Dear Annie

Stuck in the middle

Dear Annie: My friend “Mary” was dating “Lance.” Behind her back, our mutual friend “Sarah” started a physical relationship with Lance while he was still in a relationship with Mary. Mary did not know about this. I was often in the company of the three of them and was uncomfortable watching Lance and Sarah making goo-goo eyes at each other every time Mary turned her back.

Now Mary and Lance have broken up, and Lance has another girlfriend. He is still hooking up with Sarah, behind the other girlfriend’s back. Sarah wants to make a go of it with Lance.

Here’s my question: I am trying to persuade Sarah to tell Mary what’s up and ask Mary whether she is OK with her dating Lance. Otherwise, she’ll find out through the grapevine. Sarah keeps saying she will talk to Mary, but she hasn’t yet. I feel as if I’m in the middle of this ugly, cheating relationship. Do I have any responsibility as a friend here, to either Mary or Sarah?

— Head Spinning in North Carolina

Dear Spinning: Your head might be spinning, but I guarantee it’s still on straighter than Sarah’s and Lance’s. Those two need to wise up and calm down, Lance in particular. He’s spun you and these three women into a very tangled web.

Normally, I tell people not to get in the middle of friends’ relationship problems. But I think this situation is a little different, and Mary deserves to hear the truth in a respectful way. It’s crummy news no matter what, but it would be better delivered from a close friend than from the gossip mill.

Dear Readers: I recently printed a letter from a man who is fed up with servers asking, after he has given them cash, whether he needs any change. I asked you, my readers, what your thoughts were on the matter. Here’s just one of many responses.

Dear Annie: I can so relate to the gentleman who gets angry with clueless waitstaff asking whether he needs change. Unlike you, I think this is a trained and calculated maneuver. It happens too often for it not to be.

I once went to a fairly expensive chain restaurant for brunch. It was busy, and we waited a bit too long, but otherwise the service was OK. My bill was $9 and change, and I handed the waiter a $20 bill. He asked that question: “Do you need change?” Really? A 120 percent gratuity?

Ever since then, I have become more and more aware of this tactic. And my conclusion is that there can’t be that many oblivious servers. This is a directive and probably an effective one. I, for one, react as the gentleman does — by truncating what would have been a healthy tip.                                                       — Hugely Peeved