Friday, September 15, 2006

Sorry, no jokes today — try some advice instead

Like it? 
This is probably the most difficult job in the world, ever.

There, I said it.

I recently counted how many of these things I’ve written, going way back to 2003, and it’s about 120. At around 900 words per column, that’s 108,000 words. Figure an average of 11 words per sentence and you get 9,818 sentences. There’s probably a joke every sentence and a half in there. So let’s say 6,545 jokes, more or less. I have one joke left in me, and it's not very good. You sure you want to hear it? OK. Here it is. A tray of muffins is baking in the oven. One muffin says to another muffin, “Whew — kind of hot in here!” The other muffin says, “Holy shit! A talking muffin!” See? Do you see how challenging this is now? I'm tapped out!

Other kinds of columnists have it so much easier. Like sports writers. “Team beats team.” Boom. Pad it out a little and you’re cool. Political columnists? You get paid to yell about how wrong someone else is. Most people do that already for free. Mike Reagan has made a tidy living writing weekly variations on the theme “People who oppose the war in Iraq are parasites who should be boiled alive, minced, strained through a fine cheesecloth and sold to the Alpo company to feed the dogs of the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.”

Just for one day, I’d like to have one of those columns where I can kick my shoes off and relax. Like Dear Abby. She’s got it made, that one. Just sits around waiting for the dysfunction to roll in. Then it’s a quick dose of common sense, a plug for her Web site, and she’s off to the day spa to have her face reupholstered.

I could do it, too. Not the face thingy — the advice thingy. I love telling people how they should behave. And they already write most of your text! Less work!

That’s it. Can’t stop me. I’m going to be Dear Abby for a day. Below is a sampling of what it would be like for me in that job, dealing with a proverbial pu-pu platter of personal problems.


Dear Flabby:

My husband and I have been having some marital difficulties lately (I’ll call him “Quentin”). Anyway, whenever I bring up the subject of children with Sean, he makes some silly excuse to leave the conversation. Last time, it was his buckle shoes that needed shining. Before that, he wanted to smoke “a wee bit of” his pipe instead. Flabby, I have seen him spend hours carving a new shillelagh out of an oak limb, but he won’t talk to his own wife about their future!

It’s not about whether we can afford it. He’s got a stash of hundreds of gold coins socked away in an iron cauldron. I’ve seen it. I think he’s just afraid to commit to a lasting, meaningful relationship. What can I do, Flabby? — Childless in Chicago

Dear Childless:

Face the facts. Your husband is a leprechaun, the fabled imp of Irish legend. And he will always be a leprechaun. You knew that going into the relationship, didn’t you?

It may have been fun for a fling, but many women find leprechauns just don’t want to give up their carefree lifestyles that easily. You can’t change him — not unless he’s willing to change himself.

Sit down with him and make him talk to you. Stuff him in a pillowcase if you have to, or a burlap sack. Tell him your feelings about motherhood. He may want to scamper off into the glen from whence he came, but he must at least validate your emotions. If you both decide to end the relationship, just remember that you were lucky to have any time with him at all.


Dear Flabby:

I am a 12-year-old girl. My used-to-be best friend is a total snob just because she’s 13 now! She says I’m just a stupid kid and won’t play Barbies anymore no matter how many times I ask nicely. What can I do to make her hang out with me again? —Still Not a Teenager

Dear Still:

Have you ever considered that it’s actually you who’s the snob? Snobs think they’re better than other people. By thinking your friend has some sort of obligation to hang out with you, that means you think your feelings are more important than hers. Maybe she hates you for no reason. This is America. She can do that.

Anyway, long story short, your wanting her to hang out with you when she clearly doesn’t care for that means you think your happiness is more important than hers, which makes you a snob. And writing to me for advice like this instead of talking to her makes you also a conceited two-face. Thanks for your letter!


Dear Flabby:

My manager, who I’ll call “Unnamed Manager at Westbrook Insurance Co. on Pear Street, downtown Akron,” has been acting inappropriately to me and some of the other women. He hugs us all the time for being good employees. It's a painful, groping hug if you file forms correctly, save paper clips instead of throwing them away — even doing simple things get a hug, like having legible penmanship. I suspect it’s just an excuse for him to press himself against us, because most times he's got a major hardon, and the rest of the time you can tell by the way he shifts from foot to foot that he's working toward one. Also, he rarely wears pants, and this is the only insurance agency I’ve worked at where the dress code is a micro-mini, riding crop, and go-go boots. Whenever us ladies go out for lunch, he always asks us to bring him back a "tube steak sandwich and a dildo pickle," which hasn't worked since an embarassing episode at D'Angelo.

I fear retaliation for speaking out. How can I tell him that I and my husband, who owns the insurance company and works in the next office over, find his unwanted advances a little perverty? Sign me: —Richard Cuthbert of Westbrook Insurance Co. Is A Sleazeball

Dear Sleazeball:

You are the victim of a sexual harassment predator. Do not hesitate to confront him. Try a phone book to the bridge of his nose. Preferably a heavy one, over and over, until this solves the issue.


Dear Flabby:

Settle a bet with me and a friend. What is the proper etiquette for sending a thank-you card: immediately, or after one week, when you've had time to enjoy the gift? — Curious Georgina

Dear Curious: Wow. You guys are actually betting on that? That’s, like, the dorkiest frigging bet ever. What are the stakes, a hot cup of cocoa? Holy Christ. To think you actually had to mull this over, type it up, print it out, put it in an envelope, spend 39 cents on a stamp, mail it, and drag the United States Postal Service and me into your sick game.

Listen: Find a coin. Flip it. There’s your answer.


susies said...

laughing here (again). Great job with your blog.

Brandon said...

I'm going to have to call you out on your sportswriter dig. The fact that all sports columns use the exact template you mentioned is precisely what makes it so difficult. Try writing the same piece 20, 80, or 160 times a year (varying by sport, of course) using a very strict and seemingly random set of words that are rarely seen anywhere else. For instance: helmed, ensuing, skippered, burgeoning, phenom, defending, litmus test, clip (as in rate), workmanlike and "the chalk" which I quite like actually.

Other than that, however, this column is much the best (to borrow a phrase).


Dan Medeiros said...

Susies: Thanks very much for the kind words. You're a real peach. It's one of our nicest pieces of produce.

Brandon: I'm especially a fan of the "litmus test" sports cliche, the whole chemistry reference being remarkably apt these days.

Everyone else: Brandon has a hell of a sports blog on Fox Sports. Fantastic writer. Go here to read it.

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