Dear Miss Manners: In today's age of constant contact with our ever-present phones, what's the appropriate response when a friend with an alternative schedule (for instance, working in another time zone) contacts me during work hours on my personal cell?

I feel awkward ignoring their calls, but also feel perturbed that they do not appreciate that I work standard business hours.

I received a midafternoon call on a Monday from a friend who informed me that now was a good time for him to return my Sunday call, but unfortunately, I was working and wasn't available for a long chat. I felt rude but confused as to how I should have handled it.

I am salaried and could take the call and leave work later, but also feel that it is unprofessional and keeps me "on call" around others' schedules. I would appreciate your advice on texts of a similar nature: It seems not responding immediately to texts is now considered rude!

Because technology has made it so that everyone is immediately reachable does not, Miss Manners assures you, mean that humans have to follow suit.

Since it is so commonplace for people to turn off their ringers, it is likely that no one pays attention to the time that they are calling anymore. But that does not mean you have to answer it.

If it makes you feel better to blame it on technology, then do it fully. Leave an outgoing voice-mail message (or text equivalent) that states your business hours and when you will be able to reasonably return calls. You may find that your devices end up talking to one another for a while, but at least your job security — and general sanity level — will be safe.

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter just got married in a small ceremony, and a group of about 20 friends and family went to dinner after, which I had arranged. The groom's parents offered to pay half the bill, which wasn't a problem — but their credit card was declined.

As I was the one the wait staff was dealing with, I simply paid the entire bill and handed the declined card back, while saying, "It's all settled."

Was I wrong to not give them a chance to pay a different way? I assume they'll figure out eventually that they weren't charged, and if they insist on paying me back, they'll figure out a way to do it. But my main concern was avoiding embarrassing them in that celebratory moment.

Which was tactful. Miss Manners assures you that it also would not have been remiss to have taken one of the other parents discreetly aside to explain the situation. Cards may be declined for reasons other than fraud.

But if you were in a position to be generous without making a show of it — or insisting on immediate payback — it bodes well for the future of the relationship. Or — if it becomes a habit — its complete and utter demise.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website,

2019, by Judith Martin