DEAR ABBY: Before my son deployed to Afghanistan two months ago, his grandma, aunts and cousins all promised to send cards, letters and care packages.

So far, not one of them has stepped up to the plate. I am so frustrated I felt like crying as I was preparing a care package with his favorite cookies.

Abby, why do people make promises they can't keep? -- BROKENHEARTED MILITARY MOM

DEAR MILITARY MOM: The promises are often made with the best intentions -- and then the promiser becomes distracted, diverted, forgetful. In most cases, no one means to be hurtful.

Because these forgetful folks are family members, my advice is to remind them of what a morale booster it would be for your son to hear from them. Suggest items he might need, and offer to send them along with YOUR next care package.

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DEAR ABBY: My co-worker has the same last name as a deceased porn star. We work in customer service together, and she gets many suggestive comments and laughs from our male customers. She would like to respond with a witty comeback without being offensive or jeopardizing her job. Any suggestions? -- FRIEND OF LOVELACE

DEAR FRIEND: While it may be tempting for your co-worker to respond with a witty comeback, she should play it smart and resist the urge to acknowledge her male customers' attempts at humor. Once she starts "getting cute," it will only encourage more of the same.

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DEAR ABBY: I am a directory assistance operator who would like to pass on some advice to our callers:

We do NOT know your Aunt Martha who lives behind the Kmart store, and we no longer sit in the back room at a switchboard at the local drugstore. We may not even be located in the state you are calling.

When you dial directory assistance, please be prepared to provide the city, state and the first and last names of the person whose number you need, or the complete name of the business. A street name helps for common names.

Please have your pencil and paper ready to write down the number. We cannot wait five minutes while you hunt through drawers or glove compartments, or worse, put the phone down to look in another room. Our contract with your phone company usually requires that we finish each call within a short time, and we can lose that contract if we cannot comply.

And please, do not swear at us or call us names if we are unable to help you. Our information is only as good as what's provided by your local carrier to our database. We really do try our best to help you.

Thanks, Abby, for helping spread this message on behalf of thousands of hardworking operators. -- SMILING INTO THE SPEAKER

DEAR SMILING: I'm pleased to pass along your commonsense suggestions. Because so much of the telephone information system has become automated, callers do need to have pencils handy and give clear information when requesting a number. And when someone is lucky enough to actually be connected to a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood human being (yes!), abusing the person is not only unproductive, it could get you disconnected.

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