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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This problem may sound inconsequential, but it sure is annoying. In fact, I am steaming. I want a second tea bag!

Whenever we eat out, my wife orders coffee and I order tea. Usually the coffee and tea cost the same, so why is it that the servers come around with big pots of fresh coffee, endlessly refilling my wife's cup for free, yet when I ask for a refill, I only get more hot water? When I ask for a new tea bag, I'm almost always told, "I'll have to charge you for a new cup." Abby, if you've ever had to reuse a tea bag, you know that it makes a weak, disgusting cup of tea.

A box of 100 tea bags is, at most, $4.50 in a supermarket; presumably, restaurants buy in bulk and pay less. That means a cup of tea costs them less than 5 cents (there's no point in including the cost of water and heating, since that's also done for free coffee refills).

Considering that restaurants charge anywhere from 85 cents to $1.10 for a cup of tea, I would hope that they could shell out four whole pennies for another tea bag for their customers -- customers who certainly order more than just tea, and leave a tip besides.

Abby, since your column is read daily in restaurants and diners across America and Canada, perhaps you can help me and thousands of other tea drinkers by printing this:

RESTAURATEURS: If you're going to be generous enough to offer a second cup of coffee free (and a third and a fourth), kindly treat your hot-tea drinkers with the same generosity. -- TEA-ED OFF IN NEW YORK

DEAR TEA-ED OFF: What kind of establishments are you patronizing? I checked with two national chains -- Denny's and Howard Johnson's -- and was told that they will give a free second tea bag upon request. If a server gave an answer like the one you received, I'd ask to talk to the manager. And if the manager didn't overrule the server, I'd make it plain -- in the friendliest and most polite vernacular -- why that restaurant wouldn't be getting any more of my business. Refusing to give a patron a second tea bag is a foolish economy, considering the cost of poor public relations.

DEAR ABBY: I have read with interest the letters in your column about providing condoms to youth in high schools to protect them from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. I am reminded of something that happened during World War II.

A company of young U.S. infantry soldiers was preparing to invade a Pacific island. Our company was assembled on the upper deck of our ship, and we were told we would have to wade ashore under enemy fire. All of our personal belongings except our battle gear were put in duffel bags for storage. Our sergeant then gave each man a cellophane-wrapped package. Much to our surprise, each package contained four condoms! You can imagine the comments that were made about what kind of invasion this was to be!

However, our speculations were short-lived because we were told to roll our socks and put one in each condom and tie the end so that water could not get in. Of course, we immediately understood the importance of this command. Since the infantry travels on its feet, it was mandatory that we put dry socks on at the first opportunity after getting ashore.

No doubt some high-ranking "dog-face" in the Pentagon thought of this detail, and we owe him a debt of gratitude. -- JIM ISBELL, FORT WORTH, TEXAS

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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