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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am writing to apologize to the man I cut off in merging traffic on the interstate the other day.

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cut you off. I saw your mouth moving 100 miles a minute and the anger contorting your face. I got back in the other lane as quickly as I could, and I want you to know I was scared to death when you pulled up beside me and started honking the horn. We were approaching a slow-moving semi, and I was terrified you might run me off the road.

You honked for quite a while. I didn't look over because I knew it wouldn't do any good. I knew I had cut you off, and I'm sorry for that, but your forcing me into a dangerous path on the interstate was not safe for either of us. I was afraid if I turned to look at you, you would pull a gun on me or run me into the ditch. I wanted to focus on driving, but instead, I had to concentrate on a car locking me into a lane, honking at me, swearing at me. I was afraid you would damage my car or maybe follow me home.

Both of our actions were dangerous to other people, but there is a difference between them. I cut you off by accident; your reaction was reckless and intentional. The next time you are in a similar situation, I hope you'll extend a little mercy. It would be beneficial not only to the person in my position, but to the rest of the people trying to travel safely on the road. -- GIRL IN THE BLUE CAR

DEAR GIRL: Your letter carries an important message. Incidents of road rage are all too common, and the guilty parties are both male and female. Rudeness on the roadway, overreaction to the careless driving habits of others, immaturity and sheer recklessness are invitations to tragedy. I sometimes think it wouldn't hurt if reciting the Golden Rule were mandatory before being allowed to pass the driving test. That way people would be driving "under the influence" of something positive.

DEAR ABBY: This may top the letter about the couple who invited friends to their anniversary party and used the cash the guests put on their money tree to finance their divorce.

I was recently invited to a bridal shower. The mother wrote on all the invitations, "I have purchased ALL the gifts my daughter would like. So please come to my house to purchase the gifts from me."

How is that for nerve? All of the gifts were expensive. Most of the invitees felt obligated to buy them and did so with great resentment.

The daughter is a spoiled, pretentious brat -- but mother and daughter got what they wanted. I dare anyone to top this one. -- TICKED OFF IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR TICKED OFF: Feeling as you do about the bride and her mother, why did you attend the shower? Are these people you plan on having anything to do with in the future? I'm surprised you allowed yourself to be used that way when you could have "round-filed" the invitation.

P.S. Be careful when you toss down the gauntlet and ask if anyone can top a social gaffe. Someone is usually able to do it.

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