Dear Ann:

I am a male, 49 years old. I lost my wife in an auto accident two years ago, and it has taken me until now to restart my life. A few weeks ago, I put a personal ad online, and one of the responses was from a 45-year-old woman. She seemed to be exactly what I wanted--pretty, intelligent, independent, and with a good sense of humor. The problem is, I think our relationship may be moving too fast.

When I placed my ad online, I had a game plan for finding someone to fill the empty spot in my life. I figured we would get to know each other through e-mail for two months. Then, we would start phoning each other for another month or so. Finally, we would meet for coffee, and if all went well, we would begin to date.

We are way ahead of the game plan. I'm afraid we might be setting ourselves up for a letdown if we move too quickly. I really like this woman a lot, and don't want to mess things up, because she could be the one I've been waiting for. I have been trying to put the brakes on, but it's not easy. Please tell me what to do.

-- Rich on the Computer

It appears that you are doing just fine. Follow your instincts, but keep those brakes on. Introduce the woman to family and friends, and get their opinions. I'm hoping that those bluebirds will sing for you again.

Dear Ann:

I thought you might like this for your "stupid crooks" collection. It appeared in the Deerfield Beach, Fla., Times.

-- Susie Q in Florida

Thanks for sending it on. I laughed out loud. Here it is: "The vote is still out on whether a man found stuck in an air-conditioning vent of a pizza parlor was trying to find a place to sleep, as he told police, or whether he was trying to burglarize the parlor, as police said.

At 9 p.m. on Labor Day, the manager of a local pizzeria walked into the shop and found more than dough and pizza sauce waiting for him. While checking inventory, the manager noticed that the vent cover to the air-conditioning duct had fallen to the floor of the kitchen. Upon closer inspection, he noticed there were feet hanging from the hood. The manager called 911.

Deputies quickly located the man, who had begun screaming for help. Police said the 29-year-old man was trying to break into the pizza parlor through a rooftop air vent. During his 'Santa-Claus-like' entrance, the man got stuck in the middle of the shaft, where he remained for at least 22 hours because the business was closed for the Labor Day holiday.

Fire Rescue said the man was stuck in the L-shaped vent and could not be pulled out from the bottom. The firefighters and paramedics poured grease from the roof to lubricate the vent. A rope was then tied around the man's hands, and he was pulled from above. The man was taken to the hospital and treated for dehydration.

He has been charged with burglary."

Dear Ann:

My parents are in their late seventies and in good health. My mother recently said, "Have you noticed your father and I don't bathe very often anymore? We don't have to, because we don't perspire as much as we used to."

Ann, I have noticed. Apparently, their olfactory senses don't work like they used to, either. I'm sure their friends have noticed this, too, but don't want to be rude. How can I tell them without hurting their feelings?

-- The Nose Knows in Massachusetts

Tell them in plain English, unless there is another language they understand better. And soon.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.