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by Abigail Van Buren

Street Used as Parking Lot Drives Neighbor to Distraction

DEAR ABBY: At the post office today, I noticed a little girl who appeared to be about 3 years old. She was running around with a ballpoint pen sticking out of her mouth. I'm old enough to know that if you take chances, the worst can happen, so I approached the child's mother.

"It's none of my business," I said, "but something tragic could happen if your daughter tripped and fell with that pen in her mouth."

The mother said, "I know, but I also know my daughter and I'm willing to take that chance." She might as well have said, "Mind your own business."

A short time later, I was in the grocery store. A young woman left her purse (which wasn't zipped) in her shopping cart and walked away for a moment. I wanted to tell her that it was a very risky thing to do, but because of the earlier incident I said nothing. Was I wrong? -- OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER

DEAR OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER: Many people appreciate a polite reminder when they are displaying a lapse in common sense. The attitude of the mother in the post office was inexcusable. But I'm sure the woman in the grocery store would have preferred that you mentioned her unguarded handbag rather than see someone running off with it. As long as you're polite and not meddlesome, I see no harm in speaking up.