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Miss Manners: Calling back just to say ‘bye’

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My cellular phone sometimes drops calls, and I am suddenly disconnected from the person I was speaking to. If this occurs in the middle of a conversation, I normally call the person back, explain what happened with an apology, and resume the conversation.

I am wondering what to do if the call is disconnected right at the end of a conversation, when goodbyes are either about to be said or are in the process. It seems a little silly to call back to say, “Sorry, the phone got disconnected. So anyway, goodbye!”

I don’t want to risk the other person thinking I rudely hung up, though, by not explaining what happened.

GENTLE READER: Cellular telephones are one of many modern devices constructed to make us feel silly, so do not let that stop you from calling back to conclude the conversation.

Miss Manners realizes that this will be condemned by those who most value efficiency, although she suspects that even they do not appreciate being hung up on. If you are already busy with the next call, a text will suffice: “I think my phone decided we were done before we were. It was lovely to speak with you. Talk to you soon.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m married, childless and unemployed, and sometimes face the question: “What do you DO all day?”

I can usually tell when it’s just a conversation starter with new acquaintances, and find those conversations pleasant enough. However, sometimes the question comes from friends and relatives, with an edge to the tone, and the implication that I must have very little to do.

The truth is, running a house, organizing a social life and being supportive of my husband’s career take time and work. However, if I say I’m busy, people usually reply that no one is busy who doesn’t have kids.

Although I’m outwardly polite, inwardly I find these conversations unpleasant. Could you tell me how I might handle these inquiries? I’m searching for a response that is polite, rather than sarcastic, but that doesn’t go along with the idea that I must generally account for my time to others.

GENTLE READER: You are not searching for a response that is polite, Miss Manners suggests, but one that is not impolite. Your friends and relatives will understand the distinction when you answer their intrusive questions and rude remarks with a cheerful, “Well, I don’t pry into others’ schedules, so that saves time,” before you change the subject.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone doesn’t respond to class reunion queries (they may not have been popular), how do you let them know that you would still like to be in touch? And that high school attitudes are something everyone goes through, and have more than likely changed?

GENTLE READER: There is a certain logic in reopening an old wound (by reminding your classmate how unpopular he was) to ensure he will be in need of the consolation you wish to offer. But Miss Manners counsels against it. If you would really like to reconnect, issue an invitation. And since it has been a long time, it is also best to defer such questions as, “Are you as roly-poly as ever?”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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