I want to distance myself from a phone-addict acquaintance

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 70s, and I feel bothered by my female acquaintance who is of the same generation. She calls me two or three times a day and talks about things she saw or what she experienced during her outings, as well as her children and grandchildren.

She talks on and on for nearly an hour, changing from one topic to another, making it difficult for me to hang up the phone. Moreover, she tells the same stories over and over, which is really boring.

Putting aside her lengthy phone calls, I would normally envy how cheerful and active she is. But now, I want to distance myself from her. It also annoys me when she sometimes brings me souvenirs she bought on her travels.

We live in the same neighborhood and have been acquainted for many years. However, I want to simply exchange a few words with her when we meet, like in a supermarket. She says she is glad I listen to her, but I am tired of the same stories over and over again, or bad comments about someone else. I have a few friends not too distant or too close and that is enough.

How can I stay away from her without hurting her. I don’t care if she dislikes me. I would like to know an effective way of doing this.

— R, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. R:

My mother was a phone addict. She had dementia and used to always tell the same stories over and over. She did the same to a person she was on the phone with. When I heard this, I felt sorry for the person on the other end of the line, but at the same time I appreciated them for talking with my mother.

I believe your acquaintance is a healthy person, but I am sure that her family is grateful to you. She probably repeats the same stories due to her advanced age.

What you should do is simple. All you have to do is to apply to your phone carrier for a function to display incoming call numbers. If you see her number, you just don’t always have to answer. Even if you mistakenly answer her call, just tell her you have plans, such as going out in five minutes or that you have a visitor, so as to limit the call time.

You say that you do not want to hurt her even though she bothers you. This sounds to me that you actually don’t want her to dislike you. It is difficult to stay away from her and to keep her liking you. However, if you value your own time, you should be able to hang up the phone saying, “I should get going.”

As a senior citizen, your personal time is precious. Live a fulfilling life and don’t lose any minutes or seconds.

— Hazuki Saisho, writer