Dear Uptight Seattleite,I can't take free samples at the grocery store without feeling awkward. Am I obliged to fake an interest in buying the product they're hawking?Ballard Market Loyalist
Dear Loyalist,That man in a tie and apron tending an electric grill by the meat department—what do we owe him for one of his toothpick-speared chicken tidbits? Is it partially our fault if he feels a little ridiculous giving his pitch, like a monkey in a tuxedo juggling plates? Are we to blame if he has the manic, sweaty-palmed manner of someone being judged by the number of jars of marinade he can move per shift?Luckily, there's a way you can avoid these difficult questions. Loiter by the bananas until he's talking to someone else, then swoop in and snag a sample without breaking your stride, smoothing the way with a noncommittal smile. Toss a quick "Thank you!" over your shoulder as you make clean a getaway.For me it's particularly important to avoid interaction, because it would be dishonest to give the impression that I'm likely to be manipulated into buying a particular product. I only take samples because I believe in being open to life's little moments of spontaneous pleasure. And I figure the occasional shot of non-organic protein and corporate sodium won't kill me. Purveyors of samples aren't likely to understand all this, so it's better to involve them as little as possible.Dear Uptight Seattleite,The woman across the hall from me at work dances in her seat while listening to headphones. I can see her clearly through the sliding glass door, and it's very distracting. I would turn my desk around so I didn't have to see her, but then I would be facing the wall.NG
Dear NG,For that woman, it's a party...in her MIND! And who doesn't need that occasionally? I know dogs do. That's why I give Georgina a Himalayan Dog Chew whenever she seems to be down in the dumps (himalayandogchew.com). It's the same treat that Nepalese people chew—now available for American dogs. It's fun for Georgina to gnaw on it for hours to obtain minuscule particles of curdled yak's milk, and a fun way for her to experience how people in other countries live. As for you, NG, maybe you need to throw your own party. Try chewing sunflower seeds. That can be pretty fun. Don't eat the shells, though. They can cut up your anus pretty bad when they come out. Did that "anus" surprise you? It shouldn't have. Adults should be able to talk about the human body in plain language without embarrassment.Dear Uptight,Commuting by bike daily on the Burke-Gilman Trail, I have to wonder: Why is it that the later it is in the day, the darker and less visible the outerwear!? I have come sooooo close to hitting pedestrians dressed for stealth. And doesn't anybody walk around anymore and just listen to the surrounding world? Must we be CONSTANTLY entertained by our electronic crap? Thanks for your pontification on these things.Trail Grouch
Dear Grouch,When you ask for "pontification," I almost feel like you're asking me to do a "bit."And that makes me a little uncomfortable. Am I a bit factory? I hope that didn't sound like a hostile response. After all, I INVITE questions, so it wouldn't make a lot of sense to get prickly, would it? So let me try to say something more positive: I think you have a very promising persona. Maybe you should start a "Trail Grouch" Twitter or something. Who knows, it could be a big hit.Dear Uptight Seattleite,I saw a garden sculpture the other day that spelled out the word "Live," then a few minutes later a bumper sticker on the back of a Hyundai that told me to "Read More." What's with all the presumptuous and unsolicited advice?Doree Darko
Dear Doree,So what you're asking for is advice advice. Or did you simply mean to complain? If so, that's fine. I'm happy to provide a forum for venting. But in that case you don't actually need my advice, do you? And that's a good thing! Because I've been thinking about getting into another line of work. In addition to getting pretty serious about Lint Catcher (my studio project with Deb on drums), I'm considering taking up humor writing. The demand for smiles is pretty recession-proof. Here's a little sample: Q: Why couldn't the inventor of the chopstick eat his dinner? A: Because he hadn't invented the other chopstick yet! Like I said, that's just a sample. I've got a lot more where that came from.My very last book event—with beer, drumming, and PowerPoint—will be Wed., March 31 at 7 p.m at Neptune Coffee, 8415 Greenwood Ave. N.