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DEAR ABBY: I'm a 17-year-old girl who has been baby-sitting since I was 13. I've had a lot of problems with one family in particular. (I'll call them the Joneses, which is not their real name.)

One Friday night, Mrs. Jones called and said her husband would pick me up at 9 o'clock the next morning. I was all ready and waiting at the door at 9 a.m. Mr. Jones drove up at 9:45! I got into his car and slammed the door hard, then I looked straight out the window to let him know I was angry.He said, "My, aren't we in a bad mood this morning. What's the matter, did you break up with your boyfriend?"

I ignored his question and asked, "Do you know what time it is?" He looked at his watch and said, "It's 9:45."

I said, "You were supposed to be here at 9 and I got up early to be ready. I've been waiting for you for 45 minutes!"

Well, Abby, that was three months ago, and the Joneses have been calling my younger sister to baby-sit ever since. They told her to tell me that if I ever wanted to baby-sit for them again, I would have to change my attitude.

Abby, for two years I've been bathing their kids and changing their diapers, and they dropped me because I reminded Mr. Jones that he kept me waiting for 45 minutes. Do you think I was wrong for saying what I did? - ANGRY SITTER

DEAR ANGRY: It wasn't what you said; it was probably your tone and the manner in which you "reminded" Mr. Jones of his tardiness. You would do well to learn from his criticism and change your attitude to a kinder and gentler one.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is a readaholic. Since he has retired, the only time he isn't reading is when he's sleeping, driving the car or in the shower. He doesn't communicate (talk) hardly at all; he's too busy reading newspapers, magazines, books - anything handy.

Can you tell me if this is some kind of affliction, compulsion, obsession or what? I would sure like to know if I should accept this kind of behavior cheerfully. Please help me. This is something new. - LONELY IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR LONELY: Write your husband a note and ask for an appointment to speak with him. Tell him you will make it any time it's convenient for him. This man is clearly shutting you out, escaping behind the printed word.

If this behavior is something new, perhaps he needs a physical checkup. A sudden change in behavior should not be ignored. It could be a symptom of a more serious problem.

DEAR ABBY: I work in a small gift shop attached to a popular restaurant. I'm amazed at the number of people who come into the gift shop with toothpicks in their mouths. They not only talk to me with toothpicks in their mouths, they suck on them, and some even pick their teeth while talking to me! Some drop these toothpicks on the floor or leave them on the counters, and I am left to pick them up and dispose of them.

Am I being "picky" (no pun intended) to find this practice disgusting? Perhaps a word from you would put them wise. - DAYTONA BEACH

DEAR DAYTONA: I wooden count on it (pun intended). Have a box of tissues handy, and when someone starts to talk to you with a toothpick in his or her mouth, hand the clod a tissue, and smile when you say, "This is for your toothpick, Sir (or Madam)."


Don't put off writing thank-you notes, letters of sympathy, etc. because you don't know what to say. Get Abby's booklet, "How to Write Letters for All Occasions." Send a check or money order for $2.89 ($3.39 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054 (Postage is included.)