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The question

I’m having a difficult time dealing with an old friend of mine. For years, we’ve met (or attempted to meet) every few months for dinner, first confirming via either talk or text. We usually make plans a month in advance, but without fail, my friend would text to cancel within the hour that we were supposed to meet. After the fifth time in a row, I mentioned it to her. She said she didn’t realize that I felt that way and she was sorry. But then she still canceled two more times. She’s really put a strain on my relationship with her, and basically I’m feeling like I am done. I don’t want to accept any more dinner invitations (she still asks to get together). What would you do in my shoes?

The answer

Gather around, kids, while I tell you a tale of ye olden days of yore.

Once upon a time it was possible simply to say to someone “let’s meet at such-and-such a spot at 6 on Tuesday,” and lo and behold, the two of you would show up at the appointed time and place without further ado.

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And by “ado” I mean endless confirmation, double-confirmation and triple-confirmation texts and/or phone calls and/or e-mails.

I miss those days. I mourn their loss and lament their passing.

That they are truly gone, extinct like the dodo, was brought home to me a few weekends ago.

We had invited a couple over to our house for dinner on a particular Saturday. When they came through the door (early, but don’t get me started on that), they were all like, “Phew, we weren’t sure you’d even be home.”

Me: “Why? We invited you over for dinner tonight. You thought we’d just vanish?”

Them: “Well, we texted about an hour ago to confirm, and didn’t hear back, so…”

Not responding to a text within the hour? So 20th century! (We were busy making dinner and getting ready.) It left these 21st-century homo sapiens confused, perplexed and disoriented.

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(More on that later.)

I blame the cellphone. I love my cellphone as much as anyone. A device that contains all of human knowledge at your fingertips – what’s not to like? Whenever my wife asks me a question like “Dave, which is the second-largest largest planet in the solar system?” (and she will ask me stuff like that) I always retort, “Do I look like a phone? Ask your phone.”

It can also pay for your groceries, do your taxes (I’m guessing here, but wouldn’t be surprised) then send a picture of your lunch to all your friends.

My mother always says: “I got along for 70 years without a cellphone.”

Me: “Mom, that wasn’t really living.”

The downside to all this upside is that for certain temperaments the cellular phone has the deadly ability to make all arrangements and appointments seem endlessly flexible.

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I was working with someone on a writing project a while back. Say we were supposed to meet at 10 a.m. At 9:45, I’d get a call: “Dave, I’m running a little late. Could we make it 11:00?”

Then at 10:45: “I’m still running around. Could we make it two?” Meanwhile, as movie directors say, “daylight’s burning.”

It’s a sin to waste another person’s time. Which leads me to my advice vis-à-vis your friend. Pull a 20th century on her, i.e. don’t respond to your phone the day she’s supposed to come over.

If she doesn’t show up, it’s doubly rude, not to mention shocking. If she asks if you got her text, you respond, “No, my phone was charging. Your veal piccata just sat on the table getting cold, and everyone wondered where you were.”

Because no matter how you slice it, cancelling or attempting to cancel an hour before you’re supposed to meet someone for dinner is rude and unacceptable.

Especially if she’s done it more than once and you’ve spoken to her about it.

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Per your statement “I’m feeling like I’m done,” I would say, yes, if she continues to blow you off, I’d drop her like a bad habit and find someone who has the courtesy to honour their commitments.

And tell your old friend why. Ideally, not via text or e-mail, but the old-fashioned way – in person. If you can ever actually get her to show up.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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