DEAR ABBY: I dwell in a small, Southern and, I thought, safe hometown. I'm currently unemployed and therefore unable to afford a place of my own. I live with my parents. I have job-searched for months now for something within walking distance. I pay for food with food stamps. But I can't yet pay for transportation, insurance, necessities, etc.
My problem is, I love to walk four to six times a week for 30 minutes to an hour. It helps me with depression and boosts my self-esteem, health and wellness. It shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, I've been warned several times that I could get hit by a vehicle, kidnapped and even murdered if I continue to do it. (My parents are TV crime show fans.)
Abby, I have spoken with the police in my area. They assure me it's safe to be out for a walk. Yet, if I'm gone more than 15 or 20 minutes, I receive incessant, ominous, foreboding warning calls on my cellphone. What can I do about their overactive spookiness? I can't afford a treadmill. -- STEPPING OUT IN ARKANSAS
DEAR STEPPING: When you leave for your walk, tell your parents approximately what time they can expect you back, leaving yourself a few minutes' leeway. Then silence your cellphone and enjoy your walk.
DEAR ABBY: Is it wrong to question some belief or fact that someone else has brought up? I'm not in the habit of picking fights or bringing up controversial topics in social situations. But if someone else brings it up first or makes a verifiable claim, I think I'm within my rights to ask for a source or to argue the point if I disagree.
I am being told that doing this is rude. I always thought that if someone makes a claim or statement, then it's acceptable for the people you are talking with to ask where the information came from or to disagree. And if someone doesn't want to risk their opinion being challenged, or isn't absolutely sure the claim can withstand scrutiny, they should keep their mouth shut. Is it rude to ask, "Oh, what's your source for that?" or say, "The studies I've read say that ..."? -- FRIENDLY DISCUSSION
DEAR FRIENDLY: I think it depends upon the subject being discussed and the tone in which the question is asked. Sometimes it ain't what you say as much as the way it comes across that makes others defensive.
DEAR ABBY: At the checkout counter I noticed the clerk had a tattoo in the cleavage of her breasts. I could see it because of her low-cut blouse. What's the correct protocol? Should I ignore the obvious, or should I look closer to be sure I am seeing it correctly? Should I compliment her on her nice tattoo? What exactly am I to do while she's ringing up my purchase? -- BAFFLED IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR BAFFLED: I'm so glad you asked! What you should do is keep your eyes focused on the tally the computer monitor shows to be sure the checker is ringing up your purchase correctly. It's the way to make the "breast" of a touchy situation.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)