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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Longs to Have Empty Nest All to Herself Again

DEAR ABBY: I had a bad cold a few weeks ago, and while waiting in my doctor's office, I occupied myself by reading one of the many magazines he keeps there for patients. It occurred to me later that the magazine I had been holding had also been handled by countless other sick patients during the weeks it had laid there.

Couldn't those magazines be carriers of innumerable germs that could infect visiting patients? Is it possible that providing reading material in hospitals or doctors' waiting rooms could actually be an unhealthy practice? -- GERM THEORIST IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR GERM THEORIST: Yes, I think so. And the door handles, elevator buttons, chart clipboard and pens could also be loaded with germs. That's why it's a good idea to always carry disinfectant gel or wipes with you.

P.S. If a valet takes your car or the keys -- or hands you change ... oh, Lord, I'm beginning to sound like Howard Hughes.