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by Abigail Van Buren

Good-Neighbor Policy Is Leaving Each Other Alone

DEAR ABBY: Your recent reprint of a letter about the importance of being a good neighbor compelled me to write to you for the first time in 30 years.

Being too friendly with the neighbors can be risky business. What if it turns out that you don't really want to be friends with these people after you get to know them better? Then what do you do -- move?

Abby, neighbors should respect one another's privacy.

I have had neighbors who seemed to think that because I was always nice to them, they could preach their religion to me, tell me how to vote, dress and raise my kids. Sometimes I wish I'd never said more than a casual hello.

My idea of a good neighbor is one who is cordial, minds his own business and is willing to help in an emergency.

If a friendship develops over the years, fine. If not, you've still got a good neighbor. -- MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS

DEAR MINDING: There's an old saying, "Too thick doesn't stick." Before you and your neighbors became neighbors, you were strangers. After getting to know one another, you -- and they, too -- can decide how much you want to see of one another.

DEAR ABBY: A letter you published recently reminded everyone not to store a fire extinguisher above the stove. In the event of a fire, you might not be able to reach the fire extinguisher. Having experienced a car fire at our home a few weeks ago, we learned a few more fire-safety tips the hard way.

Place a smoke detector in your garage. Car fires can start after the engine has been turned off, and since most of us keep flammables like paint and paint remover in the garage, a smoke detector located near these items can save lives and property.

Small fire extinguishers that can be easily lifted and used are great, but you probably need several located throughout your home. Don't store them in the most likely place for fires to break out, i.e. above the stove, in the water-heater closet or near the furnace.

In our case, we were able to reach our extinguisher and nearly had the car fire under control when our lone extinguisher ran out. If we'd had even one more, the fire could have easily been controlled before the fire department arrived. -- DEBI MEANS, PLANO, TEXAS

DEAR DEBI MEANS: Good advice. Readers -- are you listening? (I hope so.)

DEAR ABBY: Re computer voicemail systems: The best defense is a good offense. Here's what I'm tempted to record on my machine:

"If you have a Touch-Tone phone, press one; if not, I am sorry, I will not be able to communicate with you at this time. For my name and address, press two; occupation and marital status, press three. To learn my husband's name and occupation, please press four. Press five if you'd like to talk to me, and press six if you'd like to talk to my husband. Frustrated and forgot why you called? Press seven. To have this message repeated, press eight. For a busy signal, hang up, try again, and have a real nice day. -- VIEW OF IRATE CONSUMER EXPRESSED, MINDLESS ANSWERING IS LOATHSOME

DEAR V.O.I.C.E.M.A.I.L.: I am sorry, the advice columnist you dialed is either disconnected or not in service at this time. Please check the number you dialed, and call again ... and again ... and again.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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