DEAR ABBY: There's a venomous old woman who roams through our neighborhood looking for victims to embarrass, humiliate or annoy. She told a neighbor's 11-year-old granddaughter she looked like a slut because she was wearing shorts currently in fashion for the young. She habitually cuts in front of people in line at the supermarket, puts 25 items on the 15-item service line, etc.
A new neighbor thought she should be treated with a little kindness. She had her opportunity recently when we were out to breakfast at a restaurant. The harridan sat alone (her husband refuses to be seen in public with her), and my friend commented to her on the beautiful day. Her response? "Don't waste my time with meaningless inanities!" She then proceeded to abuse the server by repeatedly sending her plate back, each time becoming more unpleasant. The girl ended up in tears.
At that point, my friend walked over and said quietly, "I hope you don't think your advanced age justifies your meanness." The witch accused my friend of "slandering" her and left vowing never to return. This elicited a round of applause from the customers and staff.
Why do some people go through life behaving so outrageously? How can she derive satisfaction from being so hateful? -- PUZZLED IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR PUZZLED: Ruling out the idea that the person you have described may be mentally disturbed, it's possible she may be so unhappy in her personal life that she's trying to make herself feel better by abusing others. She's a sad case. I'd like to think that when the other diners applauded, it was directed in support of your friend rather than at the disagreeable woman as she left the restaurant.