Dear Readers: Here is this week’s SOUND OFF, about buffet lines:

“I am handicapped and use a walker. I have been in a few situations where I am at a party or a restaurant-hosted dinner for which there is a buffet service. There is an announcement made that the buffet is now open, and immediately a long and often slow-moving line develops. I cannot stand for a long time without having problems, and I wait until the line is shorter. Sometimes I get help, but not often.

“Maybe an announcement could be made (like they do when boarding airplanes) that service is open to people who need extra help or have small children. Then open it up to everybody else. I don’t think people are mean-spirited, but this would help a lot of people.” -- Handicapped in New Jersey

A very good hint indeed! Maybe you could ask a wait-staff member or someone you are sitting with if he or she would mind getting you a plate. Also, if you let the restaurant folks know ahead of time, they usually do anything they can to help you out. -- Heloise

FAST FACTS

Dear Readers: Here are other uses for empty check boxes (if you separate them, you have two):

* Use in desk drawers to hold paper clips, pens, tacks, etc.

* Keep business cards.

* Use in a bathroom drawer for makeup, etc.

* Carry coupons.

* Keep receipts for taxes.

-- Heloise

STILL GOOD?

Dear Heloise: Is there a way to tell if baking soda is still good? I came across a box and want to know if I can still use it. -- Sheila, via e-mail

Sheila, good question! Baking soda usually is good long after the expiration date. There is a simple test to see if it is still active. Get a small bowl and pour in a “glug, glug” of vinegar. Add about a spoonful of baking soda and watch to see if it fizzes. If it does, the baking soda is still good. Now that you know if you have good baking soda, you should know the many things you can do with it. To find out all of my favorite hints, order my pamphlet. To receive a copy, send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Sprinkle a little baking soda on a damp sponge, and you have a great nonabrasive cleaner to wipe down kitchen counters. -- Heloise

DRAW THE SHADES

Dear Heloise: There are many families on our block, and we have all become friends. We worked out a system to let each other know if we are up for company or not. When we are up for company, we lift the blinds or shades in the closest window to the front door. If not, the blinds are down. Everyone knows when we are having family time without having to ring the bell. -- O.R., via e-mail

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

2014, King Features Syndicate