One birthday — too many friends

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar

Creators Syndicate Inc.

DEAR ANNIE: A friend of mine has a major milestone birthday coming up this summer. A group of his teammates from a sports league wants to surprise him by renting a house in a resort town 800 miles away. They plan to split the birthday guy’s share of the rental and expect those of us who do not go to the resort to pay for his airfare and travel money.

This trip would take place the weekend of his birthday. I and other friends are somewhat miffed that we are asked to contribute to a special event that many of us are not financially able to attend. (His teammates earn roughly twice what we do.) We had planned to pool our money to take the birthday boy on a cocktail cruise in our own city, but now he will be out of town.

We realize this is not about us, and I know the trip would mean a lot to him. Should we contribute as asked or politely decline? Should we make a token contribution and then proceed with our own plans later? — Left in the Lurch


DEAR LURCH: That birthday boy is lucky to have so many friends eager to celebrate with him.

You do not have to contribute to a "gift" you cannot afford, didn’t choose and won’t be able to enjoy. The resort trip should be a present from his teammates. You and your other friends can celebrate however you like, and it doesn’t have to be on the same day. The previous or following weekend would be equally appreciated.

DEAR ANNIE: I’m sure you’ve heard of road rage. I have a new term — secondhand smoke rage.

We live in a condo in Florida. For two years, we have been subjected to our downstairs neighbor’s 24/7 chain-smoking habit. When we moved in, we had no idea she smoked. Every time we try to discuss it with her, she ratchets up the harassment another notch. Initially, she flooded our patio with smoke to the extent that we could no longer open the doors. Now the smoke is coming through the floor in other areas of the house. Our guest bathroom (directly above hers) is so full of smoke, it is unusable.

We brought our case before the condo association board, but this neighbor is the board president and we were ignored. We fear for our health (I am allergic and suffer from an autoimmune disorder) and resent the constant stress of being put in this situation. We are close to retirement age and not in a position to sell in a down real estate market. Any advice? — Gasping for Breath

DEAR GASPING: Try being less confrontational. The ventilation system is part of the problem and not her fault. It’s also possible your patio was flooded with smoke because she was trying to keep the smoke outside.

She may be puffing away in her bathroom in order to keep the smoke to a minimum elsewhere.

Explain that you understand she is doing her best, but the smoke is still pervading your unit and affecting your health.


Ask if there is anything you can do to make the situation better. If she is indeed doing this on purpose and the condominium board will not address it, your choices, unfortunately, are to sue the board, put in a filtration system or move out. Sorry.

DEAR ANNIE: Like "No Name, No City," I discovered my husband is a compulsive gambler after we married. He blew $50,000, and I forgave him and worked hard to get his debt under control.

He promised to stop, and did — until the next time.

Tell "Clark’s" wife to file for divorce now. He will never stop gambling and will ruin her financially.

It may even be possible that he targeted her for marriage because he was out of funds with which to gamble. — Been There in Pennsylvania

DEAR PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks for telling your side.

Gambling is addictive and needs to be worked on by someone truly committed to quitting.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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