Dear Ann:

Quit telling people how to live their lives. I'm speaking on behalf of all the smokers out there. The way smokers are treated today is outrageous! We are law-abiding citizens who make an honest living and pay our taxes, but in this country, if you smoke, you are made to feel like a criminal.

What gives YOU the right to say, "Smokers stink"? In the building where I work, we are forced to smoke outdoors in freezing weather. Is pneumonia better than lung cancer? Your answer to all of this is, "Well, just quit." Well, I don't WANT to quit. I enjoy it. If I want to smoke, I'll smoke. I'm not breaking any laws. It's legal. And please don't read me the riot act about what it's doing to my health. That's MY business, not yours. Our society has created more psychological damage to smokers than second-hand smoke could possibly do to your health. And you, Ann Landers, have been the cheerleader. You owe me and all the smokers of the world an apology.

Disgusted in Cleveland

Okay. I apologize -- for trying to save you smokers billions of dollars in medical bills, burned buildings and the agony of emphysema and lung cancer. I gladly accept the title of cheerleader against this killer addiction. I cannot think of a higher compliment.

Dear Ann:

As a longtime wearer of hearing aids, I would like to say I have developed a rather keen sense of humor about my deficiency. People with normal hearing do not realize that the hearing-impaired often hear something totally different than what is actually said to them. This is best illustrated by a story I heard, which may or may not have actually happened. Either way, it amused me.

Three elderly men, all wearing hearing aids in both ears, were sitting on the back steps of a nursing home. They were quite silent, when suddenly one gentleman, wanting to make small talk, said, "Boy, it sure is windy today." One of the other gentlemen replied, "No, I don't think it's Wednesday. I'm pretty sure it's Thursday." The third man started to get out of his chair and said, "Yes, I'm thirsty, too. Let's go get a drink."

This is a good example of how we often hear, incorrectly, what is said to us. I hope you will share it with your readers.

Woodrow in Colorado Springs, Colo.

I have heard several funny stories about hearing-impaired folks and how they have misheard something or other. I especially like yours, however, because I didn't have to clean it up to print it. Thank you.

Dear Ann:

My 72-year-old mother has been married for 35 years to my stepfather, "Myron." According to Mom, the first few years of their marriage were happy and loving. But the closeness changed soon after, and they have been living at opposite ends of their duplex for most of their marriage.

Ann, my mother always had a number of cats running around in her home, but over the last few years, she has begun taking in every stray that comes along. At one point, we removed 23 cats from her bedroom. Her house smells so terrible that many family members do not visit. They say, "You can't breathe in there." Also, my mother is always sick with "colds."

Myron has confided that he is getting fed up with the cats being the center of Mom's life. Please tell us what to do.

Home-Wrecking Cats in Renton, Wash.

Sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind. This is one of those times. Call the Board of Health and report those appalling conditions. The authorities will come out and remove all but a few cats. Your mother may be upset, but she'll get over it, and you will have done your duty.

P.S.: Has your mother seen a doctor lately?

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.