Advice April 2010

What's Your Problem?


Have you noticed that most women, when they’re pumping gas, which they don’t want to do very often, will start pumping and then get back in the car and wait, especially on a cold day? My wife does this, and it drives me crazy because it’s dangerous. When you get back in the car, you pick up static electricity, which can start a fire when you pull out the hose. I told her that she should discharge her static electricity before she finishes pumping, but she never listens. Why do women insist on getting in the car when the whole process takes two minutes?

A. T., Seattle, Wash.

Dear A. T.,

I’m trying to understand if this letter is in fact some sort of allegory about your sex life. If it is not, might I suggest pumping your own gas? If it is, what does “static electricity” stand for?

Someone told me that when I check out of a hotel, I should take the electronic door key with me, because it has my credit-card information embedded in it. Is this true?

P. Q., Miami, Fla.

Dear P. Q.,

It is not true. My personal security chief, Bruce Schneier—author of Practical Cryptography—says that hotel keys store only the room number, an access code, and an expiration date. As Schneier explained: “Some systems program the cards with two access codes: ‘current’ and ‘next.’ When a traveler puts his card into the door for the first time, the door recognizes the card’s ‘current’ code as the door’s ‘next’ code; it then locks out the old ‘current,’ moves the ‘next’ to ‘current,’ and accepts the card’s ‘next’ as the new ‘next.’ This process continues, with each new card locking out the previous card.” Does that clear it up for you?

I’m in love with a guy. He is perfect in almost every way. Handsome, good earner, athletic, interesting, not a drunk, reads The Atlantic. There’s one problem: if we’re in a crowded parking lot, he’ll go for the handicapped spots. He says that there are always too many of them and that they’re always empty. This makes me crazy. What should I do?

T. M., Los Angeles, Calif.

Dear T. M.,

Break his legs.

For years, I’ve been a National Geographic subscriber, as were my parents. I believe I have 40 years of National Geographics in my basement because I couldn’t bear to throw them out. I now see that one can purchase the entire archive of the magazine on disc. Is it permissible to throw out the old magazines?

D. T., Washington, D.C.

Dear D. T.,

No, it is not. It is not permissible to throw out any magazines, except for Cat Fancy, Swank, and Forbes. And remember: in the event of a complete economic collapse, glossy magazines can be used as kindling, or as a ready source of nutrition.

I am in my first year of law school (Ivy League). But the stories from the trenches are horrendous. Recent graduates are telling us that there are no jobs, and that when someone finds a job, it comes with no security. Should I cut my losses and get out now?

C. B., New York, N.Y.

Dear C. B.,

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through LSATs at dawn looking for job security, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night and to partner-track slots at Skadden Arps, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating the idea of billing clients in 15-minute increments for the rest of their lives. So yes. Get out now. Why don’t you try journalism?

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as 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.

His 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. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. 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. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

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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