I am in a carpool and when it’s one person’s turn to drive he blasts music that I can’t stand. It actually gives me a headache. Would it be wrong to ask him to turn it off, or at least turn it down?

Probably. It’s his turn and his car and you don’t say whether you set ground rules when you formed the carpool. You could try, but he could say it’s his right since he’s doing the driving. You could ask the others in your carpool, in his presence, if they feel as you do. If they do, then you could do the requesting for silence or less volume and know you’d have support. If they don’t mind, then your only option is to drop out of the carpool or wear earphones or earplugs.

We have a wonderful group of friends whom we see infrequently for a dinner party, taking turns hosting. It’s coming up on my turn and I seriously don’t have time to spend two days cooking (the others are amazing cooks) so is it OK if I just order dinner from a local caterer?

If the point of your get-togethers is to get together, then it is unimaginable that any of your friends would take offense at a “bought” rather than a home-cooked dinner. Just say, when you invite them, “I’m ordering dinner from Giovanni’s including dessert. No time to cook, but really want to see everyone so thought this would help make that happen.” If your tradition is that your friends all bring something to add to the dinner and they offer, then tell them it is everyone’s night off and have a great evening with no guilt or recriminations.

I know it is impolite to check my cellphone at a dinner party, but I’m a doctor and when I’m on call I have to have my phone with me. Should I just turn down any invitations for my on-call nights?

No, you should not. Presumably other guests know you are a doctor and it is perfectly all right to say that you are sorry about the phone, but that you’re on call. There is no one who would find that a problem. Keep it with you, check it when you must, and answer it when it rings, excusing yourself from the table to take the call.

I put a smiley face on an email to a client and my boss, who was cc’d, was furious. What’s wrong with a smiley face? I know the client and thought it was friendly.

A smiley face is not professional, and there still are solid lines between personal and professional in the business world, even if you are friends with the recipient. Think of it this way: if you wouldn’t put a smiley face or an emoticon on your printed business correspondence, you shouldn’t put it in an email message. Also avoid using shortcuts to real words, like “Gr8” for great, or “4u” instead of “for you.”

Questions for Catherine? Send them to michaels.catherine@yahoo.com