Miss Manners: I froze when she pushed me to take her side

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend had a conflict with her now-former roommate when they were each moving out last month.

When my friend rented a moving van, the roommate asked if she could borrow it to move her stuff across town. My friend was moving across state lines, and needed the van for much longer than the roommate did.

The final rental cost was about $600. My friend believes that the price should be split equally between them; the ex-roommate thinks that because she only used it for a couple of hours, she only owes $50.

I kind of agree with the roommate. But I feel awkward, because my friend was looking for someone to commiserate with her on how badly she got ripped off by this jerk.

I didn’t understand why she was so upset, and kind of froze. I eventually just said, “Yeah, that sounds annoying.” What would you do?

GENTLE READER: What you did is acceptable and also makes your point, albeit while leaving you feeling awkward.

Miss Manners assumes you are interested in avoiding the awkwardness next time — not in advocating for the ex-roommate. To do that, you need merely shorten the gap between your casual agreement and your changing the subject.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was growing up, my mother always advised me to call friends between approximately 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to avoid disturbing them, unless they had specifically advised me to reach them at other times.

Since the advent of cellphones, I find that I have been receiving calls and texts at all hours of the day and night! (None of which are regarding emergencies, by the way.) Is this the new norm?

Now I feel that I need to advise new friends and acquaintances to please call or text me only during certain hours unless it’s an emergency. I say it apologetically and explain that I work later hours, etc. Am I being too old-fashioned?

GENTLE READER: The etiquette on this was evolving even before the pandemic, at which point it collapsed completely. In the absence of weekdays or weekends, commutes or offices, school days or school holidays, work hours or nonwork hours, every daylight hour started to look the same.

Although she is not one to bend etiquette rules to convenience, Miss Manners nevertheless recognizes that the old rule was motivated by technological constraints. For many years, there was no way to silence a landline telephone that did not require subsequent repairs. This is no longer the case. Friends who call at all hours are still being inconsiderate; they should know that they might be waking you up.

However, you need not inform them what time they may call as you can enforce obedience by — and Miss Manners realizes she is about to make a shocking suggestion — turning off your phone. You are probably not the one to handle their emergencies anyway.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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