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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: As a treat to myself, every two weeks for the past several years I have gone to "Natasha," a professional massage therapist. Like my hairdresser, Natasha has become not so much a business acquaintance as a friend. That's why I need your advice.

Natasha constantly talks and tries to engage me in conversation during my massage. I don't want to be rude, but I would get more out of the massage if she talked less and allowed me to relax in peace and quiet. How can I tell her without hurting her feelings?

The massage costs me $90 a session. The way things are now, I don't feel I'm getting my money's worth. -- TIED IN KNOTS IN TEXAS

DEAR TIED IN KNOTS: Stiffen your spine and level with your masseuse. As a paying customer, you have a right to relax and not be distracted during the session. As a professional, she should understand.

However, since you and Natasha are friends, make it clear that you and she can enjoy a lunch or dinner together for social conversation between appointments.

DEAR ABBY: The letter from the very pregnant lady who couldn't get a seat on the subway brought back one of my fondest memories.

Back in the '50s when I was expecting my first child, I would wait each morning at a downtown Dallas street corner for a streetcar. It was a busy transfer point, and although my pregnancy was obvious, I could never manage to get a seat -- so I'd have to stand up most of the way.

One morning a man made a mad dash for the streetcar. When it stopped, he stood in the doorway and threw his arms across the entrance, announcing to everyone, "No one gets on until this lady gets a seat!" As you might guess, I didn't have any trouble getting one.

I had never noticed the man before, and I never saw him after that day, but that one encounter with this special person has kept me smiling for decades. I think of him as my guardian angel. -- VIRGINIA IN DALLAS

DEAR VIRGINIA: He was either your guardian angel or a blocker for a football team. Anyone who would refuse to yield a seat to a pregnant lady should be forced to walk a mile in her support hose.

DEAR ABBY: I read with interest the letter from the 90-year-old Missouri recycler about what she did with her old pantyhose.

A few years ago, while driving through a remote area of Arizona in an RV with my sister and her husband, one of the belts on their engine broke. We were stranded.

Fortunately for us, a truck stopped, and the driver offered to help. When we explained our dilemma, he asked, "Do either of you ladies have a pair of pantyhose?" My sister produced a pair. He promptly cut off the legs and twisted them into a rope-like band that he placed around the engine pulleys. We started the engine and drove 50 miles per hour behind our kind rescuer to the next town -- 16 miles away -- where we were able to purchase a real belt.

This goes to prove that old pantyhose have an afterlife. -- BOB STAUFFER, GIG HARBOR, WASH.

DEAR BOB: I have heard of using old pantyhose strips to tie vines to trellises, but yours is the most unusual and inventive use for pantyhose I have ever encountered. How ingenious!

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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