DEAR ABBY: Several years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare illness called Wegener's granulomatosis. Because of the way this illness has affected me, I have a hoarse, raspy voice and probably will the rest of my life.
The problem is, I get asked all the time by almost everybody I speak with, "What's wrong with your voice?" or, "Do you have a cold?" I'm a journalist who is on the phone constantly, so I get asked this question numerous times every day. Whenever I tell the truth (it's just the way I talk), people immediately feel bad, so I usually just lie and say, "Yes, I have a cold," or, "I have allergies."
My question is, what is the best response to give? I know people are just concerned, but I am so tired of being asked. -- JUST TIRED IN THE EAST
DEAR JUST TIRED: I see no way to prevent people who don't know you from asking the question. However, when they do, I think you should stick with the truth and allow them to own their bad feelings for having asked such a personal question.
DEAR ABBY: Recently I borrowed a power tool from a neighbor. When I tried to use it, it didn't work. So I called my neighbor and we tried to fix it with no luck. To be polite, I said I was sorry. He replied, "You could pay for it."
It's a fairly expensive tool, and I definitely did not break it. It never worked. Do I owe him anything other than to thank him? If it was something under $50, I'd probably offer to buy a new one to keep relations cordial. But under the circumstances ... -- IT DIDN'T WORK
DEAR DIDN'T WORK: Talk to your neighbor again and repeat what you said. However, this time tell him your apology was not an admission of guilt, but condolences and regret that you were the bearer of bad news. Then give him more bad news, that you will not be paying for something you didn't break.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have recently come across a locally owned Chinese restaurant that's affordable. The food is quite delicious. My wife takes issue with the Styrofoam containers the restaurant provides for leftovers. She claims they leak chemicals into the leftovers on top of being environmentally unfriendly.
On our last visit, to my surprise and consternation, she brought her own glass food storage container with her to the restaurant. Is it appropriate to bring your own container to restaurants for leftovers? -- LEFTOVERS TO GO
DEAR LEFTOVERS: I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with a reason why it would be inappropriate, if the patron doesn't mind the hassle of bringing it. In fact, it seems like an intelligent, environmentally friendly solution to an overcrowded landfill problem, as long as the restaurant doesn't object.
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.)