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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Still Connected in Boise," whose cell phone was stolen when she left it on the seat in her car. My husband and I had a similar experience last year.

We were having a dish antenna installed in our home in Mexico to improve both TV and Internet reception. This installation took two days -- from morning into evening. Because the team of three men worked so hard, we provided dinner for them and a place to nap for the young wife of the team supervisor.

The morning after the installation was complete, I was to take a long car trip, and being in a strange country, decided to take my cell phone for safety. Imagine my surprise when we realized that our cell phone was missing! Like "Boise," we tried calling the phone number, but by that time the phone had been reprogrammed, and our number was no longer in service. We telephoned the supervisor to explain the situation. We were assured that the thief couldn't possibly have been one of his trusted employees, even though the ability to reprogram the phone indicated otherwise.

Months later, when we returned to our home in Mexico, there was a message waiting for us from the supervisor. We called him, and he apologized profusely, explaining that one day shortly after the original incident (but after our departure from Mexico), he saw one of his employees using our cell phone. The phone was confiscated, and the man was promptly fired. After speaking with us, this sweet man drove all the way from his city to ours in a borrowed car to return the phone. It still amazes us that after all those months, he went to the trouble to make things right for a customer he would probably never see again. -- CAROLE S. IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR CAROLE: Thanks for an upper of a letter. The supervisor for your installation job was a man of sterling character. There are no time limits for fulfilling one's responsibilities. His employer is fortunate to have such a terrific representative. Although he may never see you again, I'm willing to bet that if anyone mentions having electronic equipment installed in your presence, you'll give the supervisor's company a heartfelt endorsement.

P.S. I hope you'll clip this column and send it with a letter of thanks to that man's boss. It belongs in his employment file.

DEAR ABBY: Here is a tip for people who send holiday or special-occasion cards or letters. PLEASE DATE THEM! Many of us keep these greetings as mementos and delight in reviewing them at a later date. It's nice to know when the greeting was sent, and postmarks are not always legible. Dating all correspondence is helpful to the recipients, and numbering pages is also a good idea. -- DATED IN WICHITA, KAN.

DEAR DATED: Smart thinking! And remember to include your last name, just in case Aunt Betty knows seven Mary Janes. A telephone number and return address would also be helpful, especially if you have moved and haven't shared that information with all your relatives and friends.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Ninety-four percent of homes now have smoke alarms, but one in five of them will not sound in case of fire because the batteries are worn or missing. Daylight-saving time ends early tomorrow morning, and it will be time to reset your clocks. Pick up new batteries for your smoke alarms today -- and insert them when you set your clocks back tomorrow. Make it an annual ritual to perform these changes together. It could not only save your life, it will also get you to work on time on Monday!

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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