Dear Abby:

How many days advance notice should you give a family member before advising him that you will be coming for a visit?

My nephew, "Harry," called his brother, "Milton," at 6 p.m. on a Sunday to let him know he was planning to arrive at his home the following Tuesday afternoon for a visit. (Harry rarely talks with Milton, let alone visits him.) Harry was offended when Milton didn't seem thrilled with the idea. (Milton did not say no; he said "okay.")

Milton is taking care of his wife who is recovering from surgery and may have been overwhelmed at the idea of guests.

Since the world revolves around Harry, I am sure he forgot to inquire into the state of his sister-in-law's health when he called.

Now Harry is refusing to visit because of what he perceived as Milton's response.

I feel it is time for this old lady to say something to this self-centered little jerk. However, before I put in my two cents' worth, I need to know if 36 hours is an appropriate time frame.

Clueless in Curry Village

Harry needs to polish his social graces because he, not you, is clueless. It is never appropriate to "inform" anyone that you will be coming for a visit. The polite way to do it is to ask if a visit would be convenient, so if it is NOT convenient, the potential host has an "out."

Dear Abby:

I am employed by a national company to tutor high school students, one-on-one.

For various reasons, I suspect that one of my students -- with whom I meet every one or two weeks -- may be smoking pot.

From a professional perspective, I feel this is none of my business. From a personal perspective, and as a parent myself, I am agonizing over whether I should bring my suspicions to the attention of his parent.

If I were his parent, I would certainly want to know.

Then again, my suspicions could be wrong. What is the ethical thing to do?

Unsure in Concord, Calif.

Your student's welfare IS your business. It's refreshing to know that someone is debating the "ethical" thing to do these days. If media reports are accurate, they lead us to believe that ethics have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Before approaching your student's parent, talk to the boy about your concerns. His problem may be something other than pot. At least give him a chance to explain. However, if your suspicions persist, by all means tell his parent what you have told me. You'll be doing both of them a favor.

Dear Abby:

After reading the letter from "Pussyfooting in Nebraska," who gets too many jokes and other e-mails from her mother, I thought I'd offer up my solution.

Most of my e-mails go to my office account. However, I have set up a separate e-mail account specifically for my mother through a free service.

Mother sends her e-mails to that account, and that's all that goes into it. Of course, it eventually gets filled up with jokes, etc., and whenever I get a chance (every month or so, or when she lets me know that it is full), I check it, and read and delete all of her e-mails.

I hope this is helpful for "Pussyfooting."

Faithful Reader in L.A.

That sounds like quite a project! However, for someone who doesn't want personal e-mails commingled with business correspondence, your solution may be just the ticket. Thank you for the suggestion.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate