What’s Your Problem?

Graham Roumieu

My cousin was recently indicted for a financial crime. If he’s convicted, he could go to jail for a year or more. He believes he should look his best at the trial, and so he wants to wear his best suits. I argue that considering the tenor of the times, juries will be harder on men they think are super-rich, so he should dress more casually. Not sloppily, but in a way that allows the jury to relate to him. What do you think?

G. C., Dallas, Texas

Dear G. C.,

I think you should dress him like a waitress. People are innately sympathetic to waitresses, especially in times of economic hardship. If he resists, you might want to dress him in beige. According to John Molloy, a “clothing consultant,” you might be able to “diminish his look of authority by having him wear a pale-beige suit, a pale shirt (not light-blue), and a pale tie. This combination suggests to a jury that this is not really a man of authority and raises the question of how he could have abused what he obviously didn’t have.”

I’ve noticed that many airline passengers stack their coats and other small items in overhead bins. This annoys me. On a recent flight, the attendant insisted that I check my carry-on because there was no space left. Surprise! My bag didn’t arrive with me—it showed up 10 hours later. At what point is a passenger allowed to throw people’s jackets on the floor?

M. S., Washington, D.C.

Dear M. S.,

I’m a partisan of politeness on airplanes, in part because flight attendants have a very tough job, which is why they’re preemptively surly. But the situation you describe calls for action. What I would do, if I weren’t me, is hold up the jacket, deride it loudly (as in: “And I thought Members Only jackets were ugly!”), and then put it back. This is passive-aggressive, and useless as a practical matter, but it sounds like fun! Something else you could do is ask for the owner of the jacket to come forward, and then politely request that he consider holding it on his lap. This is neither passive nor aggressive, but weirdly, I’ve seen it work.

Is it possible for your husband to come home from a business trip and have lipstick traces on his shirt collar and not be having an affair?

P. A., San Francisco, Calif.

Dear P. A.,

Yes, but only if your husband works for a lipstick company.

I live in Washington, D.C., which was beaten up by ferocious snowstorms this winter. Everyone parks on the street in my neighborhood, and after big storms many of our neighbors put out lawn chairs and the like to block the parking spots they’ve shoveled out. This seems antisocial to me, so I don’t do it. But am I just being a sucker? When I come home from work, I can never find a space.

D. T., Washington, D.C.

Dear D. T.,

In some places (though not in the District of Columbia, where I also live) it is legal to reserve a parking spot using lawn furniture until the streets are cleared. I once would have agreed that this is an unfriendly practice, but this winter’s storms convinced me otherwise. I live in a special area of Washington that was established by the federal government as a reservation for former employees of Ralph Nader, and while my neighbors are thoughtful people who support our local NPR affiliate and believe that War Is Not the Answer, they’re not very good at shoveling snow. This may be because, as liberals, they believe that street-clearing is the job of the government. Or because they think that mechanical snowblowers cause global warming. Whatever the case, my street was an obstacle course. So I put out a stepladder in my (very clean) parking space, and damn the communitarians.

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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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