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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: From time to time you ask your readers to air their gripes. I have a few suggestions for restaurant personnel.

Please don't ask if we are senior citizens. Some of us may be -- but we don't want to announce it. Senior citizens who want to take advantage of the discounts will ask for them.

And please do not ask if the young person with them is their grandchild. Especially with people having children later these days, it is very often one's child.

Personally I don't like being called "young lady" when I'm obviously not young. Same goes for "young man." It's just as insulting as "old man" or "old lady," as it calls attention to age.

One last suggestion: When you pick up the customer's cash to pay for the meal, don't ask if he or she wants change. Of course they do: If they want you to keep the change, they will tell you. -- ELLIE IN MINNEAPOLIS

DEAR ELLIE: You have made some valuable suggestions. We all know a few people who could benefit from them.

DEAR ABBY: Since this seems to be a time when smokers are finding it increasingly difficult to find a place where they are allowed to smoke, it may be a good time for them to quit.

My husband made that big decision. However, he feels that if you give something up, you should have some reward to show for it. Without saying a word to anyone, he began putting the cost of each day's cigarettes into a bucket.

One lazy weekend, he surprised us by bringing his bucket of money to us to count. Believe it or not, we had enough for a well-funded family vacation. -- NAN IN WYANDOTTE, MICH.

DEAR NAN: I believe it. If all who smoke would count the cost of their habit for a year, they might find that they too could afford a vacation, or something equally rewarding. This, of course, would be in addition to better health.

Readers, take the challenge and see what your cigarettes are costing you each year. Do you really want that much money to go up in smoke?

DEAR ABBY: I recently submitted a letter to USA Weekend in response to a poll on home-schooling. The editor printed only the last sentence of my letter. It read, "No person learns social skills by staying at home."

Abby, home-schooling was not a good experience for me. I had an isolated, abusive and lonely childhood. A local woman, on reading the sentence the editor published, went into a tizzy. "Home-schooled children are not isolated," she declared to our local newspaper. She insisted that her children were not isolated, and to hear her tell it, they were little wonders due to being educated at home.

Had the editor published my entire letter, she would have realized that I was speaking only about myself. However, she gave me food for thought. It dawned on me that when we hear praise for home-schooling, it always comes from the parents.

Abby, how about giving the children a chance to express their feelings about home-schooling? -- OPAL IN OREGON

DEAR OPAL: You asked for it, you got it. Students of home-schooling, may I hear from you?

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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