Dear Uptight Seattleite, I was walking down the street the other day when a man in a wheelchair asked me to open a door for him. (Of course if he hadn't asked I never would have assumed that he needed my help just because he was handi-capable.) Then I noticed it was the door to Starbucks! Now I don't know whether I should feel good about helping someone or bad because I indirectly added to the coffers of a soulless billion-dollar corporate latte machine. What do you think?Beverly Guilt-billy
Dear Beverly, You've already mastered the art of not treating the wheelchair-bound any differently from anyone else. Great! Now extend that thought. Reach and two and reach and four and reach and reach and reach and reach! Where did you end up? Hopefully with a map of independently owned coffee shops in your back pocket. A map you can hand to anyone, regardless of their color, creed, or degree of ableness. Add a few notations with arrows pointing out the special features of each coffee shop. "100% Fair Trade!" for example, or "Super yummy and organic!" Make your arrows do little loops to show your goodwill and jocularity. Casually slip in a few comments especially for your wheelchair friend, like "By the way, they've got a terrific ramp!" and "Now you're rolling!" Next to that last comment, draw a goofy smiley face with its tongue sticking out. This doodle will show you realize we're all muddling through the big crazy game of life as best we can, and that you don't look down on anyone. Even someone who happens to be both paraplegic and in need of a friendly reminder or two. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I was playing two-hand touch in the street in Magnolia the other day with my church youth group when an errant Hail Mary pass happened to hit some lady's Audi. She proceeds to come tearing out of her house like a banshee and scream bloody fucking murder. Keep in mind that this was a Nerf football, and that it bounced harmlessly off the roof of her precious S6 Avant. Was it because we're Mexican that she flipped out so bad?Single Short Futbol Americano
Dear Single Short, You used the phrase "keep in mind" with regard to the Nerf-ness of the football in your anecdote. It's a powerful phrase that we all can benefit from. Because there's such a long list of things one ought to keep in mind. Being nice to each other is number one on that list, as the Dalai Lama reminded several stadiums of us recently, between all those choral performances and native dances. But that woman wasn't very nice to you, was she? It sounds like that made you feel pretty bad. Even a little mad. But the moment her tantrum began is when we should freeze-frame this movie and look for things that you, too, should "keep in mind." Number one on this list: To buy a home in Magnolia is to invest in a swanky predictability. A freedom from unscripted encounters. The neighborhood is a brand, just like Magnolia Hi-Fi. They call that store something else now, "Magnolia Digital Information" or something. More up-to-date, maybe, but it doesn't exactly have the same ring, does it? Likewise, the neighborhood itself has gone through some changes, with more rental properties and more different kinds of folks moving in. That woman is probably a good person who votes Democratic and supports humane immigration policies. Only now she finds that the quiet, genteel air of Magnolia—her very backyard itself—is ringing with the sounds of foreign languages. That makes it a little different. And on a particularly bad day, a day like you caught her on, the MP3s and Mexicans in the streets max out the limits of her virtual tolerance. Dear Uptight Seattleite, The streets are too narrow in my neighborhood to allow two cars to pass at once. Whenever I see another car coming toward me, I always pull over before they do to let them pass. Then I bask in self-satisfaction. Am I a karma hog? Love,Aspiring Wavee
Dear Aspiring, The genus of your condition is indeed Karma Hog, but the actual species is Wave Hoarder. You're addicted to the hands of strangers silhouetted in windshields. Even as yet another friendly silhouette makes your shadowy pile grow higher, you fear you'll be obliged to give a wave back, subtracting a unit from your stash. Don't worry, though. This condition is fully reversible. Just seize the right-of-way occasionally. This will keep you alert and humble. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.