DEAR ABBY: In response to "Conversationally Speaking," a reader who complained about being eavesdropped upon in restaurants, you suggested that the couple engage in some "wild dialogue" for entertainment purposes, such as "how to spend their drug money" or which girl you planned to send on the next "call."
As a police officer who has had to waste significant time and resources following up on such reports of "suspicious behavior," I'm surprised you would encourage such an irresponsible action. Our nation's homeland security is of paramount importance these days, and our governing leaders have requested help from the public in "remaining vigilant" and reporting suspicious behavior to the proper authorities. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle to you for failing to consider the consequences of your ill-advised recommendation. What were you thinking? -- DAN HOFFMAN, DEPUTY CHIEF, FAIRBANKS (ALASKA) POLICE DEPT.
DEAR DEPUTY CHIEF HOFFMAN: I was thinking about having some fun, not about homeland security. In the light of the sober times we live in, however, I probably should have played it straighter. On a lighter note, quite a few readers wrote to describe how they have handled the situation. Read on for a sample:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have a suggestion. Talk about "Aunt Tilly's" recent operation with details so graphic that only the strongest stomach could hold its contents. Or, perhaps, mention "Cousin Mandy's" little boy throwing up all over the wedding cake at someone's reception. -- MARGARET IN SWOOPE, VA.
DEAR MARGARET: That could, indeed, work. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I had the same experience. Since everyone at my table was in the medical field, I began describing an extremely grisly autopsy I had been involved in. Within five minutes, the couple at the nearby table had paid their bill and left their food. While they may have not been "cured" of listening, they certainly got their "dose" of reality. -- STEPHEN IN THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS
DEAR STEPHEN; Your eavesdroppers must not have been fans of the currently popular TV crime series and their spin-offs.
DEAR ABBY: Some friends and I were eating in a restaurant that featured a large atrium and all kinds of plants hanging from the rafters. When we realized we were being listened to, my friend's wife started telling everyone at the table how -- in order to control the bug population in the plants -- they had hundreds of lizards living in the foliage. "Nosy Rosy" went screaming from the restaurant with her coat pulled over her head. I guess she was afraid of lizards. -- JOHN IN WELLINGTON, OHIO
DEAR JOHN: Leapin' lizards -- your friend was creative.
DEAR ABBY: Here's my technique. I lean over to the rude eavesdroppers and smile. Then I invite them to scoot their chairs a little closer, so they can hear our conversation more easily. It usually embarrasses them into stopping. -- MARTHA IN DALHART, TEXAS
DEAR MARTHA: Not everyone is as straightforward as you.
DEAR ABBY: Some people need to be reminded about good manners. When I'm in that situation I confront them and ask, "Are we talking too loud? If not, how about giving us some privacy?" and continuing eye contact until they stop. -- AIDA IN RAPID CITY, S.D.
DEAR AIDA: Interesting you should mention it, because several people suggested that the volume of the conversation might have been the problem to begin with.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)