DEAR ABBY: I work in the print center of an office supply store. Often when parents of small children come in to get copies made, they'll sit their babies/toddlers on the counter while we discuss their needs. Sometimes these children have dirty diapers.
While I am not a parent, I do understand that small children have a tendency to run off or otherwise misbehave if they are left standing. But sitting children on the counter strikes me as unsanitary and unsafe.
Would it be appropriate to ask these parents to remove their children from the counter? Because my workplace is geared toward satisfying the customer, I worry about offending a customer and displeasing management. I haven't said anything so far, but this is really getting to me. -- DISGUSTED IN OHIO
DEAR DISGUSTED: After reading your letter, I confess that my first impulse was to gag. The idea of a child in a soiled diaper sitting on a counter in a place of business is, indeed, disgusting. You would be doing your employer a favor to suggest that if a child should fall off the counter, there could be liability involved.
Tell the customer that for the child's safety to please remove him/her from the counter. And if the child has a dirty diaper, make sure you have a large supply of sanitary wipes on hand so staff and customers will be protected from the bacteria.
DEAR ABBY: After years of enduring overdraft charges and dodging bill collectors, I have finally gotten my financial house in order. I pay all of my bills, and I pay them on time. However, I have very little money left over at the end of the week.
Many of my friends have two-income households or use credit cards when they go out to eat or to the movies, which is often. I want them to know that because I decline their invitations does not mean I'm anti-social -- I just can't afford it. I have said so at times, but I hate to be a broken record.
Friends: Please know that I appreciate being invited, but don't be offended when I am unable to join you. -- ON TRACK BUT STILL BROKE IN MAINE
DEAR ON TRACK: I congratulate you for straightening out your finances. It's not always easy to do, and breaking ingrained habits can be a challenge.
The next step in your "recovery" is to keep reminding your free-spending friends that while you'd like to join them, you are not always able to do so. If you repeat it often enough, eventually they will get the message. It would be better if they hear it directly from you rather than read it in my column.
DEAR ABBY: My neighbors borrow my lawnmower every summer to mow their lawns. It broke down, and I had to purchase a new one.
The dealer told me not to loan it to anyone because they pushed the old one over sticks and stones and destroyed the blades. How do I tell them to buy their own mowers? My new one is expensive. -- AGAINST MOWER-MOOCHERS
DEAR A.M-M.: Here's how: Keep uppermost in your mind that it is perfectly all right to advocate for yourself. Then tell your mower-mooching neighbors that after what happened to the last one, you are no longer loaning your mower to anyone.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)