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by Abigail Van Buren

Pet Owner Makes Her Case for Snakes' Obvious Charm

DEAR ABBY: "Not Perfect," who says non-smokers should assess their own bad habits before looking down at smokers, seems to think that being an irritant to others is an inevitable part of life. Baloney! The smell of cigarette smoke is repulsive, which is why, for 17 years, I carefully abstained around non-smokers.

Now that I am an ex-smoker, I still have plenty of bad habits, but I am grown up enough to shield other people from them. A partial list: I do not snap my gum, hum overtures or make noxious nasal noises in public. When my windows are open, I keep my stereo down. It is not unreasonable for me to expect such consideration in return, or to be outraged when I don't get it.

No smoker who exercises good manners should be treated like a leper. However, people who light up around strangers, as someone recently did in front of me in the post office, deserve to be treated like the insensitive clods they truly are. -- IMPERFECT BUT POLITE, STATE COLLEGE, PA.

DEAR IMPERFECT: You are right -- it is simply a matter of "good manners," which calls to mind this time-honored quotation by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the witty English author of "Gulliver's Travels": "Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy, is the best bred in the company."