ASK AMY: Siblings start their own ‘party line’

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Dear Amy: My sister, brother and I are all in our early 60s.


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My question is about cellphone etiquette.

Today my sister called me from her car (which is the topic of a whole other subject – that is, people who can’t be bothered to talk to you from home, but only from their car).

During our phone discussion, I mentioned something extremely personal about myself and was horrified when my sister announced that someone else was in the car with her. She then apologized to that person (not me) for having to hear this!

I had a similar experience when my brother called me and after a few minutes his wife chimed in on something we were discussing, which made me realize that we were on speakerphone and our call was not private.

When did a sense of intimacy and privacy in phone calls go out the door?


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Is it due to the ease of using a cellphone on speaker?

Are we all to just assume that any cellphone discussion is likely to be on speakerphone in the presence and hearing of others?

Amy, can you issue a PSA about this?

– Overheard

Dear Overheard: If you are speaking to a person while they are driving a vehicle, then yes, you should assume that you are on speaker, because that is the safest way to do both at the same time.

However, etiquette — as well as commonsense — would also dictate that the person placing or receiving the call would notify the other party immediately: “Hey, just letting you know that you’re on speaker…”

Furthermore, unless it is an emergency, a call for directions, or a topic of mutual interest to all parties I think it’s rude to place a call when you already have a passenger in the car with whom you could be making conversation.


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You – not the passenger — were owed an apology after your privacy was violated.

I was recently on an airplane and the minute we landed the woman next to me pulled out her phone (the way people do), called her sister, and put her on speaker. Everyone around her was forced to hear both sides of the conversation.

(We found out where they were parked and what they were having for dinner, and by the way, did you know that Shelly is waiting on test results?)

Your family members are essentially broadcasters, running their own radio station. You can also think of this as a throwback to “party lines.” Remember those?

Yes, consider this my public service announcement.

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Dear Amy: I am a middle-aged man with a girlfriend of nine months. She is around my age.


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I have been in pretty strict quarantine over the last two-plus years.

My girlfriend showed up at my home yesterday — obviously sick.

The first thing out of her mouth was, “I didn’t tell you because I know you would have cancelled the date.”

She told me she tested herself for COVID-19 and it was negative. She said she just has allergies.

As the day progressed her congestion got worse.

I discussed this with my adult children (who both live at home) and they were furious! I’m starting to think I should’ve waited to start dating after the pandemic. Thoughts?

– Healthy and Upset

Dear Upset: I completely agree with you regarding your reaction to this.

One thing I hope we’ve all learned during the pandemic is that it is rude, as well as selfish, to expose others to your communicable illness.


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COVID or not, if someone is sick, they should make every effort not to spread their illness to others.

Your girlfriend admitted to a lie of omission, for extremely selfish reasons. There is a red flag flying over this relationship, and I hope you will pay close attention.

Dear Amy: You recently published yet another letter from someone staying in a marriage “for the kids’ sake.”

I am a child of divorce and I’d like to share my perspective: Leave “for the kids’ sake!” My mother leaving her husband was the best lesson that I could have gotten as a young person.

I learned that she was worthy of respect, that she would do great on her own if that’s what she wants.

I live now as an adult, surrounding myself with honourable people who treat me well. I have great relationships and a successful marriage.

My mother left, for the kids’ sake.

– Thanks, Mom!

Dear Thanks: You are living her legacy.



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