Dear Annie

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 several customers wear a lot 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. Today I coughed for hours after he left and ended up with pain in my rib cage from coughing so hard. 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.

As much as I’d like to admonish the Pepe Le Pews who come into your office, the reality is I can’t control them, and neither can you. But you can take steps to protect your health. Extreme sensitivity to irritants can mean 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 but 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, I emptied the other person’s wash and put it on the dryer. That doesn’t seem ideal, but I’m not sure what the best way to handle the situation is. My old 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, it’s 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 in the washing machine, wait for about five minutes to see if the person returns. If no one comes, 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 later, because someone else might put wash in and you’d be back to square one. And you definitely can’t place others’ clothes in the dryer; you could ruin clothes that were not meant to be dried. If people have a problem finding their wet clothes 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 now have timers in our pockets, in the form of our cellphones. So there’s really no excuse.

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