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Miss Manners: Answer texts on your own time and let others do the same

Judith Martin And Nicholas Ivor Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Having finally become familiar with my mobile phone, I now find I conduct both personal and professional conversations by texting or instant messaging with some frequency. It’s the real-time implications of these conversations that baffle me.

I ignore my phone at home while it charges (still having a landline and desktop computer), and have it set not to ring when out and about. I feel it’s something I may check entirely at my own convenience, though I do try to at least pay daily attention.

My question is about responding to text messages. Should I be conscious of being distracting or intrusive when replying, i.e., while that person is working, sleeping or involved in some important life event? Since I feel so empowered to ignore my own phone at will, somehow it doesn’t always occur to me that I might be interrupting someone else if I’m still awake after midnight or unaware of their daily activities.

GENTLE READER: Just as you have mastered the ability to silence your own cellular telephone, it is reasonable – if not necessarily accurate – to assume that your correspondents have done the same.

Absent explicit requests, Miss Manners would not expect you to keep track of when others are working, sleeping or involved in important life events. She hopes that technology continues to permit at least a modicum of mystery to remain on the subject.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My grandkids are 12 and 11, and my daughter wants to go on a vacation. She has asked me if I would come and sit at her house for two weeks, except for the one weekend when my son will keep them.

I have a husband who is not my child’s father. He feels this is wrong of her to ask me to do this.

GENTLE READER: If your husband and you do not wish to baby-sit the grandchildren, you have Miss Manners’ blessing to decline to do so. You do not have her permission to invent rudenesses. There are too many already, without adding requests to watch the grandchildren to the list.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the etiquette regarding online gift-giving for the holidays with respect to wrapping? I have four children and have received numerous gifts for them from relatives that were ordered online where wrapping was an option.

Yet several of them chose to call me and ask me to wrap the gifts when they arrive so they could save a few bucks. Now I have to spend the few evenings before the holidays up late wrapping other people’s gifts.

GENTLE READER: And what about the relatives who show up for Christmas, but have not been able to wrap their presents (or have had them forcibly unwrapped) because of airport security?

Miss Manners may be lulled into an excess of holiday goodwill, but she would suggest keeping an extra roll of wrapping paper on hand to comply with the advantages and disadvantages of modern life. Presumably you should be able to count on others to do the same for you.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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