Dear Annie: I live in a very small town. We have one small, locally owned family-friendly drive-in restaurant with an attached ice-cream shop. This is a central meeting place in our area.
Here’s the problem: There is an older woman working there who makes me cringe every time she takes my order. On repeated occasions, I’ve seen her eating at the counter that separates the ice-cream fountain area from the patrons. She licks her fingers and then, without washing her hands, handles the cones for our order.
She also touches all of the ice-cream machines and spoons and pulls some stuff out with her fingers. I can only imagine what she does behind the swinging doors. I have gently commented that perhaps she should wash her hands, but it doesn’t get through.
This restaurant is owned by a nice woman, but I don’t know her that well and am not comfortable mentioning this problem to her. But I find it hard to patronize the place, because this woman’s methods are so gross, and I don’t want to get sick.
We are lucky to have this business in our town, as it employs a lot of people. How do I tactfully say something without causing a stink in the community? And to whom do I say it? The owner is on the board of some of the organizations that my children are involved in. — Grossed Out in a Small Town
Dear Small Town: We are certain the owner would not want to lose the patronage of the community because one of her employees doesn’t use proper hygiene. This is a matter for your local city, state or county health department. You can make an anonymous report, and they should investigate and, if necessary, issue a warning or citation.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Ft. Myers, Fla.,” who was upset because her friends and relatives buy her birthday gifts that she doesn’t want.
I am 50 years old, and for my entire life, my mother has passed judgment on the gifts I give her. She’ll open something I may have spent hours searching for and wrapped elaborately and bluntly say, “I don’t need this” or “Take this back.”
I am a painter. One year I thought long and hard and decided to reproduce in oil a lovely photograph of my parents sitting in a pretty piazza in Italy. I was excited to think I had finally found the perfect gift. She opened it up and said, “Can you repaint my face and take the sunglasses off?” So I did.
She never mentioned the painting again. I think it’s hanging in one of the spare bedrooms. Would you address this subject for all of us who are in this sinking boat? — Can’t Please Mother
Dear Can’t Please: Your mother is never going to like any gift enough to accept it as is. For whatever reason, she is overly critical and not polite enough to be gracious. It’s time to stop turning yourself inside out trying to please her. Get her a gift card to any store you know she regularly frequents, even the grocery. She certainly won’t be any less pleased, and she might actually be delighted. Not that she’d admit it to you, of course. But at least you won’t have to return it.
Dear Annie: This is for “Betsey,” who complained about parents in their 80s wanting to know when their kids would be out of town.
When my husband and I retired, we often took short trips. Both of our kids were frantic not knowing where we were and were insistent that we get a cellphone. We thought it was hilarious! — Traveling Parents
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.