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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I work in a small office. My colleagues and I occasionally go out together for an informal lunch. We always evenly divide the bill. Invariably, one of my colleagues waits until everyone has contributed his cash portion before collecting the cash and paying the entire bill with his personal credit card.

On the last two occasions, I stated my displeasure with this practice. Most recently, he grew very angry when I criticized him. My contention is that he lacks the courtesy of asking if anyone objects if he uses his personal credit card. Essentially, others could save a trip to the ATM and accrue frequent-flier miles by using their credit card.

My colleague claims that he carries very little cash and sees nothing wrong in his actions. Everyone's goal is to preserve office harmony. If I am in error by objecting to my colleague's practice, I owe him an apology. Perhaps you can advise. -- CURIOUS ABOUT CIVILITY, OAKLAND, CALIF.

DEAR CURIOUS: I see nothing wrong in your co-worker putting the lunch tab on his credit card and pocketing the cash. If, however, you are jealous of the airline credits he is accruing, arrange to alternate with him, putting the lunch bill on your card in the future.

DEAR ABBY: Your Father's Day tribute, "Father Talked to Me," struck a deep chord. The need to speak out welled up within me and I found myself rewriting as I read. This poem was not a struggle to compose; the words flowed like water. They have been locked in my heart since childhood. I hope you will print it so others like me will know they are not alone. -- NATIVE OF NEW ORLEANS


My father never seemed to care,

And when I shined was never there.

He criticized from A to Z, but never complimented me.

Accusing, belittling, constantly.

We were never friends; we were always at war.

He showed me no love, nor what fathers are for.

My childhood, akin to something like hell,

The cursing and taunting I remember quite well.

I was beaten with whatever he had in his hand --

A broomstick, a board, or an old frying pan.

Under his workbench I'd hide and I'd cry

While praying to God to please let him die.

Each day I lived in fear, really perplexed,

I never knew what would set him off next.

I could tell no one -- I had no recourse,

For he threatened I'd be the cause for divorce.

My lifetime's achievements were accomplished alone

Because for some kids, there's no place like home.

P.S. An ironic footnote: When his time came, my father died in my arms.

DEAR NATIVE: Your poem touched me deeply. I'm sure it will be meaningful for others who cannot give voice to the pain of their daily lives. Perhaps simply knowing that they are not alone will provide some comfort. Bless you, and them.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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