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Dear Abby: How many days advance notice should you give a family member before advising him that you will be coming for a visit? My nephew, "Harry," called his brother, "Milton," at 6 p.m. on a Sunday to let him know he was planning to arrive at his home the following Tuesday afternoon for a visit. (Harry rarely talks with Milton, let alone visits him.) Harry was offended when Milton didn't seem thrilled with the idea. (Milton did not say no; he said "OK.") Milton is taking care of his wife who is recovering from surgery and may have been overwhelmed at the idea of guests.

Since the world revolves around Harry, I am sure he forgot to inquire into the state of his sister-in-law's health when he called. Now Harry is refusing to visit because of what he perceived as Milton's response.

I feel it is time for this old lady to say something to this self-centered little jerk. However, before I put in my 2 cents' worth, I need to know if 36 hours is an appropriate time frame. -- Clueless in Curry Village

Dear Clueless: Harry needs to polish his social graces because he, not you, is clueless. It is never appropriate to "inform" anyone that you will be coming for a visit. The polite way to do it is to ask if a visit would be convenient, so if it is NOT convenient, the potential host has an "out."

Random act of kindness

Dear Abby: I experienced a random act of kindness and want to share it with you.

I was driving alone from Atlanta to a small town near Greensboro, N.C. It was raining hard, and my car hydroplaned and slid off the road.

A woman returning to work after lunch saw my car, stopped, and asked me if I was OK. I assured her that I was fine, but felt a little panicky about being so far from home. She calmed me down, helped me out of my car, and invited me to sit with her in her car until help arrived.

While the police wrote up the report and the tow truck hauled my car back onto the highway, this caring lady stood next to me in the rain, keeping me dry with her umbrella. After the police were finished, she insisted that I come to her office to catch my breath and compose myself.

She telephoned some friends who worked near my final destination (which was five miles from the scene of my accident) so that I would have somewhere to go if I ran into more trouble on the road.

Then she escorted me to a nearby car repair service where a friend of hers works, and asked him to fix the minor damage to my car. He did it immediately without charging a penny - and I was on my way within a half-hour.

Abby, I want to express the depth of my gratitude to this woman -- her name is Suzanna -- for her help and concern, and to her friend, Andrew, for fixing my car. I will forever be ... Grateful in Georgia

Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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