DEAR ABBY: The recent letter from the woman who was seated next to a man who talked on his cell phone all during her daughter’s graduation ceremony leads me to relate my experience.

Recently, my college-aged daughter and I were in a grocery store. A woman was walking down the aisle with her cell phone stuck to her ear. She was gossiping in a loud voice and using first and last names.

After two aisles of this, my daughter said to the woman, “Excuse me. I KNOW so-and-so. Shall I tell her how you feel about what happened?” The woman was visibly flustered. She ended the call, telling her “cell mate” she’d call her when she got home.

After we left the store, I asked my daughter how she knew the person. My daughter said she didn’t. But she wanted the woman to realize that she was being overheard saying hurtful things in a crowded place. My daughter’s rule of thumb is to never use names in public because you never know who’s listening. End of lesson from a 21-year- old. – PROUD MOM IN WALLINGFORD, CONN.

Your daughter is on the right track, but here’s my rule of thumb: Gossip is usually hurtful and always cowardly. Before saying anything in public or in private, people should ask themselves, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful?” If the answer is no – don’t say it. Period. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The letter from the woman whose graduation ceremony was ruined by a cosmically inconsiderate cell phone user reminded me of how I once dealt with someone of that ilk.

I used to commute by bus to work in Manhattan every day, and every morning a woman passenger behind me would crank up her phone and use it for intensely personal conversations.

One day, I turned around in my seat, faced her with my chin in my hands and listened raptly. She noticed immediately and said, rather tartly, “Excuse me. This is a private conversation!”

I replied, “No, it isn’t, lady. They can hear you in Brooklyn.” She signed off immediately. The phone went into her purse, where it remained until she got off at her stop.

Of course, some etiquette experts might not approve of my tactics, but sometimes when dealing with that degree of inconsideration, the only solution is to raise the bar. – KEN IN LIVINGSTON, TEXAS

Funny – but if I were you, I’d reserve that tactic only for extreme circumstances. People who fight fire with fire may end with more of a confrontation than they bargained for.

DEAR ABBY: A good friend of mine recently visited a friend of hers in Palm Springs and attended church services with him.

During the service, a member of the congregation stood up, took a cell phone call at the back of the church and continued to converse during the sermon.

After the service, the pastor did a “meet and greet” at the front door. When the offender went to shake her hand, she said, “The Lord sent me a special message just for you. He says that you are to refrain from taking calls during the service. He recommends that you keep your cell phone in your car, and says he’ll be happy to take any messages and save them on voicemail for you.”

My friend said the person turned beet red – and more than one person “got the message” that day because there have been no more cell phone calls in church. – ALSO ANNOYED IN SALINAS, CALIF.

Which proves that not all important messages have to be delivered from the pulpit – or even from the great beyond – in order to be universally heard.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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