already been served a portion of their meal (an appetizer, salad or main course), we briefly say hello and then "... we won't interrupt your dinner."
What do we say when we're trying to eat and friends continue to come to talk to us throughout our meal? -- PREFERS TO EAT IN PEACE
DEAR PREFERS TO EAT IN PEACE: Smile warmly and say, "We're going to keep eating because we like our food hot. We hope you don't mind."
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)