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DEAR ABBY: May I make a plea to all physicians? Please remove the magazines and children's books from your waiting rooms! Again and again, I see patients sneezing and coughing over and around these materials without covering their mouths, and handling them with contaminated hands.

The next patient who innocently touches one of those items puts him or herself at risk of infection. The same applies to children's toys, if they are provided in waiting rooms.

My advice to patients, and to parents of children with appointments, is to bring their own reading materials, iPads, laptops or needlework to pass the time waiting for their doctor's appointment. Parents should bring a favorite toy for this purpose.

Let's all work together to keep our germs to ourselves. Thank you for getting the word out, Abby. -- EDYTHE IN TENNESSEE

DEAR EDYTHE: That's excellent advice, and something people rarely think of. Children frequently put their hands in their mouths -- and adults who touch the furniture and doorknobs in doctor's offices should wash their hands before touching their faces. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure -- and it's less expensive!

DEAR ABBY: Your columns about the kindness of strangers impel me to relate a recent experience. As an 80-year-old retired general contractor, I stay busy by making custom furniture. Recently, I picked up a full load of hardwood planks.

Because some of the pieces were very long, I had to keep the tailgate of my pickup truck down. All went well until I reached the first stop sign. When I started to pull away, my truck went forward, but the load stayed put! Halfway across the busy intersection with traffic going all directions, I panicked. I knew I couldn't lift those 46 planks by myself.

Out of nowhere, two gentlemen rushed through the traffic, and without a word, began loading the planks, two at a time, into my truck. When they were all loaded, I offered each young man my heartfelt thanks. My proffered reward was brushed aside with a short, "That's not necessary. Have a good day!" People are great in Southern California. -- GRATEFUL IN GARDEN GROVE, CALIF.

DEAR GRATEFUL: Actually, people are great all over. But as another resident of Southern California, I second the motion.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to offer a word of hope for all those hurting grandmothers whose sons' wives have been unkind or ignored them. Have patience! Someday those very same daughters-in-law will be mothers-in-law. In my case, my grandson married a girl just like his mother. Now my daughter-in-law is a grandma, too, and she's getting the same kind of treatment she gave me. Of course, I say nothing -- but I smile a lot.

Please don't print my name or town. Sign me ... SMILING IN ILLINOIS

DEAR SMILING: Yours may be a knowing smile, but it proves the truth of that old song lyric, "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you." Your letter is a reminder of how often events come full circle with unexpected results.

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