DEAR MISS MANNERS: I worked for a small company until recently. During my time there, I formed many wonderful personal and professional relationships. I left for a career-advancing opportunity.
Before I left, I was invited to come back and visit. My new position allows flexibility, so I have been able to come back and see my friends and former colleagues three times in the last 18 months. I am mindful of their time, and my visits are prearranged and short. It is my perception that these visits are welcome.
However, during my last visit, I was met with several remarks from former co-workers with whom I had not developed friendships. Their remarks (followed by nervous laughter) ranged from: "What are you doing here? You don't work here anymore" to "Are you just here to get the latest gossip?"
What is the best way to reply to these comments? Or is there really no reason to visit my former place of employment?
GENTLE READER: "Just visiting old friends" -- with the subtle, if not overt, implication that the people asking are not among them.