DEAR ABBY:

We have some friends who take a couple of expensive extended vacations each year. They go to Europe and take cruises. For the last four years, they have never once booked ground transportation from home to the airport and back. Instead, they rely on friends to take them to the airport.

They have plenty of money. They are just too cheap to pay for a shuttle, cab, or limo. They never offer to put gas in the car or pay for the parking. It is a 45-minute drive in heavy traffic.

They are getting ready for another trip. What should I say when asked? Please give me your thoughts on their behavior.

- Unhappy About This in Georgia

DEAR UNHAPPY: These friends appear to be centered on themselves. Rather than fume about it, the next time you are asked to drive them to the airport, tell them you have a conflict and are unavailable.

No kids of his own, he wants to feel gifted

DEAR ABBY: I am a 47-year-old professional man who loves children, but never had any of my own. Consequently, I have never had to contend with the considerable cost of raising children. Many of my friends are parents, and I feel the urge to buy their kids nice presents I know they want, or that I never received when I was a child, e.g., a wonderful bike or train set.

What's the protocol for giving an expensive gift (e.g., a saxophone that can cost $1,000) to non-related children without creating awkwardness or obligation? Naturally, I would always check with the parents first. (All of us are white-collar executives and employed, but no one is "filthy rich.")

- Gift Giver in Oakland, Calif.

DEAR GIFT GIVER: The protocol is the one you are already observing, which is to have a conversation with the parents before buying expensive gifts for their children. And when you do, make clear that it is not your wish to cause awkwardness or a sense of obligation.