DEAR AMY: We work for a large company with the typical fabric-lined cubicle walls. As anyone who has worked in this type of office environment knows, these walls are not soundproof.

We have a co-worker who is constantly sneezing, coughing, blowing his nose and yawning, every day, for eight hours a day.

We also enjoy the occasional burp and hiccup after he consumes his cans of soda. There are loud personal and business phone calls during which we begin to critique his grammar to ourselves.

Along with this is the unpleasant smell of body odor and lack of dental hygiene. We will not enter an elevator after he exits or sit by him during a meeting because of his odor.

We work in a professional office, requiring “business casual” dress, but he comes to work with stained, wrinkled clothing, and his coat is held together with silver duct tape.

We have complained to our management team several times regarding this person, but nothing is done. Do you have any suggestions on what we can do?

-- Holding our Breath

DEAR HOLDING: You can’t control how your co-worker dresses, and you (and he) probably can’t control some of the bodily noises he makes during the day.

But how his coat is fastened is none of your business — and some of your comments are unkind or (at the very least) intolerant.

If your co-worker is speaking too loudly during calls and this interferes with your own professional duties, you should ask him if he could please lower his voice.

If your management team won’t help you by asking him to modulate his behavior or hygiene habits, then your only choice is to stop sniping and concentrate on figuring out how to tolerate him.


We live in a townhouse with our two children (ages 4 and 1). We have neighbors who smoke, and the smoke regularly wafts into our open windows.

We close the windows to limit the smoke coming into the house, especially since the children’s bedrooms are at the rear of the house where the neighbors smoke (on their deck and patio).

What is the best course of action? Should we continue to close the windows whenever the neighbors are smoking (which could be all evening in the nice weather), or should we say something to them?

-- No Secondhand Smoke, Please

DEAR NO: I researched your question by checking the National Cancer Institute’s information about secondhand smoke, and frankly, what I learned was alarming.

According to its Web site ( “Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children’s lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless.”


For now, close your windows when your neighbors are smoking. You may also be able to limit smoke exposure with protective screening or an ivy-covered partition. You can also ask your neighbors to install an outside fan that would blow the smoke away from their deck and away from your home.

Because there is no question that secondhand smoke is harmful, your neighbors should cooperate in limiting exposure to you and your children. All you are asking is for your neighbors to be neighborly.


“New to ‘Newlywed Game’ ” dreaded running into her husband’s toxic ex-girlfriends. My husband also had a few very unhealthy relationships before we met.

His former fiancee cheated on him several times with his friends. His girlfriend after that announced that she was a lesbian while they were living together.

We are very happily married and are expecting our first child.

I have thought many times what I would do or say if we ran into one of these women because they hurt the man I love.

Recently, my husband and I ran into his ex-fiancee. I gave her a nice firm handshake and just said, “Thank you.” The look on her face was priceless.

-- Been There, Done That

DEAR BEEN THERE: She might have been perplexed. I assume you were thanking her for not marrying your husband — and she might have figured that out.

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2011 by the Chicago Tribune

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