DEAR MISS MANNERS: I discovered a lady’s purse lying on the ground in the parking lot at a grocery store. I researched the contents and found that it contained driver’s license, credit card, insurance card, vaccination certificate and other important forms of identification, but no money.
Her address was nearby and I was able to get her phone number online so I called to tell her I had found her purse and would run over to return it.
She sounded excited and grateful, but when I arrived, she immediately inspected it to see how much money there was before giving me a disappointed look.
I explained that I had found the purse empty of cash, but she seemed dissatisfied, and perhaps quietly wondered if I had taken what had been there. Then she handed me a dusty bottle of wine as a gift and thanked me again and quickly escorted me to the door.
I like helping others and do not subscribe to the saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” But I wonder how I could have handled this situation differently. Should I just have sent the wallet anonymously instead of returning it in person?
I do not necessarily have to be rewarded for doing the right thing – but I also do not want to be scrutinized as a potential criminal for doing so.
HAPPY READER: You and Miss Manners have in common that they do not want to punish good deeds, so maybe you can also agree that virtue can be its own reward. As in: She thanked you, maybe not as graciously as she could have done, but you still did the right thing.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Looks like I’m old fashioned. I do not have a cell phone. I do not have number display. I do not have an answering machine. When I receive a phone call, I have no technological help to identify the caller.
My parents instructed me to always start a phone call by identifying myself, such as: “This is Christian; may I talk to…” This practice seems outdated; when I pick up the phone, very few of my calls who presents himself.
Although I recognize the voices of family and close friends, there are many callers whose voices are unknown, which makes me ask, “Who am I talking to?”
My question is often followed up with a pause, as if I have just offended the caller by not recognizing their voice or their identity. Have the rules changed? Is it still appropriate to identify oneself at the beginning of a phone call?
HAPPY READER: It is always polite to identify oneself, but in these days of almost ubiquitous caller identification, people are beginning to assume that technology has done it for them.
The caller may not even be aware that it has not been done. Miss Manners suggests you calm the situation down with, “Excuse me, but I have an old-fashioned phone. Who am I talking to?” While strangely enough, it is considered insulting (or self-ironic) to label a person old-fashioned, it should not harm your phone.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners on her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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