Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have never written to you before, but I have had an experience that has annoyed me greatly. My son recently got married. It was a lovely wedding at an exclusive club. There was a sumptuous meal and unlimited beverages of every kind. No expense was spared.

One of the wedding gifts was a box containing two towels and a toothbrush holder. Included with it was a card signed by 12 of my daughter-in-law's co-workers.

Abby, I know the thought is what's supposed to count and not the gift, but it cost over $500 to entertain those 12 people. Considering they all earn more money than my daughter-in-law and son, I think a gift that cost $35 (collectively) was miserly. We are all upset because we don't know if the gift was given in a mean-spirited manner or because they are "etiquette-challenged."

Should we approach them on the subject or forget it? We are split on the decision. Sign me ... CANNOT BELIEVE IT IN FLORIDA

DEAR CANNOT BELIEVE IT: Do not approach them about the cost of the gift. It would be worse manners to call them on it. Wedding gifts are not the "price of admission" to a party. People should give what they can afford.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to "Came Up Clean in Los Angeles," who heard from an old pen pal who was a police dispatcher who ran her name through a police computer and sent her the printout of her driver's license personal information.

In California, where the pen pal worked, police dispatchers routinely access information from the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) as part of their everyday job.

We ARE authorized users of this system. However, the use of any CLETS information for other than official business may be in violation of the California Penal Code. Additionally, the use of CLETS for other than official law enforcement purposes may result in the employing agency seeking dismissal and/or prosecution of the employee. I have no doubt that other states have similar laws.

I, too, am a police dispatcher and am proud of what I do. I was surprised that a fellow dispatcher would obtain such personal information and then send the information to that person, regardless of their relationship. We use this criteria in the workplace: the need to know and the right to know. If you have neither, you have no business running the person or vehicle.

Perhaps the agency for which the pen pal works needs to re-educate its employees on the consequences of such actions. -- LAURA ABSHER-PERRY, POLICE AND FIRE DISPATCHER

DEAR LAURA: With so much confidential information being stored in data banks, and a growing number of individuals able to access it, periodic reminders about the importance of confidentiality (and the penalties for breaching it) may curb potential abuses. Thank you for your intelligent suggestion.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "NO FRIENDS IN NEW JERSEY": There are two kinds of people in the world: those who walk into a room and say, "Here I am!" and those who walk into a room and say, "There you are!"

Which kind are you?

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600