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Karma Cleanser


Dear Karma Cleanser: I work in an office park that's pretty typical -- it has a long driveway then acres of parking lots. One of my co-workers, "Cheryl," does not have a car and relies on either public transit or rides from friends to get to work.
Sometimes I see Cheryl walking the long distance down the only road to get to our office; it's probably a half-mile from our workplace to the nearest bus stop. Once or twice I have stopped alongside her to ask if she needs a ride. Another time I gave her a ride all the way home, which is not far from my house.

But to be honest, I don't want to volunteer too many rides, because I don't want to end up being Cheryl's taxi service. And the one time that I did give her a ride home, most of the trip was silent and awkward.

Can I in good conscience drive past my co-worker without stopping to pick her up?

-- Commuter confused

You shouldn't assume that your carless co-worker rides public transit because she has no other choice. The modern office park, and indeed, most new developments in our suburbanized world, usually leave pedestrians out in the cold, left to fight wild hordes of coyotes in their struggle to get to work. Some radicals have therefore refused submission to life in Car Land, either as private protest or for other personal reasons. But since you're going her way already, what harm would it do you to ask Cheryl if she needs a ride? Even if she says no, that she prefers to walk, then at least you'd know.

Dear Karma Cleanser: This isn't really a question about karma, but about good manners. My husband and I disagree on e-mail etiquette. He says it's perfectly acceptable to not return a person's phone call and instead send them an e-mail the next day. This happened recently when our friends called wanting to take us to dinner. My husband did not call them back that day, but e-mailed them instead. I maintain that was not a polite way to handle things. I don't think our friends were offended, but I was.

-- Ma Bell

We're not ready to challenge the fine folks at Emily Post Inc. (not yet, anyway), but we do believe that issues of good manners go hand in hand with good karma. We tend to agree with you that it's impolite to return a phone call with an e-mail, though these days it's becoming more accepted. Regardless, you and your partner seem to be missing the more important question here: Why would you possibly turn down a free dinner?

Been bad?

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