Saturday, June 27, 2009

Matter Cannot Be Created nor Destroyed

Another dangler story: In college, I had a physics lecture that had at least 250 students. The class was taught by an aging hippie who clearly loved making physics interesting and understandable to students who only took his class for three of the twelve science credits required for graduation. That’s why I took the class. That, and the fact that the required text, written by the professor, was titled Physics for Poets.
One day, the teacher began lecturing with an unignorable dangle of snot hanging from his nostril. I was sitting towards the back of the large lecture hall and even I couldn’t miss it. No one said anything, but no one participated in class either. We students were clearly trying to avoid even looking at the poor man.
Class ended, and surely he discovered the dangler later on—either through the comment of a kind friend, or when he eventually glanced in a mirror.
Things were never the same between us students and our professor. He entered the next day’s class embarrassed, less animated, never eliciting discussion as he always had before.
I wonder if anyone had seen him and his dangler before he entered our lecture hall—another professor, a teaching assistant, a passerby—who might have had one uncomfortable moment with him in order to save all of us from half a semester of discomfort. Seriously people: do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Contents May Shift During Flight

My friend Jon shared this story: He’s flying from L.A. to Vancouver to shoot a television show, and he’s sitting next to a well-known British actress (the name of whom won’t be revealed here.) From her comfortable first-class seat, the actress has been looking out the window. When she turns to Jon to chat, he notices she has a bit of snot dangling from her nose. It’s not just hanging; it’s waving with each turn of her beautiful, oft photographed head.
At first, Jon hopes the dangler will fall on its own but after it proves to be well attached and not going anywhere, Jon taps the actress and says, “Rebecca (not her real name), do you have a tissue?”
She looks concerned: “Why? Do you need one?”
“No,” he whispers. “You do.”
She quickly tends to her appearance and all is right in first class.
Well done, Jon.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

If You See Something, Say Something

I was riding the Manhattan-bound F train and the man standing by the door looking nonchalant was clearly unaware that his fly was open. This wasn’t a pervert situation, but a clear oversight on his part.

I got his attention and tried to subtly indicate to him that he should point his attention south, but he didn’t understand me. I then said out loud, “your fly is open.” His response betrayed that he did not know more than rudimentary English. Finally, through pointing and gesture, he understood me and, blushed and flustered, zipped up.

Yes, ok, what I intended to be a quick signal followed by immediate understanding became a protracted game of semi-lewd charades. And yes, in all the hubbub he missed his stop. And then we had to stand there not looking at each other for another few minutes while his finger traced the map in his New York City travel guide to figure out how to get back to his intended station. Still, I think he was glad I said something. Walking the city streets showing partial pecker is worse than walking a few extra blocks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Is a Public Service

You’re walking around with spinach in your teeth. You would want to be told, but no one wants to be the one to tell you. Sometimes, being direct and honest is the hardest, and kindest, thing to do. I'm here to help.

I am determined to say the thing no one wants to say. I will, in fact, say for you the thing you don't want to say.

Write to me at and I will send an e mail to your designated recipient telling him or her just what small flaw should be changed. The e mail will appear like this:

Dear Bob,

Someone who cares about you wants you to know that you have bad breath. Your friend wants to alert you without embarrassing you or hurting your relationship. While this might be hard to hear, your friend thinks you would benefit from knowing this.

Please take this e mail in the spirit it was intended—to help, not hurt, you.


In order to prevent cruelty and abuse, you may only choose from the list of issues provided. You can suggest more maladies be added to the list by e mailing your suggestions to me.

The items on the list were chosen carefully: they are all issues that can be fixed simply by knowing they exist. None of these issues require a longer conversation, or outside intervention. For example, "you drink too much" is not on the list, because this is not an issue that can necessarily be solved easily, without outside intervention.

Please note I will not send multiple e mails to the same person. This is a public service, not a vehicle for anonymous harassment.

To get started, send me an e mail stating:
Recipient's name
Recipient's e mail
The issue on the list to which you wish to call attention
What to write in the subject line that would get your friend to read it. This should be something specific about this person so the e mail will be read and not deleted. For example, your subject could be "Your red kitten shirt" if that's something distinctive, that the recipient would recognize.

Choose the issue you wish to call attention to:

Your apartment smells bad

You are too attached to your cell phone

You are too stingy with money

You are an unsafe driver

You brag too much

You dress inappropriately for work

You eat too loudly

You forward too many e mails

You gossip too much

You have bad breath

You have bad table manners

You have body odor

You interrupt while others are talking

You namedrop too much

You speak too harshly to your partner

You spit when you talk

You talk about your kid(s) too much

You talk about your pet(s) too much

You talk too much

You talk too loudly

You use too much profanity

You wear clothing that is too tight

You wear too much makeup

You would look better bald than with your hairpiece

Once you send me an e mail, your friend will be contacted soon thereafter, probably within 48 hours. In the meanwhile, consider saying something yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s the act of a friend.