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My Secret Vice

What I’ve Learned Reading “Dear Abby”

One of my secret vices is reading advice columnists in the newspaper. Of course, these days, no one reads actual physical newspapers anymore. On the odd occasion when we buy the local rag, it’s because we need something to wrap up some nasty, dirty, smelly trash before the next garbage pickup day. Anyway, I digress.

My favorite site is the San Jose Mercury News because they have four advice columnists on one page. It minimizes my time and effort in finding and reading multiple news sources for different columnists. I wish sites like Mercury News had virtual “tip jars” so I can “tip” them for adding a little fun to my day. I don’t want or need a subscription to the paper since I live 700 miles away in a different state. Again, I digress.

What I’ve learned after following Dear Abby, Ann Landers, Harriette Cole and Amy Dickinson is that nearly every human problem is caused by interactions between family, friends or colleagues. There are the odd situations involving total strangers or aliens or supernatural beings but those situations are usually addressed by mental health professionals.

In almost every situation, I can distill the columnists’ answers down to one word, “Chill.” Your sister, friend or colleague gives or returns a gift he/she doesn’t need or want? Chill, accept it back and return it to the store (if possible,) re-gift it, donate it or just toss it. What’s the percentage in getting all worked up about whether their actions are rude, crude, inconsiderate or hostile? Just ignore it and, if their intent is hostile, being ignored will cause them much greater agita when you don’t react.

How about when you’re caught between two warring factions. Your siblings, friends or colleagues don’t like each other and want to drag you into making a choice among them. Simply chill and walk away. When some obnoxious ass pushes the issue and demands you to take sides, ask, “Why is it so important to you that I pick a side?” Most people are too wrapped up in their infantile emotions and won’t be able to articulate a clear, rational answer.

Sometimes, situations arise at work where someone makes demands that create conflict for you. If your co-worker wants you to join them in freezing out someone they don’t like, ignore it. What are they going to do? Send you to Vietnam? (A very useful parry I learned in… Vietnam!) If the person making such a demand is a person of authority, it gets trickier. My preferred response is to enthusiastically agree and then, ignore it. Most people can’t remember what they had for breakfast, much less what they demanded of a subordinate days or weeks past. If you happen to work for a real jerk who remembers and keeps score on such things, consider yourself lucky to have learned it sooner than later before the moron uses his/her “jerkness” against you. Make plans to jump ship before the moron sinks the entire ship.

Bottom line, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Be happy knowing that your heart & health will be happy. Be happy knowing others will wonder what you’re up to! Most of all, be happy that you’re driving them crazy by not reacting and/or responding. Just smile enigmatically and follow your own path! Chill!


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