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by Abigail Van Buren

Late-Night Smoking Clouds Neighbors' Sweet Dreams

DEAR ABBY: My family and I bought a house in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood three years ago. What we didn't know prior to moving in was that our next-door neighbor sometimes smokes cigarettes.

It rains eight months out of the year here, and we usually keep our windows closed, so it isn't an issue. But during the summer, we like to sleep with the windows open. When our neighbor steps outside for a cigarette, the smoke drifts into our bedroom.

Our homes are separated by small yards, so at first, I thought they didn't realize that the smoke was bothering us. Eventually I began to get upset. When I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I can smell it. I have made a point of loudly slamming the windows shut, hoping it would make them stop. There is no way they don't hear the noise, but it doesn't stop them.

We don't want to have to keep our windows closed, because it is not an everyday occurrence. It happens once a week or so, and always late at night or early in the morning. I don't know if this is how they handle insomnia or what the deal is. Why do they still smoke in this day and age?

There's no landlord to complain to because they own their home. After all these years, we have never introduced ourselves to each other, and I don't believe they care to know us any more than we care to get to know them. Because of this, confronting them is not an option. What do we do? -- HATES THE SMOKE IN OREGON

DEAR HATES: Your letter illustrates the disadvantages of isolationism. Had you made a point of introducing yourself when you (or they) moved in, you probably wouldn't have needed to write to me now.

Slamming your window shut is not a friendly or efficient way to communicate because these people are not mind readers. Going next door, introducing yourself, politely explaining that there's a problem and asking if they could smoke on the other side of their house, away from your bedroom window, would be better. If you can't bring yourself to do that, write a letter -- keeping the communication civil -- and tell them in simple language that you would appreciate their cooperation in solving this problem.

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