Dear Readers: Your questions and dilemmas never take a holiday, but occasionally I must. This week's "best of" columns come from deep within the Ask Amy vault.
Dear Amy: I recently had a business meeting with a noticeably overweight person. He was going to pull a file from a different office and get back with me. I then said this: "Sounds great, just get back to me after you waddle up to …" I was not sure if I was using "waddle" in an offhand way or whether it was an unconscious reference to how he walked.
I felt terrible, so I followed a friend's advice and sent him a brief card apologizing for my comments and that I had not meant to draw attention to his weight.
Another friend said I should not have sent the card, as it just drew attention to a slip-up that was best forgotten and would not have changed the incident or the embarrassment it caused.
So who is correct?
Dear Flum: I don't know if there is any "correct" way to gracefully pull your foot out of your mouth, but I know what most people do — they do nothing and then just avoid the victim for the next 40 years or so. So good for you for trying to clean this up.
But now I'm worried that you're tempted to apologize for your apology. Please don't. You've done enough. (September 2003)
Dear Amy: I have been trying to shake a cold for weeks. I have co-workers who have been fighting the same thing I've been fighting. I'm sure we're simply giving it back and forth to each other.
But what do you do when a co-worker is constantly coughing in your face without covering his/her mouth?
I realize that sometimes you still have to come into the office when you're sick. But can't people who are coughing cover their mouths for the sake of the rest of us?
— Mr. Sniffles
Dear Sniffles: Disease-spreading aside, I find the worst part of this problem is the fact that you don't seem to think your colleague is adult enough to be able to handle a simple request from you. Even if he isn't adult enough, you need to proceed as if he is. Short of installing a sneeze guard over your cubby or wearing a surgical mask, what if you spoke to or emailed your officemate: "I can tell you're so sick, but now I'm afraid I'm getting it. Could you do me a favor and make sure to cover your mouth whenever you sneeze or cough?" (February 2004)