Dear Amy: My girlfriend and I live in a small condo building. Our neighbor is a middle-aged woman who lives by herself, and also happens to be very overweight.
Since we moved in about a year ago, at least once a day (sometimes twice), she knocks on our door and asks for me or my girlfriend to bring her groceries up the stairs, bring up packages, take boxes to the trash, or move various things around her condo. We always do these things for her. She has mobility issues due to her size, and she’s always out of breath.
She is very nice and apologetic about having to ask us to do things, and thanks us each time. But it is becoming a problem for me. I am fine being neighborly, but this seems like it’s too much.
My girlfriend nicely suggested that maybe she should look for a home health aide or that someone in her family could check in on her. Her response was “I’m not that old” and, “Why would I need that?”
Another neighbor said that the previous residents in our unit had the same issue with her. He said he thinks they moved because they were tired of dealing with her.
I’m at the point where I just don’t want to answer the door anymore, but my girlfriend feels that our neighbor will know we are hiding from her.
What can I do here?
Dear Wondering: You have the right to the quiet enjoyment of your own home, and in order for you to have that, you will now have to be specific about what you are willing to do for this neighbor.
You and your girlfriend should decide together what neighborly chores you are willing to do. For instance, perhaps you would be willing to take out her trash, if she leaves it outside her door. (If she can make it across the hall to knock on your door, she can likely handle her own trash.)
Otherwise, she will have to make arrangements, the way many people do when they have chronic physical challenges. A home health aide could come to her home twice a week and perform many of these household functions on a regular schedule.
You and your girlfriend should say to her, “We will always assist you in an emergency. We are willing to handle your trash for you and if we see a package downstairs for you, we’ll bring it up, but otherwise you will have to find other help.”
If she comes to you with a non-emergency request, you should say, “You obviously need more help than we are willing to give. It’s time to hire someone.”
Dear Amy: I missed an important work meeting this morning away from the office. It was totally my fault, and I feel terrible about it.
How do I apologize?
Dear Dan: Quick story: Recently, I was scheduled for a flight out of busy O’Hare airport. I misread the departure time and missed the flight. I pondered my options: I could have blamed any number of outside factors and offered up excuses, but instead I tried something radical.
I approached the busy ticket counter and said, “I totally blew it and missed my flight. It is completely my fault and now I am throwing myself on your mercy. Can you help?”
The ticket agent seemed to go out of her way to reschedule me, and even waived the rebooking fee.
The lesson for me was this: Everybody makes mistakes. If you claim your mistake, people tend to be understanding.
In your case, you should quickly take full responsibility for your own error, apologize profusely, offer to reschedule at their convenience, and expect to be forgiven.
Dear Amy: Thank you, thank you for your excellent advice to “Worried Future Mom,” the expectant mother whose in-laws said they would only visit the newborn with their two aggressive dogs. My child was bit by a family member’s dog, and I blame myself for letting the family member guilt me into believing the dog was safe, even though my instincts said otherwise.
Protecting her child from this risk is the first test of her parenthood.
There will be many others.
Dear Been There: Many readers have responded with similar stories. Dogs aren’t necessarily prone to bite children, but they are animals and young children are often unpredictable. Parents should always be cautious and should teach their kids to always ask a grown-up before approaching a dog.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.