Dear Abby: In a recent column, a woman complained that her husband always charges ahead of her in crowds without bothering to determine whether she is following him.

I have a somewhat different problem. My wife and I will be walking down an aisle in a department store when - poof - she disappears in thin air! My children tell me they used to be terrified when they were little and she did that to them.On a recent trip to Europe, she disappeared in a mob scene at a New York airport. I nearly went crazy trying to find her. She finally showed up and casually explained that she had stopped to talk with someone for a minute or two!

Abby, your suggestion that a man and his wife walk arm in arm through crowds misses the mark. It's much easier to burrow through a crowd single file than two abreast, but if I insist that she walk ahead of me so I can keep an eye on her, she gets insulted. Any solution?

- Milwaukee

Dear Milwaukee: Insist that she walk ahead anyway. She'll survive the insult with far less trauma than losing each other in a crowded airport or department store.

Dear Abby: When are people going to wake up to the fact that if a person asks people about their background or heritage, he is not necessarily racist, prejudiced or insensitive?

Recently I was buying pork chops from a Chinese butcher who asked me in broken English, "Where you from?"

I replied, "I'm from Pasadena, Calif., but I am of Polish descent - third generation. Why did you ask?"

He said, "You sure talk funny."

I suppose to be politically correct, I should have been insulted. Sorry, I thought it was great. I've developed friendships and had some interesting conversations with people I would have never known anything about if I hadn't asked, "Where are you from?"

That's how I got to know my Chinese hairdresser was raised in Japan, and my garage mechanic came from Armenia and was interned in a concentration camp in Siberia. I've learned a lot about Jewish religious customs, polished my Spanish with a lady from El Salvador, found out about the Buddhist religion from a man on a bus, and got some great recipes from Mormons in Utah and Scandinavians in North Dakota.

How are we going to learn about people whose cultures are different from our own if we're afraid to talk to each other?

- Marilyn Hudson

in Pasadena

Dear Marilyn: You make an excellent point. However, not all people are open and willing to answer questions asked by strangers; they feel it's an invasion of their privacy.

Dear Abby: Concerning books that one lends out and are never returned: I personally never lend a book to anyone unless I don't care whether I get it back or not.

I own a bookstore that handles out-of-print hardback books. In looking through a secondhand book, I found the following statement on the flyleaf:


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"This may seem a strange request, but I find that while most of my friends are poor mathematicians, they are all darn good bookkeepers. - Ralph J. Stubbs"

- Dorothy J., Independence, Mo.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

1994 Universal Press Syndicate

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