Dear Annie: I work in the service department office at a car dealership. I have asthma and find that most of the time, the ventilation system in the mechanics' area is enough to keep fumes from being a problem.
But there are several customers who wear a great deal of perfume or cologne, and it is very hard for me to wait on them because I have asthma.
One man is so marinated in cologne that even if my co-worker assists him, it still bothers me, as the entire office is permeated with the stuff. Today I coughed for a couple of hours after he left and ended up with a nosebleed and pain in my rib cage from coughing so hard. Please help me. -- Choking, Not Joking
Dear Choking: I hope your letter encourages everyone reading to show a little restraint with cologne and perfume. However much someone loves his or her signature scent, there's no guarantee people around that person will share the enthusiasm, and they're the ones who really have to smell it. Beyond just differences in taste, there are people for whom strong scents are a serious allergen, as your letter painfully illustrates.
But as much as I'd like to admonish the Pepe Le Pews who come into your office soaked in scents, the reality is that in the end, I can't control them, and neither can you. You can, however, take steps to protect your health. Extreme sensitivity to irritants can mean that asthma has become more active, so it's important to check with your doctor to be sure you're doing all you can to manage the condition and live your best life. Your doc may be able to prescribe you medication in inhaler form to minimize the effect of over-scented customers.
Dear Annie: A few months ago, I moved into an apartment complex that has about 30 units. Yet the complex has only two washers and dryers. Twice now, I've found the washing machines filled with wet clothes when I've gone to try to wash my own things. I feel bad about it, but both times, I emptied the other person's wash and put it on the dryer in a pile. That doesn't seem ideal, but I'm not sure what the best way to handle the situation would be. My old apartment complex had only four units, so I rarely ran into the situation. When I did, my unit was so close to the laundry that it was easy to wait for people to move their clothes. In this place, the laundry is on the opposite side and down four stories. It's quite a trek with a large basket. What is the proper etiquette in this situation? -- Laundry Lowdown
Dear Laundry Lowdown: Communal laundries can lead to lots of hand-wringing. I support the five-minute rule: If you find a load of wet clothes sitting in the washing machine, stand by and wait for about five minutes to see whether the person returns. If no one comes, then move the clothes to the top of the washer. You shouldn't feel bad, because the person has forced your hand. You can't just keep waiting, or you might be waiting all night. You can't leave and come back a while later, because someone else might put wash in and you'd be back to square one. And you most definitely can't place others' clothes in the dryer; you might end up ruining clothes that were not meant to be dried. If people have a problem with finding their wet clothes sitting atop the machines, they should be more prompt about coming to get them. Not only do we all know how to read clocks; we all also now have timers in our pockets, in the form of our cellphones. So there's really no excuse.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.