Thursday, May 29, 2008


Dear Adam,

I've got a tough decision to make, but it's complicated. I can't go into details. It's kind of a long story. The basic question is: should I go through with it?

On the Fence in Fairbanks

Dear Fencer,

It's not a tough decision. It's an easy decision. You want it to be a tough decision. You want the bad option to be good. But it's not. You're asking for advice in the hopes that someone, anyone will tell you the bad option is the good option. Nobody thinks that. It's an easy decision.

And it's not complicated. People in simple situations say that they're complicated all the time, when the only complicated aspect is the hundreds of layers of bull required to put a positive spin on something so obviously negative. "I didn't get fired . . . it's complicated." "I can't commit to a long relationship . . . it's complicated." "Your car isn't ready yet . . . it's complicated." "We didn't get the loan . . . it's complicated."

And it isn't a long story. People always try to cover up their obviously bad choices by threatening you with the length of the story. Sure, if you try to make it sound good, it gets real long. But if you keep them true, they are always short stories. Here are the short stories from the previous examples: "I got fired for stealing at work." "I don't want to be exclusive because I don't like you all that much." "The valet stole your car." "We have bad credit and no money."

So if you're wondering if you and the imbezzling, disinterested car thief should buy a new house together with a no-money-down subprime mortgage . . . sure, go for it. Send me a postcard from Alaska. Just spare me the complicated long story.



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dear Me

Hey, you, it's me. You look tired. Anything I can do?


Dear Adam,

Go to sleep. Don't blog.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Listerine Users

Dear Adam,

I started rinsing with Listerine about a minute ago. I was about to spit it out, when I took a second look at the directions. It said to "rinse for 30 seconds. DO NOT SWALLOW." So, I'm not swallowing. But that's not really an instruction. It's a warning of what not to do. . . . So what do I do? Hurry! I have "not swallowed" for just about as long as I can and my mouth is really burning.

Gargles in South Dakota

Dear Gargles (or should I call you Burning Mouth?),

A lesser advice columnist would just tell you to spit it out. I'm not sure why the good folks at Listerine didn't give you that instruction. You're quite correct, "Do not swallow," hardly classifies as direction. But now that you find yourself in this predicament, you could turn your germ-killing quandary into a financial windfall. Johnson & Johnson is a big company with a lot of money. Their negligence could be your good fortune.

I'm no lawyer, but I think that in civil litigation, a jury of your peers might find that Johnson & Johnson informing you on the matter of expectoration is a reasonable expectation. The dentist tells you to spit. Why can't a bottle of Listerine? I'm sure the bottle tells you that failure to use the product in accordance with the directions is a violation of federal law. But seeing as though they give you no recommended course of action other than not swallowing, you could be in for some compensation. If you show up to court with the Listerine still in your mouth, that would be grand. But if you attempt to expel it through your nostrils, that could cause damage you can prove. Or if you simply fail in the not swallowing department, I'm sure that would mess you up pretty good physically (though not financially). You might even be able to find a psychologist who would conclude that the mere mention of not swallowing makes it impossible for you to think of anything but swallowing, especially given no written alternative.

But the whole process takes a long time (a lot longer than 30 seconds). Considering all your options, my final advice to you would be the following:


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

American Idol Contestants

I'm not gonna name names. I don't care what song you sing. I don't care what Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame member's song you brutalize. But please don't compare your experience on American Idol to the Civil Rights Movement.

They. Are not. The same. At all.

You being sent to the bottom two is not in the same solar system, the same eon, or the sameliterary genre as being sent to the back of the bus. If you come even remotely close to insinuating such a preposterous notion, you deserve to be sent home.

Ticket Printers

Dear Adam,

Dude, I can't stop perforating. I'm a ticket printer. I print tickets for a living. 50 years I've been printing tickets and perforating the stub. Ticket printers had to perforate it so when the ticket takers take the tickets, the stub tears off nice and clean before it takes up permanent residence in a wallet or a scrapbook or something. You leave the theater to go number one? You still got a nice evenly separated stub to show the one in every thousand ticket takers who actually check stubs on re-entry. Anyway, the point has been rendered moot by scanners. They scan the barcode on the ticket now. There's no such thing as a ticket taker. They're ticket printers now. Now us ticket printers got a reality to face. There's no ticket tearing. The perforating seems superfluous. What should we do?

With thanks,

Ticket Printer on the Perf

Dear Perf,

Listen to me, buddy. Listen to me good. You keep perforating that ticket. You have a story to tell. You have posterity to think about. Think about the children. Last week I took my son to a baseball game, and he held that perforated ticket in his hand. It never got ripped. The ticket scanner did not take a thing from us except the experience of what it used to mean to enter a ballpark. Without that perf, my son will never ask why those little almost-holes are lining up three-quarters of the way down the ducat. With the perf, he may one day ask why there is a line waiting to be ripped. And I will be ready to tell him that we used to live in a world where ticket takers took your ticket. They ripped it, and they ripped it good. We used to live in a world where ticketing agencies didn't charge you $2.00 to print a ticket on your home computer (what the blazes is up with that, anyway?). We used to live in a world where barcodes were something you put on groceries, not the pass that delivers you through the gates of Wrigley or into the hallowed halls of an R.E.M. concert.

Don't you dare stop perforatin', Perf. Tell your story. Don't ever stop!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Whoever Has Authority Over the Oil Companies (if such a person exists)

I have seen no proof of an earthly entity with any power or authority over the oil companies, be they sheiks or Texans. But if you do exist, oh oily one, I've got some advice for you.

Now, I'm not going to tell you to put a cap on the gas prices. I won't tell you to reopen the scores of refineries that were shut down when the oil companies consolidated the process and cut their capacity for production to one tenth of its previous potential (thereby tripling the cost of gas). I won't tell you to force them to emancipate the American government from the virtual slavery in which they are shackled. I won't even tell you to clean up the environment. Collusion, corruption, lobbying/loan sharking, pollution, price gouging . . . keep it all up. Who's gonna stop them? Well, I suppose you could, if you really do exist, you Santa Clause of fossil fuels.

But I know that even if you are capable, you aren't willing. I have come to terms with that. What I can't accept, beyond all the slick scams and brute force, is one minuscule detail, and it is that seemingly trivial point about which I must advise you today. Do whatever you have to do. Talk to whoever you need to talk to. But please act now on this tiny piece of advice:

Drop that stupid 9/10 of a cent per gallon.

I can understand charging $3.89 for a gallon of unleaded. But I don't know where your boys get off setting a price of $3.89 and nine tenths per gallon. Nine tenths? NINE TENTHS?!? This is the spit in the eye, the salt in the wound, the straw bill delivered to the broken-backed camel. Giving us a one-tenth-cent discount to keep it from being an even $3.90, that's just cruel.

So please, talk to them. Reason with them. Make them stop the psychological games, okay? We know we're getting ripped off. Just round up. Don't patronize us with the idiocy of fractional cent savings. I'll happily pay the extra penny per tank to make that little superscript 9 disappear from the price. I don't know how it's even legal to charge less than a cent for any unit of any substance. Crack dealers might be destroying their customers, but I'll bet 100 barrels of petroleum that they have the decency to charge at no smaller than 50-cent increments.

So there. Go ahead and take our money. But spare us our dignity.