THESE ARE SUCH sensitive times. Feelings are easily hurt. You can offend individuals or groups something awful without even realizing you've done it.
Especially someone such as myself, who has spent almost three decades earning a living by being insensitive and crude.
I've finally realized it might be time for me to undergo sensitivity training, so I can be more aware of the delicate feelings of others.
The decision to change my raucous ways was brought on by the angry and pained reaction to some of my recent writings.
"It felt like a slap in my face," one of the offended readers said.
She was referring to something I wrote about the proper way to adorn a hot dog.
As any native Chicagoan knows, it's a choice of mustard, onions, relish, tomato, and, of course, a -- of celery salt.
And I had written: "What kind of damn fool puts sauerkraut on a hot dog?"
Several New Yorkers demanded an apology, since they make a practice of putting sauerkraut on hot dogs. But, then, New Yorkers have many strange ways.
But the most poignant response came from Betty Manor, of Milan, Mich.
"I am of Czech ancestry and 55 years old. I did not enjoy your statement about those of us who put sauerkraut on hot dogs. It felt like a slap in my face."
Lout I may be, but I don't approve of slapping 55-year-old Czech ladies in the face. And I feel bad that Mrs. Manor's feelings were hurt.
It may be that as someone of Czech ancestry, an ethnic group of notorious sauerkraut lovers, Mrs. Manor puts sauerkraut on everything she prepares. If all that sauerkraut is OK with her husband, it's jake with me.
So I apologize to Mrs. Manor and all others whose sensitivities were offended by my reference to sauerkraut on hot dogs. Put anything you want on a hot dog. It is your right as an American.
And I promise to never again make snide remarks about sauerkraut on hot dogs. Or even ketchup, although Dirty Harry once said that only an (obscenity deleted) would use ketchup.
I also promise to never again use the name "Wanda" in my column.
That's because I have hurt the feelings of Mrs. Wanda T. Larson of Elkton, Md.
She noted that from time to time I have mentioned Slats Grobnik's Aunt Wanda. Actually, Slats mentions her more than I do, since he is fond of her and proud of her mystical ability to tell fortunes by reading coffee grounds.
But Mrs. Larson, who is of Polish ancestry, says, "Your use of the name Wanda is degrading and insulting to people of Polish background. It presents a devastating picture of Polish intelligence to those not familiar with the Polish heritage."
She goes on to say: "My name is Wanda. I have been named after one of the most heroic figures in Polish history.
"The great Princess Wanda committed suicide rather than marry the mean Prince Rydygier of Germany, thereby saving Poland from a fate worse than death.
"You should spend a little time studying Polish history."
See? That's what I mean about offending people without realizing it.
I wasn't aware that the great Princess Wanda did herself in to avoid marrying Prince Rydygier of Germany. Nor do I know why she did it. Maybe the prince was a boozer. And in the old days, even a prince didn't take a bath more than once a week. So he might have been a real disgusting guy.
Wait, I take that back about Prince Rydygier having been a disgusting guy. I don't know that to be a fact, since the politically incorrect and insensitive educational system of my youth didn't teach us about him.
And for all I know, this could be read by angry descendants of Prince Rydygier, who will write and tell me that I have insulted them by saying their ancestor was disgusting. And even if he was disgusting, why can't I let bygones be bygones?
Or from angry men who will demand to know why I automatically take the side of the woman (Princess Wanda), and don't consider the possibility that the man (Prince Rydygier) might be getting a bum rap. Maybe Princess Wanda was no prize herself. And why am I insensitive to the feelings of men?
And they would have a valid point. In disputes between the sexes, sometimes the men are right and the women are in the wrong. Not that I'm defending Prince Rydygier. But maybe he had an unhappy childhood and couldn't help being a louse; if he was one, which we really don't know.
Not that women aren't right as often as men. If I appear to have suggested otherwise, I didn't mean it and hope no female sensitivities have been offended.
So I apologize to Wanda Larson of Maryland and to any other female persons named Wanda.
Or, for that matter, to any male persons named Wanda. Now that I'm sensitive, I'm covering all bases.