Advice December 2009

What’s Your Problem?

It has been a longtime goal of mine to become an advice columnist. I live in a fairly small town, and there is a free paper that everyone reads that is distributed at grocery stores, the library, and most local businesses. I recently obtained a life-coach certificate and I am thinking of proposing to the editor that he add an advice column. I would welcome your suggestions for five or 10 things that make an advice columnist successful.

K. R., Queensbury, N.Y.

Dear K. R.,

Writing an advice column is not for everyone. Consult your doctor before deciding whether a career as an advice columnist is the right step for you. Side effects of writing an advice column include dry mouth, marked drowsiness, sleeplessness, distension of the coccyx, hatred of fondue, stigmata, premature brake wear, Munchausen Syndrome, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Munchausen Syndrome by Two-Thirds Majority Vote, cataracts, thrush, cloture, and a desire to wear funny hats to funerals. Do not attempt to operate a computer while writing an advice column. Do not attempt to visit Latvia while writing an advice column. Avoid diphthongs, the Guggenheim Museum, and the words “sprocket,”croque-monsieur,” andpants” when writing an advice column. Erections lasting more than four hours, though rare, require immediate editorial attention. Erections lasting less than four minutes should not be discussed in public.

My husband and I are law partners and we travel frequently together for business. We get along well, except for one issue: he insists on cleaning up hotel rooms before the chambermaid arrives. I say the chambermaid is paid to clean up the room. He doesn’t go into restaurant kitchens and cook his own food, so why should he clean up the hotel room? Who is right here?

H. W., Los Angeles, Calif.

Dear H. W.,

When the revolution comes, and the chambermaids and busboys and janitors rise up in righteous fury to judge the lawyers and the lobbyists and the CEOs, you will find yourself defenestrated, or at least disbarred, but your husband will see statues raised in his honor. Which is to say, I also clean up my hotel room before the maid arrives. No one gets through life without troubles, but I think that poorly paid hotel workers get through with more than their share. Why not pick up after yourself and make life a little easier for someone who works harder than you do?

I recently moved from the city to the suburbs with my wife. Some kind of animal is living under our lawn and it digs holes, which could cause visitors to stumble. I think this creature is a mole or a possum, but I’m not sure. I want to call an exterminator, but my wife is a vegetarian and objects. Is there a nonlethal way of getting rid of such creatures?

P. D., Westchester, N.Y.

Dear P. D.,

Did you explain to your wife that she does not have to eat the mole? Yes, I suppose you did. If you are committed to finding a nonlethal solution, I suggest buying coyote-urine granules and spreading them across your lawn. You can find coyote-urine granules, as well as fox urine and bobcat urine (in spray or liquid form), on Amazon.com. The smell of predator urine on your property should frighten away voles, burrowing moles, and other pests. As a bonus, coyote-urine granules go great on salads.

Let’s say I’m at the airport and I recognize a distinguished Atlantic correspondent (James Fallows, Robert Kaplan, or—oh, the goose bumps!—Jeffrey Goldberg). What is the proper etiquette in this situation? Will it be awkward if I approach to request an autograph on my copy of The Atlantic, and use my camera phone to snap a few pictures with him?

A. J. M., Mountain View, Calif.

Dear A. J. M.,

Robert Kaplan is under 24-hour guard by a detachment of Gurkhas, so I don’t suggest approaching him. James Fallows travels the globe by invisible glider, so you’re going to have difficulty there. Me, on the other hand: if you buy me a Pretzel Dog, I’ll talk to you for five hours.

Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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