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Are we not human beings?

Dear Annie: I’ve found a new way to get free food: Dumpster diving. Several times a week, a group of us go through the supermarket Dumpster at night to see what they’ve thrown away. Sometimes there’s nothing, but other times, there’s great stuff.

One night, I found nine ears of corn. Another time, it was 23 packs of chicken. I’ve found honeydew melons, cherries, grapes, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and all sorts of other goodies. I thoroughly boil the meat and poultry before eating it, and I wash the fruit and pour boiling water over it. It loses some color, but still tastes sweet. I cook all vegetables.

The problem is, there’s a stigma to this. People give us dirty looks. We’re very careful not to make a mess. We leave everything spotless. But the store manager hates us. And if my mother knew about this, she’d throw a fit.

I can’t figure out why this is so despised. Why should I have to pay all that money for food when I can get it for nothing?

— New York

Dear New York: Most people aren’t willing to go through someone else’s garbage in order to find edible food that isn’t contaminated, rotten, partially eaten or long past the expiration date. And while we know some folks do this for economic reasons or as a protest against the “system,” most people find it distasteful and demeaning. We think the owners of groceries and restaurants are entitled to earn a living, too, and we would hope that still-edible food is donated to food pantries whenever possible.

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Dear Annie: I don’t know how to get rid of my pest of a neighbor. I moved to this community three years ago, after my divorce. I befriended “Joyce,” a woman in her 70s who lives two doors down.

Joyce won’t leave me alone. When I entertain my fiance or friends, she is sure to walk over uninvited and interrupt us. On several occasions, I’ve given her my business card and asked her to call first to make sure I’m not busy. It hasn’t worked. She also drinks my wine, and even though she has an extensive wine collection, she never offers to replace the bottle she consumed at my place.

At times, I’ve had to shut my curtains and hide in my bedroom until she is gone. Help.

— Prisoner in My Own Home in Southern California

Dear Prisoner: Joyce is lonely and either clueless or deliberately obtuse. It is a kindness to include her when you can, but you also are entitled to entertain without her. So you will need to be a bit more assertive and willing to upset her. The next time Joyce comes over unannounced and unwanted, stop her at the door and say, “Joyce, I have company. You will have to come back another time.” If she gets teary, outraged, pushy or anything else, simply repeat that she will have to come back another time. Don’t let her walk beyond the threshold.

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Dear Annie: This is in response to “Need To Know in Saskatoon,” the woman who disliked her dentist referring to her as “dear.”

I am a busy ob-gyn. I often call my patients by some such all-purpose term of endearment when I blank out and cannot remember their given name. It only means that I am busy and forgetful and have a lot on my mind. But at the same time, I want the patient to feel closer to me than she would if I did not address her at all. Your dentist only wants you to feel relaxed and comfortable.

— Little Doctor

Dear Doctor: That won’t work if the patient finds it offensive and condescending. Some people don’t mind the endearment. Those who do need to inform the doctor, and the doctor needs to take the objection seriously.

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Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

— Creators Syndicate Inc.

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