Q. I had a college roommate call and leave a message yesterday whom I had not heard from in years. She basically said she would be coming to my city next month and “would like to stay with me for a few days.” She said she was “on the road” and would call me back next week to discuss arrival date, etc.
Our roommate days were not the best, and I truly was glad when she moved out to live off-campus. I don’t want to be inhospitable, but I’m not interested in having her stay with me for a few days at all. How can I get out of this without being rude and impolite? I could make up a lie to tell her when she calls that I will be out of town or something, but I don’t like doing that.
A. First of all, your former college roommate is a rude person. It was very impolite of her to invite herself into your home without a proper invitation being extended to her. Former roommate or not, you need not feel obligated to extend that invitation when she calls back.
As to what to say: “I’m very sorry, but those dates are not convenient for me.” You need not provide any kind of explanation as to why those dates are inconvenient for you. Be prepared to provide her with the names of a couple of nice hotels in the area. If you think you can handle having lunch or dinner with her, you can offer that option, but remain in control by telling her you will check your calendar and call her back with a time and place most convenient to you. You are definitely not obligated to invite her into your home.
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Q. Shortly after moving into a new neighborhood, I had a long bout of the flu. My neighbor was kind enough to take my children to and from school for me for almost two weeks. She is such a nice person, and my children really like her. I offered her money for gas, but she would not accept. Somehow saying thank you to her doesn’t seem like enough. What can I do?
A. Nice people are self-compensated and self-gratified when they can do nice things for others, especially those who appreciate their acts of kindness. They do not need, nor do they expect, monetary compensation. As a matter of fact, being offered money often makes that person feel uncomfortable.
Your neighbor obviously wanted to help you and did so without expecting compensation. You are thoughtful in wanting to do something nice for her besides telling her how much you appreciated what she did for you.
You may want to consider:
▪ Having a bouquet of flowers sent to her, along with a thank-you note.
▪ Sending her a thank-you note with a gift card inside to a nice restaurant in the area (but definitely not a gift card to a gas station).
▪ Sending her a thank-you note and a request to take her to lunch at a specific restaurant. Indicate you will be calling her to pick a convenient date.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.