DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the letter from "Sleepy in New York," whose dinner guests often stay well past their bedtime.
My late father used to tell a story that always made us laugh, and it ends with a line that "Sleepy" could use.
He had an aunt and uncle who lived in the Deep South and who had a similar problem with guests overstaying their welcome after dinner. If their guests hadn't left by the time they normally went to bed, his uncle would say to his aunt, "Well, Harriet, it's time to go to bed so these good folks can go home!" According to Dad, this line never failed to do the trick. -- CAROLYN IN ALLENTOWN, PA.
DEAR CAROLYN: I love the line. It's far more "couth" than "It's time you people hit the road so we can hit the sheets." Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I had to respond to "Sleepy in New York." My father is also an early-to-bedder, and whenever we had company that stayed a little late, Dad would slip into his bedroom and put on his pajamas and robe. Then he'd return to the living room, winding his alarm clock.
Everyone always laughed and took the hint. -- LISA IN PIKEVILLE, TENN.
DEAR LISA: Your father should have been a performance artist. All he needed was a tape recording of "Goodnight, Sweetheart" playing in the background.
DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Sleepy," the early-riser who could not seem to get dinner guests to go home, brought back a funny memory.
Many years ago, after a dinner party, we had adjourned to the living room for coffee and continued conversation. It was approaching midnight and we were starting to nod off, wondering how we could politely "nudge" our guests out the door.
Suddenly, the mantel clock struck 12 and the living room lights, which we always kept on a timer and had forgotten to reset for the party, went off. Plunged into almost total darkness, our embarrassed guests leaped to their feet and said, "Oh, goodness, we had no idea it was so late!" We all laughed as we fumbled our way toward the well-lighted front hall and exchanged goodbyes.
The clock still strikes the hour. We have never bothered to turn the automatic timer off. -- SAVED BY THE BELL IN VA.
DEAR SAVED BY THE BELL: Nor should you turn it off. It's good insurance.
In a more serious vein, sometimes guests are afraid to leave a dinner party for fear of appearing rude to their hosts. One way to avoid the problem would be for the hosts, when extending the invitation, to say, "I'm giving a dinner party next Saturday between 7 and 10 p.m. Cocktails will start at 7 -- dinner will be served at 8." That way everyone will be clear about the time frame.