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by Abigail Van Buren

Receptionist's Questions Go Beyond Need to Know

DEAR ABBY: My sister and I were talking about something yesterday that disturbed her, and me as well. When she called her doctor's office to make an appointment, the receptionist grilled her about the reason she needed it. Sis didn't want to discuss her problem with anyone but her doctor, and considered the receptionist unprofessional and nosy.

Abby, this has happened to me, too. I realize the receptionist has probably been told to ask in order to schedule the proper amount of time for the appointment, but when she refuses to give me an appointment without knowing more than I feel comfortable telling her, that's an invasion of privacy.

I suspect most doctors' receptionists perform this interrogation, but I'm very unhappy about it, and would appreciate your advice on how to sidestep the questions and still get an appointment. -- PRIVACY PREFERRED IN SOUTH DAKOTA

DEAR PRIVACY: Talk to your doctor about your feelings the next time you see him (or her). While I agree that the reason you are being questioned is probably to permit scheduling adequate time for your visit, it's possible that the receptionist needs to practice more diplomacy.

DEAR ABBY: I disagree with your answer to "Alan in Montesano, Wash.," regarding splitting the bill for the cabin to be shared by two couples and a single man. You said he should pay one-third of the costs.

Abby, this has happened to me many times on camping trips. The couples I go with usually think they should be counted as one unit, but I disagree. When you go to a movie, a ball game, or anywhere with an admission fee, the charge is per person, not per couple.

Couples eat twice as much as one person. They use up twice as much space and take twice as many showers as a single, so it stands to reason that they should pay twice as much as the single.

Using this logic, the bill should be divided by the number of individuals, not by marital status. Thus, if there are two couples and one single person staying in the one condo or cabin, costs should be split five ways. -- PAUL DUNN, ABINGTON, MASS.

DEAR PAUL: I give up -- I'm outnumbered. Most of my readers calculate the way you do. Read on for a sample of the barrage of arrows sent my way:

DEAR ABBY: Your answer to whether a couple should be counted as one or two was very unfair. Correct me if I'm wrong, but two people equal two individuals.

I am sick and tired of people getting special benefits just because they are married. As a single, I pay higher taxes and higher insurance rates. I also pay higher rates when I travel because discounts are based on double occupancy. I cannot even use the express lane on the freeway because I am only one person.

Don't get me wrong -- I do not resent my single status. I'm just tired of being penalized for it. -- AGREE WITH ALAN IN WASHINGTON

DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the column in which you asked your readers to define "elderly." I am 13 years old, and to me, elderly means someone who is kind, patient, not in a hurry, and someone who will really listen. When you hear the word "elderly" in the news, I think it gives the story a little more meaning than it would if they didn't use that term. I've met quite a few people who are past middle age, and most of them are very charming and quite good listeners. -- KARL STRUBE JR., GARDEN GROVE, CALIF.

DEAR KARL: You sound like a young man who should be cloned. I'll bet that people of all ages really listen when you speak.

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.)

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