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by Abigail Van Buren

Savvy Mechanic Wins Loyalty From His Female Customers

DEAR ABBY: I have been a widow for 10 years. I've always kept my car in good repair. While I wait for my car to be serviced, I usually sit in the shop's waiting room. Magazines are provided for waiting customers, but all the magazines are about fishing, hunting, mechanics, racing, etc. In other words, the magazines are meant for male customers. Women who bring in their cars are totally ignored.

I have news for these auto shops: I have spent several hundred dollars with them, and I am only one of thousands of women who take responsibility for auto maintenance.

Recently, however, I had a pleasant surprise when I took my car in for service. The new manager greeted me politely and invited me to have a cup of coffee. When I sat down with my coffee, I was surprised again -- displayed on the table were a number of magazines women love to read.

Abby, that manager recognizes that women matter, and you can bet I'll patronize his shop again because they obviously appreciate the business of women. -- PLEASANTLY SURPRISED IN KNOXVILLE

DEAR PLEASANTLY SURPRISED: The new manager is obviously a smart businessman. Women of the world, clip this letter and present it to your mechanic. If he (or she) is as enterprising and service-oriented as the manager of the business where the reader took her car, you'll soon be taken seriously in auto shops.

DEAR ABBY: I am currently seeing a counselor for depression and anxiety. On top of that, I am in constant pain from arthritis and a condition called fibromyalgia.

My counselor and physician advised that walking would improve both my depression and muscle tone. However, until I made a call to the local humane society, I had no motivation to make myself do it. Now I volunteer to walk dogs almost every day. The results have been great -- both for me and the dogs. I get my exercise and several dogs get the individual attention, petting and loving they need, as well as a chance to get out of the kennels. My depression is lifting, too.

Abby, there must be other animal lovers who cannot have a pet in their homes for one reason or another. Walking dogs is a great way to have contact with animals we love.

Words cannot describe the intense satisfaction I feel when these animals say "thank you" with their eyes and wagging tails. All it takes is a stop by the local humane society to volunteer. Sign me ... INCURABLE ANIMAL LOVER IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR INCURABLE: Orchids to you. It has long been known that people who interact with pets are much happier and healthier. I can't think of a better way for people to help themselves -- and needy animals.

Readers, this two-way street is a route to better health and happiness for yourselves -- and a welcome respite for furry creatures who are incarcerated through no fault of their own.

DEAR ABBY: I quit smoking 11 years ago, and put my cigarette money into a savings bond for my 1-year-old grandson. A year later when another baby was added to our family, I put a similar amount into a savings bond for him. I repeated this for No. 3.

As of July this year, there is a total of $10,000 in the savings pot for my grandchildren, and the added bonus of a healthier body for me.

It's wonderful what cigarette money can do rather than go up in smoke. -- MARILYN J. OSTRONIC, COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA

DEAR MARILYN: What a terrific idea. It's a pleasure to know that something so positive can come from cigarette money.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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