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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Will you please ask your readers never to interrupt a police officer in the middle of a traffic stop unless it is a dire emergency? (Directions to the nearest restaurant don't count!)

Abby, we police officers never know who we are pulling over during a routine stop. It could be a murderer, an escaped felon or a minister. More law enforcement personnel are injured or killed during routine traffic stops than almost any other type of police activity. (It's twice as dangerous at night.)

Please don't pull up right next to me as I'm approaching the car I just stopped and ask me for directions! We could both be in danger and I might not be able to guarantee your safety.

We also make stops where the element of danger is known beforehand -- such as an armed robber fleeing the scene. This is usually a planned stop where suspects are taken out of a car at gunpoint. If you should see one or more police officers with their guns drawn and pointed at someone, don't walk up and ask, "What's going on?" We are not filming "T.J. Hooker."

If a police officer is all red in the face and yelling at you and waving an arm in a sideways motion while holding a gun in the other, don't wave back. It isn't a greeting. MOVE! You are in the line of fire!

Thanks, Abby, for letting me get this off my chest. -- CALIFORNIA COP, LOMPOC, CALIF.

DEAR READERS: He's right. When officers are on duty, they are not playing cops and robbers; it's the real thing. So, please, don't interrupt an officer who is obviously busy doing his job.

DEAR ABBY: Well, it happened again tonight! Don't people realize that in this day and age, it is not safe to assume anything?

I am a 21-year-old man -- stable and successful -- and I am presently seeing a woman who is 19 years my senior. For some reason (probably because I look younger than I am), people tend to assume that we are mother and son.

Abby, you would not believe the pain and frustration it causes my girlfriend when people tell her what a handsome "son" she has! She doesn't look anywhere near old enough to be my mother.

Tonight when we came out of a restaurant and the valet retrieved my car, the young fellow who brought us our car said, "Gee, if my mom had a car like this, she'd never let me drive it!"

Please let your readers know that assumptions can be rude. I doubt there would be a problem if I was 40 and she was 19 or 20. -- HATES ASSUMPTIONS

DEAR HATES: Unfortunately, some assumptions -- when verbalized -- can be cruel as well as rude. However, when a 40-year-old man is in the company of a 19- or 20-year-old woman, the assumption is more likely to be that they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Today, when people are living longer and taking better care of themselves (physically, nutritionally and sometimes with a little help from a plastic surgeon), age is merely a number.

But on the chance that it could be embarrassing, it's wise to make no assumptions concerning the relationship between a male and female.

People are eating them up! For Abby's favorite recipes, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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