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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I hope you can help me pass along some tips on drive-through etiquette to your readers. I work in the fast food industry, and on behalf of my fellow workers, may I dish out the following:

Please have a general idea of what you'd like before you reach the speaker. The corporate office has us on a timer, which starts ticking as soon as you pull up.

Please be patient. We know you're tired of waiting behind the car ahead of you, but we're trying our best to make sure you get quality food.

If you have a large order or a special request, please come inside to order if possible. The people in the car behind you are waiting for their food, too.

Speak clearly (but don't yell!) into the speaker. Also, although it may seem cute to you, I can barely understand your 4-year-old when she asks me for her kiddie meal.

If you can't hear yourself over your car radio, I can't either. But if you're talking on your cellphone or to someone in your vehicle, I can hear you -- and I've heard some wild stuff.

If it's raining, please turn off your windshield wipers before you reach my window. Otherwise, I get splashed.

Finally, please treat me with respect! Yes, I know I "only" work the drive-through at your local burger joint, but you want that burger, don't you? -- WORKING THE WINDOW IN GEORGIA

DEAR WORKING THE WINDOW: I hope your letter will be taken to heart because it deserves to be. Personnel in the food service business often must deal with customers who are less than at their best -- people who are stressed, hungry and more -- but that's no excuse to treat the server rudely. Your suggestions are good ones, to which I would add that "please" and "thank you" are always appreciated.

Now, may I please have a double with extra-crispy fries? Thank you.

DEAR ABBY: I am a single mom raising two kids. I work and also attend college full time. Every day we hear so many stories about what's wrong with the world, it makes it difficult to appreciate the good in society.

Sometimes it's hard for me to make my paycheck stretch throughout the entire week. The other day, I was at the store and had just enough money between my bank card, my cash and loose change to buy a small bottle of laundry detergent. Well, my bank card was declined. Abby, I was mortified. Near tears, I told the cashier to go ahead and cancel my purchase. Just then, the woman behind me set some money on the register to cover it. I thanked her.

This woman, a complete stranger, helped to pick up the slack for someone she may never see again. How many people would do that? I'd like to think it's karma for my having helped others in the past.

I would love you to print this. Maybe she'll see it and know how her kindness helped me to regain trust in a society where bad events usually outweigh the good. You never know when an angel is in your presence -- yet one was standing behind me in a checkout line. -- TOUCHED IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR TOUCHED: I'm glad you wrote, because it gives me a chance to remind folks that while bad events do occur, they do not overshadow the good ones. The problem is that the negative events are the ones that are highlighted in the media because they're attention-grabbers.

There are millions of caring and generous people in this country and one of them was the woman who helped you. It's very possible that someone helped her in a similar situation. Good deeds are like pebbles thrown into a pond. The ripples can spread far beyond the original "splash."

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