Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My family is going on a vacation later this summer. At first they invited me, but after I learned how much it cost, I told them that I could not go. I let them know immediately so that they wouldn't count me in the group for flights or hotels or anything. I told them in plenty of time, but it has caused some tension. While I did not ask for them to pay for me to travel with them, some of my family members took it upon themselves to try to pool their money so that I could go. When I learned that, I thanked them but told them that I would not go -- they did not need to do that. Now they are upset with me. I know it would be a hardship for them to pay for me. Nobody has extra. I didn't want to burden them. How can I help them understand that I just can't go and it's not personal? I want them to have fun and not feel bad. What can I say? -- Not a Burden, Shreveport, La.

DEAR NOT A BURDEN: This is a tough situation in that your family is torn. Everybody wants to be together for this vacation, yet, for practical reasons, you are unable to join them. Thank them again for the effort they made to include you, and remind them that it just will not work this time. Tell them that the best thing they can do for you and the family is to have a fantastic time and come back to share stories and photos. If you can feel comfortable talking to them about their plans and helping them get ready, do so. That will help them -- and hopefully you -- to feel less sad about you not being able to come.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently traveled across the country by plane, and I had a really hard time settling in because there was a small dog on the plane sitting next to me. I am allergic. The flight was full, so there was no place for me to go. I spoke to the flight attendant to ask to be moved, but she could not accommodate me. I managed, but I was physically uncomfortable. How can a passenger avoid this in the future? It doesn't seem fair to me that a dog carries more weight than a passenger. -- Allergic, Baltimore

DEAR ALLERGIC: Had you put up a bigger fuss about the dog -- basically stood your ground more firmly -- you probably would have gotten the flight attendant to get someone to trade seats either with you or the person with the dog. Passengers should come first.

In the future, because pets do commonly travel with their owners, you can let the airline know that you are allergic when you purchase your ticket. Ask them to assure you that you will not be seated near any animals.