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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am an administrative assistant. Part of my job is to make the arrangements for our department Christmas party. Every year we go out in a group of about 15 people. I no longer wish to attend these events. Group settings make me nervous. In addition, we all have to buy gender-neutral gifts to exchange.

I have tried to talk with my boss about it, but he doesn't seem to understand. We have bi-monthly staff meetings, and after everyone is done with business, we always have discussion time for things other than work. Most of us have lunch together every day and talk then. We also have group birthday celebrations four times a year.

I get a sick feeling every time I think about going to this party, and then the headache of trying to choose a gift that won't be made fun of. (I am not good at it.) Last year I called in sick so I wouldn't have to attend. I have tried taking a personal day off, but then my boss gets mad at me. Should I be forced to go to this? -- NOT A GIFT PICKER IN ST. PAUL

DEAR NOT A GIFT PICKER: No, you shouldn't. Because you find these functions to be onerous, consider putting in a short appearance at the Christmas party and then "rushing off" because you have a "schedule conflict." As to your gift selection problem, at this time of year most people are inundated with catalogs with all sorts of offerings. Open a few, select any item in your price range and order it. Or consider a gift card. Problem solved.

Read more in: Work & School | Holidays & Celebrations

DEAR ABBY: Is it OK to hang up the phone on someone who's making you angry on a personal call? I'm referring to adult conversations, not children calling each other.

For instance, when I'm talking to my husband, my mother or a friend and the conversation has deteriorated to an argument or become unbearable and insufferable, can I just hang up the phone? Or must I first blurt out, "I'm hanging up the phone now"?

Are there rules for hanging up the phone angry? Do manners require that phone calls must end by mutual agreement? Please, Abby, give us your permission to "cut off the crazies." -- SICK OF IT IN MICHIGAN

DEAR SICK OF IT: I do not think it is constructive to slam the phone down. If a caller becomes abusive, you could say, "I can't listen to this," or, "We'll talk later when you're not upset," before putting the phone down. However, if these ugly conversations happen often, you might be wise to consider screening your calls before answering.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics

Old Joke Is Still a Good Joke Worth Sharing

DEAR ABBY: After reading about the woman who accidentally passed gas in the office after eating "beans, the musical fruit," I have to share the following:

An elderly married couple were attending church one Sunday when halfway through the sermon the wife turned to her husband and whispered, "I just let out a long, silent toot! What should I do?" The husband replied, "Replace the battery in your hearing aid!" -- ONLINE READER IN TEXAS

DEAR ONLINE READER: Versions of that joke have been around since Cary Grant told it to my mother -- but it's still funny. Thanks for sharing.

Read more in: Miscellaneous

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