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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter you printed about the widow who was coming on to a married man at church reminded me of something that happened to me. In my case, the minister had to step in and resolve the matter.

Two old gals, each 80 and widowed, wanted to sit with me in church. I'll call them "Mary" and "Alice."

I'm 71 and a widower. I've never been good-looking, nor made much money. I do have my health, however. I love golf, quail hunting and my church, but have no interest in women and romance.

Several months ago I was in church when Mary sat down beside me. I had seen Mary with her daughter, but didn't know her. Every Sunday after that, Mary joined me. I hinted to her daughter to come and get Mary, but somehow she kept slipping away from her daughter.

About a month later, I was joined by Alice, who'd take the spot on my other side. Now I had TWO women with me, both of whom I was trying hard to shed. Alice would sit down with her daughter, make an excuse like going to the rest room, then hasten to my pew.

Then came an incident that still has the congregation laughing. Mary and I were sitting there and the service was about to begin, when along came Alice. Instead of Alice sitting on my right side, she tried to wedge in on my left, between Mary and me.

Curious to see what would happen, I didn't budge an inch. Neither did Mary. So Alice began wiggling her derriere, trying to force a spot between Mary and me. By now, the congregation was giggling, even laughing aloud.

Suddenly, Alice lost her balance and fell right into my lap. The crowd guffawed. Alice's daughter appeared, helped her mother to her feet and led her away. A moment later, Mary's daughter was there leading away her mom. Mary was protesting, "He's MY man. I saw him first!"

I haven't been bothered by either woman since. I'm told the minister met with both families and the daughters agreed to exercise more control of their mothers. I'm enjoying church a lot more these days. -- 71 IN ST. LOUIS

DEAR 71: How fortunate that Alice's fall from grace occurred in church, where the minister could intercede on your behalf.

Many years ago I was told that the most dangerous place a tourist could be while on safari was between a hippopotamus and water. Your experience illustrates that it can be equally dangerous to get between an amorous woman and the object of her affections.

DEAR ABBY: The company I work for is located on an island, and we must commute by ferry. We can either walk on, take a bus, hitch a ride or drive our cars aboard, but the latter is quite expensive.

My problem: One of my co-workers constantly asks for a ride. She walks onto the ferry and wants to ride with me from the dock to work. She never brings her car, so she can't reciprocate by offering rides to those of us who accommodate her.

Abby, this woman talks nonstop, and I don't always feel sociable. I cherish my private time while I am commuting.

Is there a way I can tell this co-worker she's not welcome to ride with me without offending her? -- IRRITATED ON THE FERRY

DEAR IRRITATED: Probably not. People who are insensitive enough to continually mooch a ride usually become very sensitive when the intrusion is called to their attention. However, honesty with diplomacy is the best way to go. Explain to your co-worker that your commute to work is your "think tank time," and you concentrate more effectively when you are alone with no distractions. Then ask her to please understand and to forgive you for not sharing your car.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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