Dear Uptight Seattleite, How should I greet someone who's wearing ear buds?Sociable Sally
Dear Sally, First, frown and hug yourself tight to represent to the ear-bud user their own unhealthy electronic cocooning. Second, jump up and stretch out your arms and legs like a joy-crazed starfish greeting the dawn. This will remind them of the w-i-d-e, wonderful world they're missing out on. Then toss your scarf over your shoulder, blow a kiss, and be on your way. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Is it OK to use a shopping cart at Trader Joe's?A Mother
Dear Mother, Trader Joe's! My favorite! You know how they get the prices so low? With the power of smartness. Trader Joe's is where smart people buy smart stuff at smart prices. China? No, I'm pretty sure Trader Joe's would never sell any food from China. Even if some of it may not be organic in the strict sense of the word, it has a certain organic vibe. In a pinch, this vibe is an excellent substitute for actual organicness. OK, now look at the aisles here at TJ's. Notice how narrow they are. Wide, usable aisles may have been OK in the past, but these aisles are oriented toward the dawning of a more sensible consumerism. These aisles are in line with our need to consume less and consume better. Now look up from the narrow aisles and consider your fellow shoppers. We've all sized down, too. We match the narrowness of these aisles with the narrowness of our carbon footprints. We're thinking sensible, we're think whole-earth shopping, we're thinking sustainability. A lot of us bused here. A lot of us biked here. We pull reusable bags like magic handkerchiefs from under our high-tech rainwear, fill them with garlic naan, and attach them to our bicycles with a special system of magnets, SmartSnaps, and recycling. Now here you come. Perhaps you arrived in that minivan over there. Perhaps your child is with you. And you want to know if it's OK to use a cart. A cart that takes up half the width of the sustainably sized aisles. Of course it's OK! Why would they have carts if you weren't allowed to use them? Don't mind me as I try to step lightly around you in my complicated bicycle shoes. The little girl clutching shyly at your arm is not in my way. Not at all. Actually, she sort of is, but no worries. I don't need to get to the wine section right away. It's time for me to go gesture reassuringly through the front window to my dog anyway. Georgina's had a bit of a rough week. I think the Spanish lessons are starting to stress her out. Also, I usually make a couple of circuits around the store anyway—once to cover everything on my list, and once to indulge in impulse buys. I try to limit impulse buys to three. I might make an exception if they're having a special on soy flax clusters or pine-nut butter, but otherwise it's three or less. That might seem extreme, but sorry, I make no apologies for living simply so others may simply live. I like to think of it more as a fun game than a harsh rule. The point is, I can just go ahead and hit that ol' wine section on Circuit the Second. The Impulse Circuit. This will be the first time I ever hit the wine section during the Impulse Circuit, but it's no big deal. Since you and your child and your full-sized shopping cart seem to be in no hurry to settle on a flavor of Orangutan-O's, I'll just go ahead and break that 25-trip streak I've had going since I instituted the two-circuit system back in May 2007 to accommodate both my child and adult shopping selves. Will I finish my shopping with a slightly off-center psyche? Like I said, not a big deal. I've been meaning to work on my re-centering routine anyway. Bottom line, your cart usage is not a problem at all. Just go on with your bad self. Your bad, cart-using self. Dear Uptight Seattleite, My therapist tells me I can sue my former employer.Vicky Victim
Dear Vicky, My employer tells me I can sue my former therapist. I'd been having a series of dreams about a network of castles set in sheer cliffs, and for months this therapist was trying to decode these dream castles in terms of—what else?—my relationship with my parents. It actually turned out to be a symbol of inadequately expressed grief for my deceased animal companion, Kunio, and my therapist was guilty of nothing less than species-ism. I don't know if I could actually succeed with a suit. They always make you sign a bunch of papers before you start treatment. But if they hadn't, and if lingering crypto-Freudianism was the crime it should be, I think I would have a good case. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.