how can I shut down our receptionist’s nosy questions?

A reader writes:

How do you politely avoid questions about doctor or dental appointments from nosy coworkers?

In my workplace, we have a sign-out sheet to keep track of where employees are over the course of the day, with the times we left the building and where we’re going in case someone needs to track us down. When I have any kind of health thing scheduled during the work day, I just write “appointment” because I don’t think anyone needs to know more specifically than that what I’m up to. I’m out of the building for a personal thing; I’m taking personal time; I can be reached by cell or email if something urgent comes up.

However, the receptionist who is in charge of the sign-out sheet is quite nosy in a way that she thinks is fondly maternal (she’s several decades older than me) but feels really personal and invasive. When I’m headed out the door, she often asks where I’m going because she’s noticed I have an appointment, and she wants to know what’s going on “because I care about you” or “because I worry about you.” In the moment I get flustered and often end up saying “I’m getting my teeth cleaned” or whatever, but I wish I didn’t — we aren’t close, and if I wanted her to know, I’d volunteer the information.

Do you have any phrases I can keep in my back pocket to help maintain my boundaries and turn aside this kind of question in a polite but firm way?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 204 comments… read them below }

  1. Rattled*

    Having a sign in/out sheet feels like micromanagement to me…is this common in certain fields? I’d be out the door if my office introduced something like this.

    1. Burning Out At Both Ends*

      it feels the same as having to badge in/badge out to me, and at my company, if we’re going to be out of the office we have to at least have a status message/outlook calendar status with “not at my desk, be back at X time.”

      1. Zweisatz*

        Yeah, whether I write it digitally or on paper doesn’t really make a difference to me. As long as I can control the content.

    2. Anna Banana*

      It can be common in manufacturing plants because for health and safety, you need to know how many people are in the building in case of an emergency.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        This. Everyone (employees, visitors, contractors, delivery people) must sign in and out where I work as part of HACCP compliance protocol as soon as they step past the vestibule.

      2. Anonymous Penguin*

        I work at a middle school and we do this for the same reason. No one cares where a person is necessarily…just “do we need to look for them during an emergency” kind of thing.

      3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        When she says she worries about you, one thing you could try is looking mildly puzzled and simply ask, “You worry about me? Why?” Not quite saying in so many words “that’s weird, why on earth would you?” But your tone and eyes can convey it.

        That has worked in the past.

        It would be hard for her to give an answer that doesn’t up an explicit comment that you can address more directly (still politely). EG “you remind me of my daughter” respond with “well, I’m not, I’m your coworker.”

      4. Elizabeth West*

        This is exactly why Exjob did it — everyone had to be badged and sign in at the front desk no matter what. If you brought your kid in with you, you checked them in and they got a badge too. Not a manufacturer but it was not an open workplace.

    3. Coverage Associate*

      Several of my jobs have had a poorly enforced policy of requiring that they know which employees are or are not at the business at all times. The stated reason was so there would be an accurate head count in the event of emergency evacuation. But there was no in and out sheet.

      Pre COVID-19, all my jobs wanted to know my general availability during work hours, eg, was I on site working, was I away but responding to messages, was I completely out of pocket. This was accomplished by having my calendar accessible to someone else or by telling a secretary or supervisor on my way out.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I’ve seen it as a safety thing, sometimes with magnets on a white board. If there’s an emergency evacuation the safety officer grabs it on the way out. If someone is missing it’s easier to determine whether the person is stuck inside and needs to be rescued, or is off site.

      1. A person*

        We use white board magnets for building residents (if you have an assigned desk) and a sign in sheet for visitors/contractors. For us it’s for emergencies. This only works well in small sites. In the large manufacturing site I used to work at, we relied on badge access via turnstile to know where people were in an emergency. And hilariously enough… that plant was faster at accounting for 500 people than my current tiny group is at finding all 10 of us… because people think the board is dumb so they don’t use it right and we don’t drill it as often as they do at the big sites. We were pretty adept at going to our muster locations and waiting quietly for the all clear.

      2. Standard Cake Business*

        I’ve been a fire warden for my work area a couple of times, and the training we got is always clear areas and no head counts. Is Mary in the office today? Did John’s guest for his 10 o’clock leave? We have 6 people in our team today are they all accounted for? The answer to all those questions are always: don’t know, don’t care, I cleared the 2nd floor and the toilets and they had no one in there. The rationale is that sign in sheet can never be 100% accurate, checking and keeping a sheet full of names waste valuable time, and people wander off after exiting the building. For example, what happens if you notice Steve is signed in but missing? You can’t go back into the building to look for him, so it serves no purpose in getting people out, it’s just a checklist after the fact. And what if a burglar broke into the building? You don’t want them to steal your stuff but you probably don’t want them to burn to death in your building. So for some time now, the standards for emergency evacuation, at least where I am has been to just clear the area.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      I think needing to put the reason you’re leaving is really unnecessary, but signing in/out in lieu of a badge system makes some sense to me. If many calls get routed through the front desk, the receptionist will know to transfer a call to someone’s backup rather than letting the call end up in the absent person’s voicemail. It may also be helpful to know who’s in the building in case of an emergency.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, I work in a lab, and my last job you were required to let someone know if you were going to be out that day. No reason was needed, but it was useful when we had an emergency evacuation/air quality issue and people could say to the headcount monitor “Oh, X is on vacation and Y is out today” so we didn’t have to worry about them being potentially stuck inside.
        Current job is too big for that but they have a more comprehensive badge system, so they can run a name and see if that person scanned in at all and where, if someone were to be concerned someone is missing during an emergency (so for instance that person could be on site, but also seen to have scanned in across the street, and therefore not stuck in our building).

      2. ferrina*

        I worked somewhere that had this. It was a small non-profit and it had a whiteboard where you indicated if you were In vs Out. Several people often worked out in the field, so they’d sometimes leave a note if calls were to be redirected to their (work) cell phone. The white board was in plain view of the receptionist so they could route calls accordingly.

        1. Momma Bear*

          At a previous job so much of the team was everywhere else that we used our Teams status line to say where we were that day. You didn’t need to know more than “out of office/offline”.

          I agree with keeping the response short and neutral. Put her on an info diet. Give yourself permission to be “rude” by not disclosing.

        2. Not Your Sweetheart*

          I am receception/admin at my current job, and I need to know if people are in the office. if they’re not, I need to know I’d they’re in the field at a job site, or if they’re on personal time. All of this so I know who gets the support calls and whether transfer calls to office phones or cell phones. (Few in my office know how to set up forwarding, and I don’t have access to do it for them)

          1. Bankerchick*

            I work in a bank. Sometimes the manager may have a business apt, meeting or personal apt for her or her children. She obviously doesn’t need to let us know what is going on, but she had a habit of just leaving for this various apts or even leaving early for the day and not letting us know.We would look and she would be gone . People would call or come in for her and we would have no idea if she would be back in five minutes or not at all. Or if she was just in the restroom. It was just a bad look. We had to get her to understand that she wasn’t answering to us, rather just giving us an idea of how long she would be was good client experience.

      3. doreen*

        Whether putting the reason is necessary depends – if the only reason you need to leave the building/floor is because you are at lunch or left early or took some PTO midday, then “in” means the same as working and “out” means the same as “not working” and there’s no need for a reason . But there are plenty of jobs where that isn’t true – maybe I left at 1pm to go to the field , or because I need to testify in court or because I have a meeting in another office six blocks away. Even at those jobs though, a general reason is good enough – “PTO” or “appointment” is fine without any more specifics. The point is are you in the building and are you working – because at the jobs I’ve had like that , they wouldn’t try to reach you of you weren’t working.

    6. Changemaker*

      I worked at an office where it was common for employees to do off-site work, sometimes together. We had an in/out board to track people, in part for safety. Our fire escape plan included someone assigned to take that board so we knew who should be there. But if you were out and not working (vacation, sick, personal) all you had to put was when you planned to be back. It was WAY better than the GPS tracker app one manager suggested we all put on our personal phones!

      1. Antilles*

        I work in an industry where off-site work is common and every single company I’ve worked at in our industry has had some version of the in/out board. It makes it way easier to track who’s in-office versus being out at a job site versus on vacation.
        That said, for personal appointments and PTO, all that’s needed is something like “appointment, back at 3:30 pm” or “vacation Thursday/Friday”. The receptionist is just being nosy in pushing for more details about what the appointment is.

      2. Emikyu*

        “It was WAY better than the GPS tracker app one manager suggested we all put on our personal phones!”

        WTF?! I get needing to know if someone is out of the building, but that is beyond insane. There is absolutely no way that my employer needs to know exactly where I am at all times. “At work” or “not at work” is all the info anyone needs – and all they’re getting.

        1. Watchful eye*

          They see you when you’re sleeping. They know when you’re awake. They know whether you’ve been bad or good, so get used to the surveillance state!

        2. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Also, not for nothing, those location tracking and sharing apps don’t have the best track record when it comes to transparency about what data they’re collecting and selling to the highest bidder.

    7. Former Retail Lifer*

      If this is a coverage-based job where customers are frequently interacting with staff, then the front desk will need to know where to send walk-in customers and calls to.

    8. RaginMiner*

      We do this at the mine, more so for safety. Ours says underground, on surface, or out of office and a note section. More so if there’s an emergency, we know where everyone is. We also have a tag board for similar purposes

    9. Dust Bunny*

      We don’t literally sign out but we do let each other know if we’re going to be out, just so people don’t waste time trying to find us if we get a phone call or something.

    10. Name*

      Common at schools so that secretaries can quickly see if someone is not back in time and campus admin need to find classroom coverage.

    11. Space Lasers*

      My (absolutely horrible) first job out of college was at a PR firm that had this sign-in/sign-out sheet and it felt so invasive and I hated it. They claimed it was in case a client had an emergency and they needed to reach us, which was patent BS bc it was A) a PR firm and what true emergency couldn’t wait for a single member of a multi-person team to get back from lunch? and B) we all had cell phones and could definitely be reached even if we were away. The founder/CEO/boss would also reportedly use these sheets to keep track of how many hours each person was at the office and then tell certain teams that they weren’t working enough despite us having a time entry requirements (akin to a law firm’s time tracking system) and the fact that we were generally horribly underpaid. Place had crazy high turnover and I left after 6 months

    12. NeedRain47*

      We had something like this at my old job, It’s really just supposed to be so you (a coworker from a different department) can check if I’m at my desk before walking all over creation, it’s not to keep tight tabs on people. (despite what this receptionist thinks.)

    13. HonorBox*

      We have a small white board with magnets by our employee entrance/exit. When you leave, you’re asked to move your magnet. You don’t need to put where you’re going / when you’ll be back, but many do just to let others know when to expect them back. Overall, it is there for knowledge (who is in and out at any given time) and in the event of an emergency. I’m closest to the door, so I’d grab it from the wall and evaluate where people are so we can let authorities know if someone is still in the building.

      1. umami*

        I have this in our office suite. Most of my staff have private offices, so I can just glance at the board and see if folks are in the office or not. It’s used exactly as you say, just move the magnet to the time you expect to be back. I have staff who go to meetings or cover events throughout the day, so they will usually write in what building they went to (or indicate offsite if they are … offsite). It’s very handy and not intrusive.

    14. Catabouda*

      This is sort of interesting to me. Pre-COVID, when we’d have a fire drill or whatever, you’d have a good idea of who was in the office that day simply because you’d see them. When we got to the gathering site you could easily figure out who was missing. In a real emergency, that may have meant they didn’t get out yet and you could inform emergency personnel.

      Now, with hybrid, I have no idea who may be there day to day and would be of no help if emergency services were trying to figure out if everyone was out of the building.

      1. afeeblefox*

        Thats why pre-Covid it was more important for appointments than for if you were out for the day. Because if someone saw you that morning, and you’re not at the gathering site, a responder might go back looking for you when you’re actually at the doctor’s across town.

    15. Erin*

      I once worked at a company that did this, and while I typically don’t care if anyone knows what I’m doing, the receptionist who was responsible for the sign out sheet was nosey, and she mothered people, which I can’t stand.

      So, I started saying far fetched things that could not be accomplished in whatever time frame, as well as things that didn’t exist in an urban city: “Oh, I’m meeting with my snake charmer”, “I’m going on a cruise” and “I have to move my tractor”. Other people started saying random things as well, and she just kind of stopped prying into everyone’s whereabouts.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I wish this could be pinned to the top. This is a delightful way to handle this kind of situation.

        I’m going to add “I need to move my tractor” to my personal vocabulary.

        1. I take tea*

          That reminds me of a saying I’ve heard for going to the toilet: I need to go and put my bike in the shade.

    16. Oryx*

      I’ve had it at places for safety reasons, such as needing to know who is in the office in case of emergency. Current job has key fobs but it serves the same purpose.

    17. RIP Pillowfort*

      It’s very common in my field. I work in construction/transportation and in the event of an emergency it’s important to know that Joe is out of the office on leave rather than unaccounted for during an accident.

      It’s very common in jobs where there are higher safety requirements than office work. And it’s not very invasive. You get used to letting people know where you are, where you’re going, when you’re going to be back, etc. because it’s about workplace safety rather than control. It’s just as important as safety equipment at times.

      1. A person*

        The first time you live thru a real plant emergency you see how important it is in those settings!

    18. Panicked*

      I worked for Child Protective Services and we had to sign in/out with our location, because we were often traveling to unsafe or downright dangerous locations. So, totally normal in that field.

      In my current place of work though? It would be absolutely unheard of.

    19. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I have a relative who does in-home palliative care and all their jobs have had this system. I think it helps keep track of folk when you have a lot of coming and going from the field and access to a status update system may be limited.

    20. SofiaDeo*

      It’s not inherently micromanaging. I needed fragile or urgent things delivered around a hospital, as well as questions answered about some of them. I needed to know who was available, and if they were on lunch I wouldn’t bother to page them overhead. To me, micromanagy would be having to know exactly what people were doing. But saying “I’m stepping out for 15” or “going to lunch now, it’s slow” just told me someone wouldn’t be available and for how long. “I will be off campus for the next hour” isn’t asking much, or invasively micromanaging. Instead of me wasting 5-10 minutes roaming around several times an hour looking for people who may not be around.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I think it’s completely normal to track whether employees are on site/available for work or not. Asking when the person expects to be back might be appropriate in some circumstances. But asking for details about where they’re going, never mind why, sounds intrusive to me.

    21. Samwise*

      I worked at a large HVAC business in one of my first post college jobs, back in the last century. We had a board like that for all office staff (warehouse/install had its own board) up front at reception – not visible to clients, but visible to everyone on staff. In/out, when expected back. The low-tech version of an online calendar. Perfectly reasonable to know if Bobbie was out for the next three hours, so we did not put clients on hold or go wandering around the office looking for her.

      I managed paperwork flow — so, people did need to know if they could get a job expedited, if they could wait for me to get back, or if they needed to kick their request up a level so it could get done while I was out.

      In my current job, we put a note on our office door and on our calendars, so that if a student drops in the front desk knows if it makes sense to ask them to wait or to come back later. Hardly micromanagement.

    22. Ana Gram*

      We do this at my government agency. It’s handy if there’s a fire alarm or is you go to another suite to find somebody.

      But there’s zero micromanagement over it. If there was, people would revolt!

    23. connie*

      Lots of media or businesses that have clients have some system where you have to indicate if you went off site for a client appointment. In higher ed there are records of where people will be teaching at what times.

      At some places the mechanism is a sign-out sheet, electronic calendars, or other digital date-keeping like course catalogs. Lots and lots of people work in places where their general location is a known factor. There’s nothing inherently micromanage-y about it.

    24. GreyjoyGardens*

      Not at all micromanagement, unless the employee was required to account for all of their time out of the office. Clients and customers can get *really* nasty if they call and the person they want to reach is not in, and they often treat receptionists like “how dare this peon not put me through to Fergus right NOOWWW?” If they know they can reach Fergus later, or they can’t reach Fergus but they can talk to Jane instead, it usually mollifies all but the most entitled and selfish of customers or clients. It’s also helpful for the co-workers in general – if you know that Mary in payroll is out today you won’t bother trying to reach her, you will call back tomorrow. Or George is out sick, so that’s one less warehouse person and plan accordingly.

    25. Michelle Smith*

      It’s only micromanagement if it’s used inappropriately. I worked at a place that had a sign in/out whiteboard that was really useful for the receptionist. I worked in an office where a judge might call and ask for a specific attorney to come to court on a case with no advance notice. It was important for the receptionist to be able to look on the whiteboard and see that I couldn’t come to that court because I was out sick or was already in Courtroom Part A or whatever it was, rather than having to call my desk, then my cell, then text, etc. and have to wait for me to see the message to respond.

    26. SB*

      We have a sign in & out register as we are an industrial workshop & in the case of an emergency evacuation I need to know who is on site so I can do an accurate role call to ensure no one is potentially dying in the workshop in whatever emergency lead to the evacuation.

      Incredibly common in industrial settings.

      1. A person*

        We also use it to tell if we are second to last out of the building so we can check in with last out to make sure they know they’re last… so they can put the loaner device on if they’re working out in the plant alone. It’s a safety thing there too.

    27. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      There’s a digital record at our office because of the electronic key cards we have for the door. It’s mainly in case there’s a fire or other emergency.

      But I’m told the records are also used to keep track how often people are in the office vs WFH. That’s about overall trends, though, not monitoring individuals – at least in theory!

    28. CLC*

      We had this at the first company I worked for 20+ years ago. We had flexible schedules but it was really so the receptionist would know if you were in or out if you got a call or a page. I guess it would still be useful at workplaces that still have receptionists.

    29. Zephy*

      At a previous customer-facing job, we had a whiteboard in the back with our names, a magnet to indicate if we were in/out of the office right now, and a little space to write in a word or two of additional context (like “lunch back 2:15,” or “out 3 PM 7/18,” or “off back 7/20”). The staffing levels varied a little bit while I was there but there were usually between 5 and 8 people in the department at any given time. All but two of us were part-time, so we were all working different schedules with different days off. We also had to stagger our lunchtimes, we couldn’t all go at once for coverage reasons.

  2. Chilipepper Attitude*

    What Alison said, but also,
    – that’s a strangely personal question to ask a coworker. Are you asking others inappropriate questions too?
    – what are you worried about? Why are you worried, etc

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I had a stage 5 clinger who was just as inappropriate as this woman and I finally had to say, “we don’t have the kind of relationship where we would worry about each other”. It felt so so mean. It did stop it, though.

    2. Emikyu*

      I would almost be tempted to start turning it around on her.

      “You’re worried about me? That seems a bit extreme. Do you deal with this kind of anxiety a lot? Are you in therapy for it? Would you like me to recommend a good therapist?” Etc.

      (I am not in any way trying to make light of mental health problems – I suffer from anxiety myself and it sucks. Just saying it might make her reconsider this level of intrusiveness.)

    3. Someone Else's Boss*

      I once said back to someone, “Oh, let’s leave the worrying to my family.” I smiled and walked away. This was someone who felt she was closer to me than I felt, and the way I went about making that clear was comments like that. She often asked specific questions about things she’d overheard, and I would respond, “Oh, I’m not sure how you even knew that was going on. Nothing for you to worry about.”

      1. GreenDoor*

        Someone Else’s Boss is much kinder than me. I’d be inclined to give her a raised eyebrow and say, “I don’t need a mom at work, Jane.”

    4. Katydid*

      My go-to response to intrusive questions is, ‘why do you ask?’ When they’re done replying, something like a cheerful, ‘Don’t worry, if it’s ever something you need to know, I’ll be sure to tell you!’ closes the topic. Helps to leave the vicinity, of course.

    5. Cyberspace Hamster*

      My first thought was to respond with a surprised “But why would you be worried?” maybe followed by “There’s really no reason to be woried – it’s just a regular old appointment”. But then in reality, that’s the response I would think of after getting halfway down the street, I’d probably respond exactly as OP in the moment.

  3. yikes on bikes*

    Oh this reminds me of my first professional job, nonprofit setting, staff of five. To get leave approved you had to go around to all of the staff individually and get them to sign off on covering for you while you were out. This was not an office where people used leave liberally. Everyone always asked why you were taking it! I had a whole narrative planned and memorized to cover why I needed multiple days off for an out-of-town interview while trying to leave that place.

    1. Observer*

      That’s one of the most toxic policies I’ve seen here, and that is saying something.

    2. madge*

      This is the stuff I need to know how to screen for in postings or interviews. Just…what the what???

  4. Correlation is not causation*

    I think we work at the same place! Our receptionist obsessively ‘worries’ about what everyone is doing, all the time. I tried dodging the question, only to find that she was telling everyone else that it ‘must be serious, because she didn’t want to talk about it’.
    Finally, I just started looking at her like she was crazy whenever she asked. If she asked where I was going, I’d say it was just an appointment, and if she said she worried about me, I’d give her a weird look and say ‘that’s a strange thing to say’ and walk away.
    It took a long time, but by the time I left that job, she knew not to bother asking me personal questions. She still did it to everyone else, and she told people I was ‘secretive’ and ‘unfriendly’ – but that was the only consequence.

    1. Just Another Cog*

      Some people have no life outside of their job so create one at work. I have always hated gossip.

  5. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you!” Accompanied by a wink and a chuckle as you walk out the door.

        1. Petty Betty*

          In the words of Dorothy Zbornak: to get ice cream or commit a felony, I’ll decide in the car.

          1. Former_Employee*

            I loved Bea Arthur. I know her lines were written by others, but her delivery was flawless. Nobody did it better.

    1. Essess*

      As tempting as it might be, definitely do not make jokes about killing in the workplace! That does not go over well with HR.

      1. Artemesia*

        I know someone who jokingly made a reference like that when a co-worker did something that messed up her project — not angry, truly joking — she was fired because ‘zero tolerance for any violent language’ — She was an up and coming fast tracker on management development one day and fired the next.

  6. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re: nosy receptionist, I always wonder what people like this do when someone answers them truthfully with something they probably didn’t want to know about. “Oh, I’m going to do my colonoscopy prep, thanks for asking!”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In my experience these people are more than happy to talk to you about your colonoscopy prep.

        1. Tio*

          “Oh what are they looking for? What symptoms are you having? What are they worried about?”
          “My cousin/son/aunt/parent/whatever had one and they found…”

          Some people can and will talk about ANYTHING.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        This is true and also it’s a lowkey fun game to find out what they will find offputting. I know there are more varieties of this person that I have encountered, but all the ones I’ve ever met would stop asking questions after my first afternoon Baphomet summoning.

        (I am not recommending this is a good course of action for the LW, but it could be a fun one.)

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Some variation of what a coworker once told me at my first US job when I, following the office small-talk scripts I was just learning about, asked him about his weekend on a Monday morning. “Ohhh I had stomach flu! I was vomiting all the time, having diarrhea all the time” and then he capped it off with “but I’ve got to run now, I’ll tell you all about it later”

      * yes he was being serious
      * he was also a new, entry-level hire, somewhat lacking social skills
      * he did not, thankfully, tell me all about it later

      1. NeedRain47*

        I wonder if he was following a script about how to get people never to try to chat with you at work again! LOL ;)

  7. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Our past office manager from a few years back used to do this – especially with anyone with multiple out of office blocks on their diary. Drove me nuts! Actually yes a lot of those were medical appointments and yes I have a lot of things wrong with me but it wasn’t her business!

    ‘But I care about you’ stopped the day I used Icy Flat Voice Number 3 and told her that even my husband didn’t interrogate me about where I was going THIS much.(or ever actually)

    That got me some dirty looks but I gotta tell you – once I hit over 40 I really stopped caring.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Took me a divorce, all of my friend group talking behind my back (they even tried to stage an intervention of sorts), most of said friend group going LC and then NC, for me to realize at 43-44 what everyone else already knew at 40 – that no matter how hard you try to keep up appearances, do right by everyone, stay above reproach etc, people will still talk and judge, why? because to a lot of people, gossiping, judging, and taking sides feels good. Like, physically good. They get a natural high from doing those things. So, since people will talk no matter what we say or do, we might as well say and do things that we want to and not worry about what everyone will say – they’ll say something, but so what?

        1. Artemesia*

          Spot on. We also underestimate how much fun hate and bigotry is — gossip, hate and bigotry are all really entertaining and fun for those exercising them.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I feel I should specify: IDGAF what other people think about me. I DO GAF about a lot of other things. :-)

    1. Observer*

      ‘But I care about you’ stopped the day I used Icy Flat Voice Number 3 and told her that even my husband didn’t interrogate me about where I was going THIS much

      Wow. I love it. I’d love to have seen her face when you said that.

      1. Poison I.V. drip*

        Exactly! Ducking nosy questions and awkward conversations is a skill everyone needs to learn, if my survey of advice columns is any indication.

    1. gmg22*

      Yep. “Just routine, thanks!” was the phrase I thought of. (Even if it isn’t, because of course that is none of her business!)

  8. Web Crawler*

    “Just on my way to ask my therapist how to avoid busybodies who won’t take a hint”

    (This is a joke)

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      What if it wasn’t though…

      (The fantasies of unproductive but momentarily satisfying reactions are the only things getting me through the day)

    2. Reality.Bites*

      Court-mandated anger management therapy after I went off on someone for asking too many questions that were none of their business.

  9. Reality Check*

    My favorite phrase is “critical errand.” As in I’m running a critical errand. I sometimes add that the errand cannot be done online. I’ve never had anyone press beyond that.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    That’s annoying. I’d be tempted to tell her that “It’s on a need-to-know basis only” and sail on out.

  11. Boolie*

    “If you cared about me you’d respect my privacy.” Feels too harsh to say but I’d be thinking that for sure.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Don’t start none, won’t be none!

      (If you observe the rules of polite society then so will I. Once you have violated this social contract, neither of us are bound by it any longer.)

    2. Lisa*

      Yes. “It’s none of your business” is what would be going through my head, but is probably too harsh to actually say.

  12. NeedRain47*

    Just tell her you’re getting your teeth cleaned every single time, and let it get weirder. Refuse to say anything else about your dental health.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      That’s pretty funny, I like this answer! It doesn’t initially come across as being rude but eventually it’s going to dawn on her that you’re not being forthcoming.

    2. pally*

      Yes this!

      Or, ” STD treatment!”
      Let her think whatever she wants on this one.

      I’m referring to: short-term disability.

    3. Stripes*

      This is a beautiful solution. “Didn’t you just get your teeth cleaned two weeks ago?” “Why yes, I did!” you reply cheerfully as you walk away.

      1. NeedRain47*

        This would work superbly at my workplace b/c we have excellent dental insurance that comes with unlimited cleanings. Unlimited! (I cringe at the idea of having to do more than twice a year.)

        1. pally*

          Unlimited? Never heard of such a thing! That’s great! I’d sure jump on that a few more times than the twice a year we have.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        “Didn’t you just get your teeth cleaned two weeks ago?”

        “I don’t know. Did I?”

      3. Rose*

        Or sign and say “but they’re still so *dirty*” with as much despair as you can muster. Walk away either very cheerily or shaking your head remorsefully. Do this every single time.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      You could rotate the body parts that need cleaning (non-intimate bits, to stay out of trouble). “I’m getting my metatarsals scrubbed!” or “my epiglottis needs a scale and polish!”

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’m heading to a meeting of my zygoma polishing work group.

        (a reference to rumored such meetings between Matt Smith, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch)

        1. Former_Employee*

          I don’t know who the others are, but I’d heard of Benedict Cumberbatch who has received many accolades over the years. I finally saw him in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and thought he was top notch as was everyone else in the cast.

          1. Rivakonneva*

            Matt Smith is one of the incarnations of Doctor Who. (#11) He was also Prince Philip in “The Crown”, and is currently playing Daemon Targaryen in “House of the Dragon”.

            Tom Hiddleston is Loki from the Marvel movies and the series on Disney+ as well. Season 2 debuts in the Fall and I can’t wait!

            Can you tell I’m a fan? ;)

  13. Seahorse*

    I have a coworker who does a variation on this, and it’s difficult not to answer in the moment because it feels rude when he sounds so friendly and interested. Once I realized he was asking way too much about how I spend my time, I resolved not to provide any actual information, and things got much easier. I give a chipper response that feels like an answer without offering anything of substance, and then I change the subject or end the conversation.

    “Yes, my morning was fine. How about yours? Anything interesting?”
    “Yep, I’ve got an appointment. Hopefully it won’t rain too hard! See you later!”
    “Oh, yeah, I’ve been busy in [time block in question], but it’s good to be productive. Got more to do now, so I’ll catch up with you later!”
    “Haha, it’s nothing exciting. Any updates on [X topic]?”

    1. Seahorse*

      The politeness dance is really only necessary if you have personal or cultural reasons for keeping everything light and friendly though. Internal politics dictate I play this game, but blunter responses work well in other scenarios.

  14. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    Ugh, for me, I’d just come right out with it.
    “This is something you do not ask. ” Yeah, I had to snap that once, and probably earned a reputation as a cheap ass roll for it, but the front desk woman I said this to was similar to OP’s. It did not don on her that we are not “a family.” We had a coworker that was leaving for a really sad medical emergency, and started the same kind of thing, ‘oh where are you going? Someplace fun?’ I cut her off. When said receptionist found out what really happened she was too mortified to hardly even pick up the phone for months. “See ya later,” that’s all you need.

    1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      I should add, that she did this to everyone and got only strange looks or “nowhere” answers. She was the office gossip, until lesson learned. Her manager had to intervene on this behavior, and answering the phone with half a muffin in her mouth.

    2. Serin*

      “probably earned a reputation as a cheap ass roll for it”

      I love how phrases enter the language like that.

  15. michmeg*

    “I’ll forgive you for asking if you forgive me for not answering!” This has worked well for me with those for whom a more subtle non-answer isn’t firm enough.

    1. Well bless your heart*

      This sounds very Southern US to me. Right up there with Bless Your Heart

  16. C in the Hood*

    True story: When leaving for an appointment, my nosy co-worker asked where I was going.
    Me: To an appointment.
    Her: What kind of appointment?
    Me: A personal appointment.
    Here: What kind of personal appointment?
    Me: A PERSONAL personal appointment.

  17. La Triviata*

    We have someone in my office – working remotely on a permanent basis – who seems to think she’s my friend/mother. I had a bad fall with a truly impressive nosebleed and she called me at home to find out what had happened, how I was doing, etc. Someone tried to convince me it was because she was concerned … but in the past she’s done things that literally drive me to tears. As to the mother aspect – she’s four years older.

  18. Satellite Site Maven*

    I pretty regularly find myself being inadvertently nosey with coworkers or others. This falls under the small talk category and I don’t know how to avoid it. Example: Coworker will share they are leaving early on Friday (no particular tone). I will say, oh that’s nice, are you doing anything fun? I’m expecting the answer to be: yes, getting a head start on camping/the beach/flying to the moon. Too many times they then share something not fun or really negative. Now we are both uncomfortable and I feel bad for prying. If they just responded with a “no, just gotta get some stuff done”, I would say “good luck, see you Monday!”

    1. Serin*

      Until quite recently, I did this — it seemed harmless — and then a co-worker pinged me, “Leaving early on Friday and won’t be in Monday,” quickly* followed up with “I just got a call that my mother passed away unexpectedly.”

      * fortunately the follow-up was quick enough to stop me from saying my usual “Hope you have fun!”

      I changed my ways after that.

    2. Random Bystander*

      Reminds me of a time just days after I’d gotten my cancer diagnosis (I am now 2 years cancer free, so it did all work out, but when you get the diagnosis on a Monday and it’s Friday of the same calendar week …). There was a situation that I had to work on with another employee from a different department/different location. We were working on it through IM, but she insisted that it had to be a voice call (it really didn’t), and despite multiple attempts on my side to say that I really thought we could resolve it by IM, we finally ended in a voice call. We were all remote at this time, so IM was the usual means of collaborating with a co-worker on something that needed resolution more quickly than an email chain was likely to provide.

      All so that she could go in a happy sing-song “Happy Friday!” I lost it, started crying, and then said, “Well, I guess so.” I think she was pretty mortified when I went on to say “Last Monday I was told I have cancer.”

      Maybe a more neutral response would be just “Any particular plans?” if you’re wanting to get small-talky, which at least avoids awkwardness when it’s a matter that is un-fun/negative, even if it is taking place over what looks like a long weekend.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      This is something you can work on. You can say, “Sounds good!” or “Thanks for letting me know!” You practice it until it becomes more natural.

    4. *kalypso*

      If I know someone’s on leave (which I don’t unless they tell me anyway) whether it’s mysteriously in line with school holidays or just big enough that I actually know about it I’m just like ‘hope your leave is what you need it to be!’ or ‘hope you can work some you-time in there!’ because no matter what it’s for, if it’s for anything, nobody takes leave for zero reason (mental health break is not no reason, neither is ‘ i cannot stay here another minute without strangling that one coworker’) and a few moments of individual time is good even in the worst possible situations. But I’m not premising it on being any particular thing.

  19. Angstrom*

    Just keep repeating the part she legitimately needs to know:
    “Heading out, back at two.”
    “Where are you going?’
    “I’ll be back at two.”
    “Is it serious?”
    “I’ll be back at two.”
    Repeat as needed…

    1. Stripes*

      Oh this is good, too.

      For extra fun, say it as if “I’ll be back at two” is a legitimate answer to her questions. Obviously everyone knows exactly where someone’s going if they’ll be back at 1:00 — the implication is clear, no more needs to be said. And only the most/least serious appointments result in someone returning to work at 11:30.

      1. Angstrom*

        “Should be back by ____.” is the answer to the question she *ought* to be asking. Reply matter-of-factly, as if you heard the correct question. Professional obligation filled, privacy maintained.

    2. Serin*

      I’m a big fan of this method of just being a broken record when someone is boundary-stomping.

      Normally, if you’re trying to give no information at all, it’s considered good manners to vary your wording so that it isn’t obvious that you’re refusing to answer. But if you WANT to communicate the message “This is none of your business and you need to stop asking,” there’s something to be said for just dropping all pretense.

      Also something to be said for answering the question WHILE WALKING AWAY rather than sticking around for follow-up questions that are also none of their business.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        Doesn’t anyone believe in telling this employee clearly: this is none of your business. I don’t report to you and your job doesn’t require you to have this. Do not ask me again. This is not acceptable behaviour and needs to stop.

      2. sometimeswhy*

        This. I use motion and repetition to underscore that I’m not participating on conversations like this.

        “What kind of an appointment” >> “Oh, an appointment [+leaves]”
        “I saw you have an appointment this afternoon what’s it for?” >> “Just an appointment. I have to [get my print job/try to catch up with someone/book my pet snake’s beauty school classes/the flimsiest excuse + gets up and walks away]”
        “I’m headed out for an appointment” >> “Oh what kind” >> “Thanks! You too!” (as if they had wished me a good afternoon.)

        I also do it with sidewalk solicitors. Big smile + no thanks + KEEP MOVING. If you slow down, you’re there for the whole pitch. Eye contact is ok but never slow down.

  20. Quill*

    I wonder if “Oh, don’t worry! It’s preventative!” in the peppiest voice you can muster would have an effect

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      A nosy person would respond with “Oh, really? What are you trying to prevent?”

      The theme for the day seems to be “People who stomp boundaries”.

  21. Immortal for a limited time*

    I think Alison’s suggestions in the Inc. article are great but I wouldn’t even be that forthcoming about it. My go-to, whether it’s religion or politics or health-related appointments is more direct without making the asker feel like they’ve done something wrong: “My personal rule is not to talk about X at work.” If they persist, just say it again: “I really don’t talk about that stuff at work.”

  22. Peanut Hamper*

    I learned this very well at my first ever professional job. I was taking a personal day and the leave form (it was on paper back then) had a blank space labeled “Reason:”

    I asked the secretary what I should put there and she said “Just write ‘personal’. Nobody needs to know what you’re doing with your personal time.”

    That lesson was GOLDEN. Ever since, if anybody asks what I’m doing with my personal time I just say “taking care of some stuff” and leave it at that. I could be going to get my teeth cleaned, I could be going to visit a sick relative, I could be going to the casino, I could be going to my second job as a hit man for CIA, or I could be planning to just sit around the house in my underwear and scratch all day like a baboon on the savanna. It doesn’t matter, because they’ll never know. I am thankful to that long retired (and at this point, probably deceased) secretary for teaching me this.

      1. keyw*

        That is hilarious. In my office, we usually say “Going to chug margaritas” or some variation of it.

          1. Random Dice*

            Floss the cat, hahaha priceless.

            They’re still confused about cat flossing.

            Probably asked the next 3 vets they met socially.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        “I’m going to the casino. If it goes well, I won’t be back. If it goes poorly, you won’t need to ask why I’m back.”

    1. Chocoholic*

      Telling people that you are a hit man for the CIA as you are walking out the door could be a good response!

    2. Sara without an H*

      This is a good point, but I’d be sorely tempted to make “I’m on a mission for the CIA” my stock reply.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Shorten it to “I’m on a mission” and no one can even say you’re being flippant. My elderly mother used to say that for anything she wanted to get done promptly whether it be medical or groceries or getting tickets to a school concert.

        1. Fiorinda*

          Or you could take a leaf out of Terry Pratchett’s work and make it “I’m on a mission from Glod”, then duck out while they’re wondering who the blazes Glod is and/or why a dwarf drummer from Discworld is assigning you missions.

  23. GreyjoyGardens*

    Having served hard time in the salt mines as a receptionist/secretary: The sign-in/out sheet is no doubt there for the receptionist to be able to direct calls. At the receptionist job I worked the longest, there were so many entitled clients who would shrill, “Don’t you know where Fergus is? I don’t want voicemail, I need to speak to Fergus NAAOOOWWW! Shriek shriek!” It helped to be able to say, “Fergus is out and will be back at 2 PM. If this is urgent, I can transfer you to Bob or Lucinda who are also working on the Carob Teapots project.” People get *so* nasty to receptionists and treat us like obstacles. Being able to give concrete information helps head this off at the pass. I do not need to know WHERE you are, I just need to know THAT you are out and will return by X o’clock.

    But these nosy questions are out of line on the receptionist’s behalf. If a staff person went to lunch, I’d say “have a nice lunch!” And often ask when they got back how it was. That, to me, is ordinary small talk (and also nice information about the quality of the restaurant). But I never pried about doctor’s appointments or anything – that’s a bridge way too far. Basically, I just needed to know how long you’d be out and if you were not reachable on your cell phone (I assume at doctor’s or dentist’s you wouldn’t be, but I did not need to know the *reason*). To be honest – I *don’t* care. Coworkers aren’t my friends, and I care about my friends, but I won’t get that invested in a coworker. Receptionist IS out of line here.

    But there are good reasons to have a sign-in/sign-out sheet or a board, and TBH a lot of it has to do with placating entitled clients or customers who howl like toddlers when they can’t get hold of Jane or whoever Right This Very Minute. If they know they can call back in a couple hours they tend to take it better.

    1. pally*

      Oh gracious! We have a calendar that serves the same function “Joe will return after 2 pm. You are welcome to leave a voice mail or call back after that time.”

      We have a very large building and very few employees. This calendar saved our receptionist a whole lot of walking around finding folks. Yep- we have the only phone system without any kind of intercom or paging system. That’s what happens when lab folks are tasked with buying a phone system.

    2. Observer*

      But there are good reasons to have a sign-in/sign-out sheet or a board,

      Yes. I find all the angst over the existence of a sign in/sign out sheet a bit much. I wish we had something like that or some sort of calendar system. So much so that I’ll probably have a conversation with our COO and CHRO about it. Our access system should allow us to get the equivalent of the sign in piece, but I also want the sign out part too.

      But that is ALL I want. *Where* you are is either no one’s business or your supervisor’s, if you are clocked in. Fortunately, top management here is very on board with that concept so I’m not worried about someone over-reaching if I bring it up.

  24. Fikly*

    Dear Nosy: Is there a reason you’re putting your worry about me as more important than my need for privacy?

    It’s performative concern. It’s not about you, it’s about her. Call her on it and stand there silent while she tries to come up with an actual answer. Because there isn’t one. When she says something like, oh, well, I was worried it was x bad thing, respond with “and what would you do if that were the case? Do you think if I needed help I am incapable of asking?”

  25. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    “Where are you going?”
    “Oh, I’m good, thanks!” *swan out the door*

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      Yes! Personally, I’m a big fan of the cheerful non-sequitur in these situations.
      “Where are you going?”
      “See you later!” or “Hope the rain holds off!” or “What a beautiful day” or whatever. Smile, wave, keep moving.

      1. madge*

        Same. This would be a time I’m almost grateful to be partially deaf and have the office know it. “Guess she didn’t hear you”…yep, sure…

    2. Some words*

      Alternate conversation.

      “Where are you going?”
      “Sure, you can use it!” *swan out the door*

      The momentary confusion buys escape time.

  26. keyw*

    I’ve only worked with one person who was that nosy. If she questioned where I was going, I started at “Oh, just an appointment. I’m reachable if needed.” If she pressed for the kind of appointment, I would look confused and say “Like I said, just an appointment.” One time, she did say “I’m worried about you.” I put on my *concerned* face and said “I’m sorry, did you say you were worried about me? Have I said or done anything to worry you?” She was taken off-guard a bit, and stammered out something about “No, just lots of appointments” to which I said “I am fine” and left. She didn’t press anymore.
    So, I think sometimes, it’s possible to make the person realize they’re being intrusive if they have to explain why they’re asking. I think sometimes people are genuinely concerned, and that can be handled with a “thank you, I’m fine, I appreciate the concern” but I think it’s easy to tell the difference between genuine care and nosiness.

  27. Lauren*

    I usually say colonoscopy or GYN with a deadpan of “o you want me to share more?”

    1. Melissa*

      I’m glad that works for you! I feel like I’ve known some receptionists who would respond with, “Oh who’s your gynecologist? Mine just retired and I need a new one because I keep getting bacterial vaginosis. What are you going in for? Just a pap smear?”

  28. 13paperbags*

    I use self-deprecating responses, usually telling them that I’m from NH and it’s a cultural thing to be private with information. If they push back, I then reiterate it with a serious tone and tell them what they’re doing is very impolite to someone like me.

  29. Delta Delta*

    I worked at a place where we had a calendar that everyone within the office could see. However. There were certain Calendar Offenders, who just simply were not where their calendar suggested. This was especially tricky for our support staff fielding calls. People would call and demand to talk to Big Boss. Looks the calendar – looks like Big Boss is there. Page Big Boss – nowhere to be found. No good answer for admin to tell the callers when Big Boss may be available. This angered callers and clients. A well-managed in/out sheet would have helped immensely. Who cares WHAT you’re doing – what matters is that people know if you’re in or not.

    The very best was when Big Boss had things on his calendar, but those got cancelled. He left them on the calendar to make it look like he had engagements. Instead he went fishing, and told no one. Oh, and he also didn’t tell his clients that the events got cancelled. So clients showed up, nobody knew where he was, and he couldn’t answer his phone because he – and I am not making this up – dropped it in the ocean. Eventually someone reached one of his kids who spilled the beans about fishing. This… wasn’t great.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      It sounds like Big Boss (and a few others) were the problem, not the calendar system per se. A calendar system can’t work if people just lie about where they are, or don’t bother updating.

      I’m reminded of an infamous incident a few years back where some “performance artist” came into a cafe with no clothes on and harassed the employees. Cafe Owner was somehow “unreachable” and then was all “tee hee I thought I told you that he was coming but oopsie daisee I guess it got lost! Hee hee! Oh and I lost my phone that day you were so desperately trying to call me! Ha ha, aren’t I the cutest Manic Pixie Dream Boss?”

      I seldom wanted to reach through a screen and wring someone’s neck like I did that woman on when I read about her shenanigans.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Manic Pixie Dream Boss and Ocean Phone Boss sound like they could be friends. But not in a good way.

    2. BatManDan*

      If the clients didn’t know the meetings were cancelled, then who cancelled them? In my world, the only people that could cancel a meeting with clients would be the clients, absent some REAL emergency like a death in the family or a hurt child.

  30. Frodo*

    Next time, smile and say, “Just another abortion,” and keep walking out the door. And the next time say, “I’m helping my partner pray the gay away.” There might not be a 3rd time.

    1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

      The first one made me laugh out loud! But I’d go with “gaying the pray away” to be LGBTQ+ friendly AND maximally weird.

  31. Lime in the Coconut*

    “Oh, just some boring routine stuff. You know how life is!” and then slip out the door. Nothing more said, nothing more needed.

  32. Sis Boom Blah*

    One of my co-workers refers to out-of-work errands as “side quests”, and I may have to steal it.

  33. Raida*

    When I’m headed out the door, she often asks where I’m going because she’s noticed I have an appointment, and she wants to know what’s going on “because I care about you” or “because I worry about you.”

    “I’ve got my phone on me if there’s an emergency.” and a cheerful wave as you leave

  34. AnonORama*

    Point one finger upwards with a cryptic expression on your face, and walk out of the room. Heaven? Alien abduction? Hot-air balloon ride? Upstairs? She’ll never know.

  35. mulan*

    Oof! Nosy people can be the worst. Seconding Alison, and also adding the below idea, which has helped me before:

    “Oh, just a boring appointment.” or “Oh, nothing exciting; the reason would bore you. Bye!” Your facial expression when you say that can reflect that you actually think the reason is boring – deadpan, no sense of excitement.

    I used to have a super clingy coworker in a different department than me who had to know *everything.* He would stare out his office window all day and creep on people leaving/going and then make a point to find the person right away and interrogate them about what they were doing. All of my real reasons were apparently not interesting enough, to the point where he’d think I was lying, saying something mundane to cover up the “real” reason. It was just bonkers!! One time when I left the office for about 30 seconds because I’d forgotten my phone in my car and went to retrieve it, he questioned why it took me all morning to realize I didn’t have my phone and decided that was suspicious so he demanded the real reason why I went to my car… ugh.

    I did address it directly with him and told him to stop asking; I assured him that my boss had no problem with my work schedule but told him to take it up with my boss if he had a problem with it (he obviously had no work-related reason to want to know my comings and goings; he was just nosy). I also said I trust that others have valid reasons for leaving the office and I requested that same trust back from him… but he just persisted so I started grey rocking instead like the above – “where were you?” “oh, nowhere exciting.” (Sometimes I was coming back to my desk after going to the bathroom, good grief!) Some people.

  36. Semi-retired admin*

    Re: the need for a sign in/sign out sheet or board. Where I worked, we had it for safety reasons. If there were a crisis, who is out of the building, and who do we need to look for?

  37. GingerApplew*

    Oh honey darling… I just say it’s personal… and one time the office busy body was pressing… so I just said I’ve been having problems with my rectum and me poops been so bad… I’da shet my brain out if it could fit out the back… and the lady “what the he***” and now she doesn’t talk to me much… but whenever she ask nosy questions I say… ma’am do you want to go, and she says uh no.

  38. Mary*

    Years ago I felt unwell at work and left for the day, probably just telling my nearest Co-worker – not a big deal – people get sick.

    5 minutes later I was paged for a call, someone in the lab contacted receptionist to let her know I was unwell & had gone home. I returned to work the next day to be told by everyone that the receptionist continued to page me for calls the whole rest of the day despite multiple Co-workers telling her I was gone for the day.

    The reason for the bizarre behaviour was because I did not tell her personally I was leaving and therefore as far as she was concerned I was still on the premises. Thinking back on it when I left past reception she was not at her desk and I definitely was not hanging around feeling just to personally inform her about the state of my health.

    I used to get a lot of calls – goodness knows what she said to the callers

  39. Elizabeth West*

    I was a receptionist for a long time in smaller companies. Depending on the nature of the business, handling calls is much easier if you know people are gone and when they’re expected to return.

    At OldExjob, clients would call with time-sensitive questions — if Fergus was away from his desk and I didn’t know when he was coming back, the calls would either repeat or bounce back if he didn’t pick up. (We had a Fergus who would slip out without telling anyone and it was very annoying. He also wouldn’t answer his phone so I would take a message on a sticky note and then stick it on his monitor right in front of his face, haha.) On a particularly busy day, it’s aggravating to handle a call more than once — and often you’re also dealing with someone right in front of you. A walk-in, the FedEx person, the mail, your boss giving you something, someone asking for something, blahblahblah.

    But knowing how long someone is out is ALL you need to know. Not where they’re going or why.

  40. Gail Davidson-Durst*

    If I got pushback on the polite evasions I’d be tempted to take this route:

    Busybody: But what KIND of appointment? I worry about you!
    Me: Teeth cleaning
    Busybody: That’s what you said the last six times!
    Me: Yeah, I have them done individually

  41. Jo-El*

    I am a huge smart-ass. When questioned I make up outlandish stories and watch their face until I can tell they are horrified and/or bored and then I end with “or it’s just something personal I can’t discuss” and then leave. I NEVER get asked for a repeat performance.

  42. Rivakonneva*

    Could you use some of these answers?

    I’m receiving a Nobel Prize and I’d like to go to the ceremony.

    My kid has a rash all over, and the vet closes early today.

    I’m arranging financing for a beef roast.

    I have been asked to serve on a presidential advisory panel.

    I’m being sent to the moon by NASA.

    My furnace won’t stop running, and the goldfish are getting poached.

    My central air conditioning won’t stop running, and the goldfish are getting freezer burn.

    I think I left the iron on.

    I’m getting married, and I have to figure out to whom.

    I’m having a root canal.

    I’m having a tax audit.

    I have to rearrange my savings so that there is no more than $100,000 in any one federally insured institution.

    I need to break into my kid’s piggy bank while he’s not home.


    Might be worth seeing how many answers like this you can give before the receptionist surrenders and leaves you alone.

Comments are closed.