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.