Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My new boyfriend, "Paul," and I seem to discover good qualities in each other every time we get together. I think he's wonderful. Recently, though, he said he has noticed something about me that he considers rude.

At the mall, I have always been irritated by kiosk salespeople who practically block your way to sample their product. I ignore these pushy merchants because they usually won't take no for an answer, even if I attempt to say, "No, thank you."

Paul thinks I'm being impolite, so he's the one who ends up being detained, trying to be kind, while I wait for him to finish apologizing for not wanting their product.

I don't feel my way of handling this is rude. I have told Paul he doesn't have to please everyone, act interested or waste his time at the kiosk. Who do you think is right? -- NOT RUDE IN HOUSTON

DEAR NOT RUDE: I agree with your boyfriend that to ignore someone is rude. However, rather than ignore these salespeople, a firm "Not interested" should be sufficient. And if the person persists, keep walking.

DEAR ABBY: It takes a lot for me to write, but I felt your response to "Quarters From Heaven" (Dec. 20) was unfeeling. I would imagine the smoke odor from her now-dead friend was fleeting. She didn't need a new room. The quarters, too, were a special reminder. After my father died, I kept finding pennies and nickels for several months.

My late husband, Jim, used the smell of coffee to let us know his spirit was close. I have been awakened twice at 2 or 3 a.m., and the third time it was 6 a.m. I was visiting friends at a lake house he loved and awoke to the strong smell of coffee. I went downstairs and said, "I had to get up. I could smell the coffee." My hostess replied, "I haven't started it yet." I said, "Oh, that Jim -- he's doing it to me again."

My son has a shed in the backyard that Jim helped build. He and his 8-year-old son were going out there and the boy said, "I smell coffee." My son said, "I do, too." They went back inside to tell his wife, and she said, "Don't you know your dad always had a cup of coffee he bought on the way here when he came to work on the shed?" When they went back out, the smell was gone.

There has also been a distinct scent of lavender a few times in our bedroom -- and this morning I smelled oatmeal for a few minutes. He liked to cook it, and I never do. Jim has been gone almost three years, and these reminders are on an occasional basis. It is their way of communicating. -- BARBARA IN WHITESBORO, N.Y.

DEAR BARBARA: I heard from quite a few readers who were unhappy about my answer to that letter. I should have stopped at offering my sympathy -- and if my reply caused hurt feelings, I sincerely apologize. We all have our own way of coping with loss, and if pennies from heaven, quarters -- even seeing butterflies -- brings comfort, I should not have discouraged it.

DEAR ABBY: Please help my husband and me settle an argument. He hates when I step out of the shower onto the bath mat to dry off, leaving it wet. I think that's what the bath mat is for. Who's right? -- LISA IN LEXINGTON, S.C.

DEAR LISA: You are. The alternative would be to step out of the shower onto a tile floor -- which could cause a slip and fall, or onto carpet, which would become moldy. After you have finished drying off, however, the bath mat should be hung up to dry.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)