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by Abigail Van Buren

Uninvited Visitors Panic Widow Who Lives Alone

DEAR ABBY: I am a widow who lives alone. My problem concerns door-to-door solicitors. They seem to be at my door all the time. With all the scams and violent home invasions I read and hear about, I go into a panic when I open the door to find a stranger standing there.

When I hear my doorbell ring, I like to assume it's one of my neighbors or their kids -- so I open up. I don't want to be rude and not answer and help out my neighbors whose school-age children might be selling candy for fund-raisers or going door-to-door with Girl Scout cookies. I love supporting their causes when I am able. But how should I react when it's not someone I know?

Today there were some pretty shady-looking characters on my porch asking to come inside and steam-clean my carpets. Have you any advice on how I can politely but firmly get rid of solicitors so I can feel safe in my own home? Thanks, Abby. -- AFRAID TO FIND OUT WHAT'S BEHIND DOOR NO. 1

DEAR AFRAID: First of all, never open your door without first checking to see who is there. If this means having a peephole installed in your front door, it will be money well-spent. If the person standing there is a stranger, don't open the door.

Second, people who go around neighborhoods selling services that haven't been previously ordered, or merchandise that "just fell off a truck," are usually scam artists and should be avoided at all costs. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware)!

DEAR ABBY: "Concerned Mother" wrote that she wants to move because her neighbor, "the Wicked Witch of the West," likes her dogs better than "Concerned Mother's" children. ("She ignores the innocent greetings of our children, which hurts their feelings. ... I worry what a person so filled with anger may be capable of.")

May I politely suggest that not everyone wants other people's children bothering them? I realize that "Mother" believes her children are the salt of the earth and her world revolves around them. However, I'm a middle-aged, childless single woman who works hard all day juggling two difficult jobs. The last thing I want to deal with when I get home is someone else's children. In the last place I lived, my next-door neighbors sent their kids into the hallway at night to play cricket and couldn't understand why that bothered me!

Your suggestion that "Mother" instruct her children to leave the neighbor woman alone is a good one. However, advising her to add that there is something wrong with the woman ("explain that the neighbor is troubled and unhappy") fosters bad manners. It should make no difference to the kiddies why they are to leave that woman alone. It should be enough for them to understand that the neighbor doesn't wish to be bothered. The sooner they learn that not everyone thinks they "hung the moon," the happier they will be. -- KATE IN TORONTO

DEAR KATE: The parents of the cricket-playing kids in your hallway were responsible for the racket -- not the youngsters. The little ones were just doing as they were told. I'm printing your letter because it's true that not all adults relate well to children. (W.C. Fields was an example of that.) However, it's safe to say that most adults do. But sometimes even the kindest and happiest people don't like to be disturbed.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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