DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to an event the other night where I was invited to give an award to one of the recipients. I told the event organizer that I could do it as long as I could leave soon after. I have a young child, and I had to relieve the baby sitter. She assured me that it was fine.
But when it came time to leave, I realized it was going to be very awkward to get out, because I was all the way in the front of the room, and there was never a break in the program. Dinner was served, and people were eating as the awards continued to be given out.
I slipped out after a bit, but I didn't get to say goodbye to everyone at my table. I couldn't figure out how to exit gracefully and politely say goodbye at the same time. Was I wrong in stealing away quietly? What could I have done differently? -- Clumsy Exit, New York
DEAR CLUMSY EXIT: It was better to leave discreetly, especially since it was in the middle of the program. You are right that it would likely have been disruptive to interrupt your tablemates to say goodbye.
You did the right thing by informing the host. The other possible action you can still take is to send follow-up notes to the event organizer and to any of your tablemates whom you know, telling them how nice it was to be at the event and that you apologize again for leaving early. Congratulate anyone who received an award and turn the page. You did the best you could.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is a constant complainer. Everything is a problem, it seems. I have listened to her for years, and now I tend to drown out the sound, because it's endless. I even began to limit our conversations in recent years because it's hard to take all of the complaints.
I spoke to her this week and, much to my surprise, she informed me that she just had major surgery. It turns out that one of her complaints for all these years was a major internal problem that no doctor could figure out. The surgeon discovered it only after operating on her for something else.
I feel bad that I doubted her, but honestly, her complaints wore me down. Should I apologize or just attempt to start listening better? -- Tired of Crying Wolf, Seattle
DEAR TIRED OF CRYING WOLF: It's a blessing that your friend got the medical attention she needed to deal with a long-term illness. You can acknowledge that. I would leave the rest alone.
You call her a complainer, likely because she complains about other areas of her life, too. You are not her psychologist. Rather than stepping into that territory, you can stay in your lane and, as you said, try to be a better listener.