DEAR MISS MANNERS: About a year ago, a new neighbor came fuming to my door with an anonymous note telling her to mow her lawn. I didn't write the note but told her I agreed that her yard was neglected. (I tell the truth.) It took me a while to calm her down, then she apologized. We're fine now.
Now I received an anonymous note complaining that my dog barks. I have a home office and am home most of the time. I have a huge yard and two wonderful mid-sized dogs, Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde barks when strangers try to come into the back yard, very rarely at other times. I guess I never discouraged him as an alarm system for me.
Last week, between the telephone repairman and cable installation, Clyde was noisier than usual. We also have a neighborhood thief now and I really don't want to change Clyde's training. (The crime victim even asked to borrow Clyde, but he's never been away from Bonnie.) I really need Clyde. I wish I could explain this to Ms. or Mr. Anonymous, but how?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners hopes that the announcement that you tell the truth -- which is uncalled for, as no one has challenged you -- is not a way of saying that you disdain tact. Because even Bonnie and Clyde won't be able to protect you if you rile up an already-edgy neighborhood.
Are you willing to apologize, as well as to explain? After all, you did annoy someone, even if the noise is justifiable and the complainer rude. (Anonymous letters are rude by definition, unless they are post-marked within the next three weeks and bear the message "I love you.")
Then you can say just what you told Miss Manners. Address the letter to everyone within hearing distance, and begin, "I wish I knew which of you sent me the anonymous letter about my dog, because I would like to apologize and explain." After all, the cable installation is finished, and the theft problem is one all the neighbors share. And if you succeed in calming down this person, you may also solve the neighborhood poison letter problem.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I left my place of employment where I had worked as a bartender for four and a half years, one of my customers graciously offered to throw me a "going away party." Although I really didn't want to make a big fuss, I finally agreed because I figured it would be fun. It was a very nice party, with coworkers and a limited group of customers and a good time was had by all.
I was gone for six weeks, working another job, but it wasn't working out, so I returned to my former place of employment. Now the customer who threw me the party keeps saying I owe him, or that I should pay him back for the party because I have returned to work.
At first I thought he was joking, but he keeps complaining to other customers about it, stating that I should pay him back. I am getting really frustrated over the whole situation; I've been back at work for a month now, and he's still talking about it.
What should I do? Do I need to reimburse him for the money he spent on my party (this guy is not hurting financially) or should I just ignore him and hope he will stop whining?
GENTLE READER: Granted that the insinuation that you made a professional misstep to swindle your customer out of a party is ungracious even by bar-fly standards, one does not hold one's customers as accountable as one's friends. You didn't choose him as a friend and you even resisted his now-defunct hospitality.
You can, therefore, afford to placate him, which Miss Manners imagines requires more deference than money. A round of drinks on the house (presuming you have that leeway, or that you will compensate your employer) should do it if you accompany this by the public announcement that he's great and you want to honor him.