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by Abigail Van Buren

Potluck Party Produces a Confusion Causing Pot

DEAR ABBY: I had a potluck party at my house seven weeks ago. A friend who was a guest at the party left her Crock-Pot at my house.

I have been waiting for her to call me to arrange a time for her to pick it up. She hasn't called. After the new year, she remarked, "So how long are you going to hold my Crock-Pot hostage?" I was too aghast to respond to her. Abby, how can I get her to pick up her Crock-Pot at my house? She lives 30 miles away. Is it my responsibility to drive 30 miles to return it? Or should she pick it up? -- CROCK-POT CONFUSED IN WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR CONFUSED: Why stand on ceremony? Make a lunch or dinner date with your friend and meet her halfway. She did you a favor by bringing food to your party, so pick up the phone and arrange to return her Crock-Pot. It would be a gracious gesture.

DEAR ABBY: May I comment on the letter from the woman who purchased an answering machine to monitor calls while her husband was terminally ill? It lifted the burden of responding immediately to callers, and the messages people left were a source of comfort and support to her husband.

Several years ago, my husband was in the hospital. In order to keep friends and family updated on his condition, I put a message on my answering machine. That way, they did not wonder how he was, and it saved me many repetitive phone calls. Everyone appreciated the message, which I updated frequently, and they did not hesitate to call because they knew they were not bothering me. -- MARIA BREMER, MC HENRY, ILL.

DEAR MARIA: Putting a message on the "greeting" tape of the answering machine makes great sense. Not only did it provide reassurance to worried friends and relatives concerned about the condition of a family member, it could also keep families informed during disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc.

DEAR ABBY: In response to the letter from Carol Rushing in Omaha, concerning a fatal accident that involved a driver using a cell phone: I am a senior driver and senior accident investigator for SuperShuttle Phoenix, registered with the National Safety Council. When I teach drivers the DDC (Defensive Driving Course), I tell them they must not use a cell phone while driving, and to be doubly alert when approaching a driver who is using one. I tell them to treat those drivers almost the same way they would an intoxicated driver, because the person is not driving with 100 percent concentration. Many traffic problems are caused by cell phone users who swerve across lanes and cause near-collisions.

In some countries, drivers are ticketed if they do not pull over and park before using a cell phone -- and I hope this restriction will be adopted in the United States to establish better safety for everyone on our streets and highways. -- MELVYN RATTNER, SENIOR ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, PHOENIX

DEAR MELVYN: Your opinion as a safety professional is greatly appreciated. The majority of mail I received on this subject came from angry cell phone users who were outraged that I suggested the use of cell phones in automobiles should be regulated. Obviously, they are not aware of the degree to which distracted drivers jeopardize other motorists.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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