Losing It, in More Ways than One
Dear Margo: I don’t know what to do. I’ve updated my address with the vehicle registration and driver’s license office, the Social Security administration and the post office. I haven’t lived at my parents’ house in 10 years and am now three hours away. (My sister lives in their town, however, and she does visit several times a week.) Every now and then, a letter for me goes there, and my mother will not give me my mail. It’s not that she’s deliberately withholding it; she just somehow never gets around to telling me about it. I’ve missed at least three weddings because of this situation, and two high-school reunions.
My mother mentions things years later. “Oh, Cindy and her husband are having a baby,” she’d say. “What? I didn’t even know she’d gotten married.” “Well, yes, you received an invitation a couple of years ago.” Apparently, I’ve been receiving some bills there, too, because my mom finally mentioned one in passing. Now, instead of owing $16.50, I owe more than $400 in late fees. I will call the vendor and try to work it out, but how can I convince my mother to give me my mail? — Frustrated
Dear Frus: It sounds as though your mother has slipped a stitch and somehow cannot process the fact that mail addressed to you needs to go to you. Here are some steps you can take. Deputize your sister to ask whether there’s any mail for you, and then have her send it on to you. Re-file a change of address/forwarding form with the post office in your mother’s town. Think of the vendors (and alumni offices!) that send you bills and announcements, and then be in touch with them to check that they’re up to date about your whereabouts. And good luck with the late fees that are 24 times the original charge. — Margo, hopefully
If You Do Not Send this on to Ten Friends…
Dear Margo: I have a co-worker who regularly sends me those stupid chain-type emails. I always delete them, most of the time without even reading them. These time-wasters usually request that I send the message on to a certain number of people, including her, and if they don’t threaten calamity or bad luck if I don’t forward them, they usually imply that the sender will know who her true friends are, or something like that.
Today I got one in which she indicated in the subject line that she “needed it back” if I wasn’t going to send it on. Am I obligated to send it back to her? And if so, do I include a comment as to how I wish she would stop wasting my time? — Email etiquette
Dear E: I will give you the advantage of my experience, because I had to think this through some years ago for myself. There is no obligation to do anything that these mass mailings request. In your situation, I would forward back to her the “I need it back” item with your own note saying your workload has increased and you no longer have time for this kind of entertainment. (I would skip the phrase “stop wasting my time.”) If they keep coming, ditch them with a clear conscience.
I can tell you the exact time when I rang off from such emails: It was when I had to go through hoops to see something “amazing” that Barbie would do if I sent it on to five people. Guess what? Barbie never did it. — Margo, restrictively
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to email@example.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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