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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Have you noticed how often people fail to get out of the way of electric carts used to transport people who can't walk long distances at airports? It isn't pure cussedness. It's because the "warning beep" used by these carts is near a sound frequency that cannot be easily processed by the human ear. (See: "How We Localize Sound" by W.M. Hartmann in the November 1999 issue of Physics Today.) Thus, airline commuters cannot tell where the sound is coming from, which is hazardous to both walkers and riders.

This is actually a common engineering blunder. The "beep" to announce an incoming fax on a computer modem and the beep of a modern range timer are both typically at a pitch just above the hearing range of a host of older people. The back-up beeper on trucks and heavy equipment is also in the same frequency range. (The higher sound frequencies are usually the first to go.)

We all know that engineers are set in their ways, but perhaps a wake-up call from you will jolt them out of their ruts. -- JACK SALISBURY, PALM COAST, FLA.

DEAR JACK: Yes, I have observed pedestrians failing to get out of the way of carts at airports -- but I had assumed it was because they were electric vehicles and didn't make much noise. Of course, the drivers of those vehicles usually wind up warning pedestrians to "step aside!"

However, assuming that engineers responsible for designing modern equipment are younger people in full possession of all their faculties, your letter should serve as a reminder that our population is aging, a condition frequently accompanied by some degree of hearing loss.

DEAR ABBY: Regarding the letter from John Gabel about funerals and death -- I find it interesting as a funeral director that there seems to be a "funeral police" who dictate what everybody should want for final services for their loved ones. There are no "wedding police" telling people that they need not have elaborate weddings or that just a simple dress will do.

Those who seek to change ceremony and tradition have the opportunity to change their own ceremony and tradition, because that is what is right for them.

Many people think if they don't have a funeral or memorial service, they are not expressing or feeling the grief that comes from losing a loved one. To use your words ... how absurd.

As in any industry, there are those who seek for themselves by any means to make a huge profit. However, thousands of funeral directors and funeral homes are caring and helpful to those who have lost a loved one. They do not "stalk" people for their money, and they do not "guilt" people into spending money they don't have. They seek to make an honest living and to be able to sleep at night knowing they have done the right thing.

There is no other profession so maligned as those who work to comfort those who have lost a loved one. -- PROUD OF MY PROFESSION, EUGENE, ORE.

DEAR PROUD: After printing that letter I received a stack of mail from members of the funeral industry reminding me that many funeral homes take pride in serving their communities and do not gouge. Their staff are on duty day and night to meet the needs of grieving families and rightfully take pride in what they do. I also received a few letters from people wanting to air grievances because they felt they had been taken advantage of.

The answer lies in being informed consumers, facing the fact of our mortality, and perhaps taking care of the details before the need arises. An important part of that process is being open with one's family about what one's wishes are, and what arrangements have or have not been made.

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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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