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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Whose Dad Died Young Can't Feel the Pain of Others

DEAR ABBY: We have a "situation" at work that is becoming intolerable. Our new boss of four months joins us for our coffee breaks and lunches. It is awkward, to say the least. The other secretaries and I look forward to our breaks as a time to unwind (and talk about the salespeople and our bosses if we need to vent). Now we can't speak freely.

Even worse, the woman has atrocious table manners. She talks the entire time she's eating -- chomping, slurping and spraying food all over. It's disgusting.

We brown-bag our lunches because we can't afford to eat out. We know we can't tell our boss she isn't welcome in the break room. Any ideas on how we can handle this? -- NAUSEATED IN BLOOMFIELD, N.J.

DEAR NAUSEATED: Allow me to offer a couple. Schedule your breaks so you aren't all taking one at once, which will make it more difficult for your new boss to join you. And at lunch, break into groups and take your brown bags off the premises if possible. That way, all of you won't have to tolerate her every day.

Frankly, I feel sympathy for the woman. She seems lonely and unaware of the fact that an invisible line separates management from staff, that she's not one of you and is intruding.