Dear Miss Manners: In the past few weeks, I have noticed several cashiers and bank tellers asking if I have any plans for the day, or asking how my day is going so far (rather than saying, "How are you?"). When I mentioned this to a store manager, the response was that they were merely trying to be friendly. I do not feel that the answer to either of those questions is any business of theirs, and I am at a loss how to answer the second question especially without being rude. I tend to just not answer.

Gentle Reader: As failing to answer is a bit harsh, even to phony "friends," you could say, "I do, thank you." Miss Manners would then steer the conversation back to the question at hand so as to cut off the inevitable follow-up question with, "And I'm afraid I'm running a bit late. Would you mind depositing my funds so I can be on my way?"

One-sided friendship

Dear Miss Manners: A longtime friend constantly calls me for the "daily run" of her personal/professional activities, but rarely inquires about my own life. No matter what reason I use for ending our one-way conversation, she keeps on talking!

What would you suggest would be the most polite but effective way of bringing her litany to an end?

Gentle Reader: Terminating a telephone call is as easy as apologizing and saying that you really must go. Even inveterate talkers occasionally pause for air.

But it appears to Miss Manners that what you are really hoping is you can change your friend so she shows the same interest in your life that you have demonstrated in hers.

Longtime friends are as difficult to retrain as family members, and yours may not be interested in reciprocating, having grown accustomed to your one-sided relationship. If this is the case, you can at least restore the balance by limiting your own availability.

No pass for rudeness

Dear Miss Manners: I have a few friends I invite out socially, but some of them have started declining my invitations with a succinct, "I'll pass."

I'm in my late 20s, and I've always declined invitations by first thanking the person for the invitation, and then expressing apologies for not being able to attend.

I feel that "I'll pass" is a somewhat rude way of declining an invitation; after all, I'm not passing around a plate of cookies. I admit that it does bother me, and I find myself inviting out those friends less and less.

Since when has "I'll pass" entered the vernacular and become an acceptable way of declining an invitation?

Gentle Reader: It has not, neither for the invitation nor for the cookie. Miss Manners reminds you that she stands between the vernacular and the acceptable and refuses to give rudeness a pass.

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, www.missmanners.com.