Steel Advice: How to address retirement home problems

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I live in a very nice retirement community. At a recent dinner gathering I was seated at a table for six. The man next to me blew his nose enthusiastically seven to eight times times during our meal. He had a pile of paper napkins with him and used these, then deposited them at his place. At one point his wife did the same thing, just one time. I was almost ill from this experience. I am not usually at a loss for words but this display of bad manners left me speechless. I will never let this happen again but would like to know if there is any way I could have handled it rather than just thinking "Dear God, when will this be over?"


DEAR ’S NOT APPETIZING: Being subjected to a display of bad table manners in a retirement community is different from witnessing the same behavior in a restaurant. In a restaurant you can ask to be reseated. No doubt management will offer you a complimentary desert or after-dinner drink to compensate for your inconvenience. The restaurant does not want to lose you as its customer. Life in a retirement community, on the other hand, is similar to living in a very expensive and glorified group home or camp. More tolerance of others’ peculiarities is required, and at the same time you must speak up in order to defend your own rights. You cannot worry about offending another resident if their behavior infringes on your well-being. Speaking for yourself and the other diners at your table, you could have complained to an aide or server about the unsanitary napkin deposits on the table. You could have politely requested a garbage bag or waste basket for the culprits to toss their soiled nose rags. Since you were the person seated closest and most affected, you could have asked Mr. Nose Blower to please turn his head and let his germs spray on his wife and not on you.


DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I live in a nice suburban neighborhood and my second-grade daughter attends the local public school. This year some of the school parents got together and decided raising chickens would be a wonderful class project for the elementary students. The principal is on board with the idea and I have been made to feel like I am the only parent who is against it. It is a filthy project. I do not want to enroll my daughter in another school but I secretly wish a fox gets in this hen house. Why have chickens in the suburbs become the new granola?


DEAR PARENT AGAINST POULTRY IN THE PLAYGROUND: The current perception is natural foods are healthier than processed foods and that has fueled the popularity of raising and growing food. The work involved in manning a school chicken coop, however, may soon exceed the parents’ initial expectations. Having chickens is a trendy venture but it does demand a seven-day-a-week commitment. Someone has to check on and feed the chickens. Droppings smell and attract flies and rodents unless regularly cleaned up. Eggs get stuck and poop gets caked on tail feathers. Once the thrill of gathering eggs subsides, the project may falter and the chickens will be transferred to a farmer or outsourced to the Colonel. Tell your daughter to wash her hands and keep her fingers away from her mouth. If the clucking continues to annoy you, remind yourself “a chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird.”

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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