Things have certainly gotten busy since I’ve joined the columnist ranks. On top of the usual creative process and research efforts, I’ve had the added burdens of the now-concluded-THANK-GOD holiday season, a de-pacified toddler with an appetite growing faster than Lewis Black’s rage in freeway gridlock, and a disgruntled staff whose definition of the phrase “well-paid” differs markedly from mine.
But the most interesting addition to my plate is the increase in correspondence that came with my recently-raised profile. Specifically, I found myself all a-cluster with emails and letters seeking advice a la Ann Landers and Dear Abby. It would appear that when the stuff you write reaches a larger audience than just your immediate family and your testy neighbor who just started washing his car, you suddenly gain a certain authority on assorted subjects. And by “certain” I mean “egregiously unearned.”
“My word, Jeff, do you have examples of submissions from these lost, inquisitive souls yearning to harvest guidance and wisdom from that well-shaved head of yours?” you ask. Why yes, I do, with names omitted to protect the easily-embarrassed:
Q) My husband has an incredibly vast collection of tools, just about every hand and power tool in existence, and his main enjoyment in life is working with them in his shop out back. I’ve completely run out of ideas for Christmas and birthday gifts, and I’d prefer something more original than gift cards/certificates. Any suggestions?
A) I’d suggest going around the house breaking things. He still gets to play with his tools, and it’s arguably original.
Q) I really enjoy sushi, and I’ve eaten it regularly ever since I was a kid. As much as I enjoy it, I’ve always been a little annoyed at the aftertaste I get every time I have some, and it’s always there no matter where I get it. Is there anything I can do?
A) Try cooking it.
Q) Our 19-year-old son has been dating a stripper for several months, and it’s becoming a strain on us, especially my wife. Her closest friends are a pretty chatty group of ladies from our church, and I don’t know how long it’ll be before one of them gets wind of our little secret. I’ve been having conversations with our son, but with no success so far. What can I do?
A) Perhaps his girlfriend would be more receptive if you explain the situation to her. If you need some moral support, I’m happy to accompany you to her workplace.
Q) I come from a family of renowned scientists. Relatives from my grandfather to my parents to my elder cousins boast medical breakthroughs, published papers and books, influential positions at major universities, etc. It’s very intimidating to say the least. I’m a young physicist at a small university in my hometown, and so far the only ideas I can come up with regarding contributions to humanity are the sort you’d only find in science fiction novels. The concept I’ve fixated on the longest is the ability to pass through solid matter. In my position, would it be crazy, or perhaps even reckless if I were to pursue this as a project?
A) It wouldn’t be crazy or reckless so much as it would be unnecessary. You should look for a new pursuit and forget about trying to pass through solid matter, unless you can somehow take credit for inventing the door.
Q) I’ve been so busy electronically cataloging my butterfly collection that I forgot to do my monthly shopping for toiletries. Do you know of any stores that will accept expired shaving cream coupons
A) It’s fairly common for most major retailers to accept expired coupons; it’s widely considered just good customer service. A good idea would be checking a variety and/or department store, and a fantastic idea would be shopping for a life while you’re there.
Q) There’s a history of insomnia in my family. Do you know of an organic or holistic cure for it?
A) Yes. I’ve found that sleep is the best cure in both of those categories.
Q) What’s the best way to render a liberal completely speechless?
A) Hire a black lesbian to block the entrance to an abortion clinic with a hybrid SUV.
Q) My idiot neighbor keeps shoving reading material in my face while I’m trying to do my chores. What should I do?
A) You could start by returning his reciprocating saw.