DEAR ABBY: Please print this as a warning to other teenagers.

A couple from church asked me to baby-sit their three kids from 7:30 until 11 p.m. last weekend. My problems began when they didn’t pick me up until 9.

When they didn’t return at the time they had promised, I began to worry. When they finally showed up at 1 a.m., they dropped a measly $6 in my hand. Then the husband drove me home. He reeked of booze and swerved all over the road. It was the most terrifying ride of my life. I was shaking all over by the time we arrived.

The next day my dad called the police and told them the man had driven me home drunk. They said that if he had called the previous night, they’d have gone over and taken a Breathalyzer test, but they could do nothing after the fact.

My mom then called the woman, who swore her husband hadn’t been drunk. When Mom asked her for my going rate ($3 an hour, plus double time after midnight, which would have been $15 or $19.50, if you count the time I was booked for), the woman hung up on her.

Some important lessons I learned that night:

1. Agree on the wage beforehand.

2. If the driver appears drunk (or stoned), call your parent, a friend or a taxi even if it costs you your wages to get home. NEVER get into a car with someone you think is impaired just to be polite.

3. Don’t automatically trust someone because you go to the same church. Always get references and baby-sit only for people you know well. – WISER NOW IN CANADA

That’s excellent advice, and I hope my younger readers will take it to heart. Watching children is a heavy responsibility that requires maturity and judgment. It should be planned so that it’s fun, fair and safe for everyone concerned.

DEAR ABBY: My 13-year-old brother, “Josh,” is obese. He spends more than four hours a day playing video games or watching TV. He doesn’t worry about what he eats and has low self-esteem.

I am active, and I changed my eating and exercise habits not only to benefit my health but also to be a role model for my younger siblings. When I offer to do fun activities with Josh – like playing football, basketball or taking our dog for a walk around the block – he tells me to go away and quit talking to him.

My parents say it isn’t my problem and I should worry about my own life. Abby, I don’t ever tell Josh he is heavy. I never tease him, and I don’t nag him. I know it isn’t my problem, but my parents don’t give my brother any motivation, discipline or limit his TV time.

I want my brother to be happy. I don’t want him to suffer. What should I do to help him? I have told him – and my parents – how I feel, but they don’t seem to care. – HEALTHIER SIS IN HONOLULU

DEAR SIS: Part of the problem you’re having getting through to your brother may be because you are so close to him, his tuning you out is reflexive. A better solution might be to talk to someone at his school about your concerns – a counselor or the school nurse.

It’s not unheard of for a child who spends four hours a day alone, watching TV, playing video games and seeking comfort in food to have issues that go beyond the physical. Perhaps, if someone from the school talks to your parents, they might become more proactive in helping their son.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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