Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Jan 31, 2012

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Take today's polls:
Gingrich-inspired infidelity poll: male | female
Parking poll: I live in a big city | I do not live in a big city

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

On the day of the Florida primaries (note to any Floridians: PLEASE vote Gingrich.  We need the clown show to keep going) I begin with something new, and great.   It came in an email yesterday from my friend Christine Lavin, the folk singer.

Chris is one of the funniest and most creative people I know; one thing truly creative people share is the unpredictability of inspiration.   On Saturday night at 2 a.m. Chris had an idea for a song; by 4 a.m., she had it nailed on her laptop, and recorded it on Sunday afternoon, using her laptop videocam while reading the lyrics off the screen.  Here, then, making its world debut for you, is the very first EVER performance of Christine Lavin’s new song, “President Gingrich (I’m going to live on the moon.)”    It’s just so good.

--

Speaking of other people’s creativity, I want to thank you all for your many emails raving about how hysterical my Sunday column was.  The fact that I didn’t actually write my Sunday column doesn’t at all diminish my pride.   Hey, why should it ?   Under modern standards of authorship, I have nothing to apologize for:  I aggregated that column.   I curated it.   I Huffingtoned it, baby.

One of the hardest parts of my job, and my editor’s, was deciding what to cut from the voluminous, wonderfully banal files of the police blotter of Vienna, Va.    The material was so great, thanks to the dry, laconic sense of humor of the guy who actually should be credited for it, Vienna PD Officer Bill Murray.  His reports – which the column quoted almost verbatim – are a triumph of understated minimalism.  He really has a deft hand. 

Officer Murray asked me to emphasize here that Vienna gets serious cases, too; boredom among officers is not a problem.   He makes another point that’s really interesting:  The nature of these calls suggests that the people of Vienna enjoy a terrific relationship with their PD, in that they’re unafraid to use them as arbiters of matters large and very, very small. 

The rest of this introduction is going to be outtakes from that column.   But first, two observations about human behavior.   This situation occurred at least five times during the year in Vienna:

"Two perpendicular vehicles were stopped at the 4 way stop signs. Both vehicles then entered the intersection at the same moment and collided."

Second observation:  You never want to be the subject of a police report containing the following phrase, which also appears frequently:    “... attempted to complete some field sobriety tests.”

And now, the outtakes: 

A mother reported that she went to her ex-husband’s home to pick up their son. She believed it was her weekend to have the child. Nobody answered the door at the house so she came to Vienna Police Headquarters.  Sergeant Taylor read over the custody agreement and determined that the child was to be with the father on this particular weekend.

--

A citizen reported that a socket set was missing from his home. The complainant was not sure if he misplaced the set or if it was taken.

--

A citizen reported that she and a friend went to Fast Eddie’s Bar in Fairfax City to play pool. The complainant then states the next thing she remembered is waking up in her bathtub at her home. The complainant suspected that she and her friend were drugged with a substance.

Detectives investigated the case thoroughly and determined that no criminal act had occurred.

--

Ofcr. Sheeran responded for a known female subject in the process of concealing a beef tenderloin in her purse.  Ofcr. Sheeran located the woman and after additional investigation learned that she had multiple items concealed about her person.

--

Ofcr. Burchfield met with an elderly man and woman at Vienna Police Headquarters. The man was reporting that he had been kidnapped by the woman that was with him.

MPO Burchfield’s investigation revealed that the woman in question was the gentleman’s wife and that he suffers from medical issues involving memory loss.

--

Ofcr. Seitz responded for a domestic dispute. His investigation revealed that an elderly woman was arguing with her elderly husband about money. At some point the husband aggressively approached the wife as if to possibly harm her. The husband tried to stop short but ended up falling on top of the wife. The fall was determined to be an accident.

--

A citizen reported that her former boyfriend took her cell phone while picking up their daughter. While officers were speaking to the complainant the boyfriend returned to the home with the phone. Additional investigation revealed that the boyfriend had taken the phone to check through the girlfriend’s text messages and then intended to return it to her. The complainant refused to prosecute the boyfriend for the offense.

--

Officer Kiley responded for a caller that dialed 9-1-1 but then hung up the telephone without reporting any emergency. His investigation revealed that a mother had called police because her husband used profanity in front of the children.

--

A mother reported that her adult daughter was refusing to leave her home. The mother and daughter had been arguing and the mother thought it time for the daughter to go.

The daughter reported that she was unable to leave and live in her own home in Alexandria because it lacked cable television and an internet connection.  After Officer Myers spoke with both parties the daughter left without incident.

--

A citizen reported that a baby Jesus was stolen from the manger in their nativity scene.

--

A citizen reported that she found a suspicious package in her mailbox. The package was wrapped in white paper and had an odd return address from “Heaven”.

The United States Postal Service was contacted and a “Dangerous Package” investigator responded to open it. The package was found to contain some religious items from a past acquaintance and was harmless.

--

Ofcr. Barker received a report of a cat bite. His investigation revealed that the cat bite was not committed out of anger, but was more of an accident that occurred during feeding.

--

A citizen reported that unknown subjects placed human feces on the front porch, rang the doorbell, and then fled.

--

A business owner reported that a contractor had placed his ladder in her flowerbed to paint the exterior of her building.

The contractor was counseled regarding appropriate ladder placement.

--

A citizen reported that she received a large check for proceeds from the sale of her home. The woman’s boyfriend advised her not to put the money in the bank but instead keep it in cash. The woman did just that.

While the two were staying at the hotel the boyfriend suggested that the woman go out and get him some food. When the woman returned both the money and the boyfriend were gone.

This case is still being investigated.

... from Dave Barry.   A town aptonym. 

 


Okay, if you haven't taken the polls do so now. 

I will begin answering questions -- some of them are GREAT -- at noon, sharp. 

I have an answer that isn't quite one of the options in the infidelity poll. In general, I don't care about a candidate's marriage or fidelity. However, in this case we're talking about a candidate that attacked a previous president for his infidelity and has made several statements about what does and doesn't define the "sanctity of marriage." So while I don't so much care about infidelity, I do when it exposes an underlying hypocrisy. Just like how I don't care about whether a candidate has a dalliance with a member of the same sex, unless they have previously banked on homophobia for their political success. Does that make sense?

It does.   It's pretty much how I feel about it.   We've had some pretty darn excellent philandering presidents -- FDR, Ike, JFK to name just a few -- but none of them was publicly sanctimonious about infidelity.     Gingrich is a ridiculous hypocrite. 

I think Clinton is going to be treated very well by historians -- that seems like a pretty fine era, looking back, particularly economically.    Re the poll, one of the things I regret about my past involves a few stories I wrote during the Lewinsky scandal, buying into it as a BFD.    It just wasn't.

Okay, after writing that last paragraph, I went to search for my coverage of Lewinsky.   I'm now not so sure I was wrong. Here's one on what the Starr Report implies about Clinton's personality.   Here's a second one, on the mystical implication of deletions in the record.   

You judge. 

--

To the many of you making this point:  Yeah, the poll should have mentioned hypocrisy.   Big omission. 

 

You may take away my liquor, and I'll find another way to get some. You may take away my right to vote and I'll protest. You take away my right to jaywalk, then those are fighting words.

I remain astonished at the number of goody two shoeses to whom laws are inviolate, even when they just make no sense situationally.   Why sit at a light for 45 seconds if no one is coming in any direction for a quarter-mile visibility?  (Other than the fear of a red-light camera.) 

Yes, jaywalking is a way of life with me.   Don't give it a moment's thought.   On the very rare occasion where I do cause a car to slow a bit, I do feel shame.  There is an art to it.  

A sports reporter for the Plain Dealer was recently yanked from the Cleveland Browns beat for accidentally making public a tweet he meant to be private which was scornful of the Browns' owner. Peter King tells the story, and defends the reporter, in item #4 here. What's your view? Is King right that sports reporting is different? Is that a good thing? This is interesting to me, since I've come to feel that sports reporters (but often political reporters as well) are becoming too opinionated these days.

Okay, first off, King misuses "ostensibly."   He meant "presumably." 

This is a tough call, but I agree with the newspaper, and disagree with King.   The paper was right not to fire the reporter -- this was a mistake, not a misjudgment -- but the problem is, the mistake has practical consequences.  He is dead to team management, which would make it way harder to do his job effectively.    Even players might be more reluctant to talk to him, for fear of being seen as disloyal. 

I think King's argument would make more sense if the writer were a columnist who doesn't have to deal with the team, and  whose job is expressing opinions.   

this is actually really sad. Ofcr. Burchfield met with an elderly man and woman at Vienna Police Headquarters. The man was reporting that he had been kidnapped by the woman that was with him. MPO Burchfield's investigation revealed that the woman in question was the gentleman's wife and that he suffers from medical issues involving memory loss.

I don't disagree.  It's why I didn't include it in the column.    Putting it here allows us to add:  Yeah, it's both funny and sad.  

How do you think the human race will end? Bio-weapon? Nuclear Winter? Comet? What's your over/under in years for our extinction? I'm putting it at 150 yrs.

Bio-weapon within 100 years.   Gore Vidal called it in "Kalki," a very short, very good forgotten book. 

Hey, parallel-parking [wimps but more alliterative]: We'll stop tapping your bumpers when you pull all the way to the end of the parking area. I've seen you. You leave three or four feet in front or behind because you don't care about anyone else being able to park. It makes me pretty unsympathetic that other people get to touch your bumpers.

Yeah, what he said. 

I've seen that often:  There will be about 21 feet of open space, and the person will park right in the center of it, making it impossible for anyone to park in front or behind.  

Your Gingrich poll invites us to chew over a knotty problem. I am of course outraged that Mr. Gingrich, who was so sanctimonious about character when it came to President Clinton, is so quick to argue "hey, that's private and irrelevant" when his own ox is being gored. But by the same token, I seem much quicker to shrug off President Clinton's infidelities than Mr. Gingrich's one-foot-out-the-doorness. (I voted twice for President Clinton, and I thought in 1998-99 he deserved punishment, but for perjury, not for infidelity.) I wonder why this is. Is infidelity to one woman less repellent than infidelity to two or more? Is it because the wronged woman in the former case seems to have made her peace with it, while the first two in the latter case do not? Is there something extra creepy about "open marriage"? Is it that I find Mr. Gingrich's hypocrisy so odious, because people who make character an issue usually have some skeletons in the closet? Or is it the simple and easy answer that I support Clinton and oppose Gingrich, so my anger conveniently fits my prejudices? I'd like to think it's some mix of the above. I look forward to your thoughts.

Well, it's because Gingrich's sins were greater.  By any measure.   Unlike Clinton, he was a hypocrite.   Unlike Clinton, his affairs ended marriages, and did so when the wife was extremely vulnerable and in pain.   C'mon.   This is apples and chewing gum.    

I'd like to take this moment to address the email spying question in the poll.   Those of you who are quibbling about how much evidence the spouse needs before he/she can snoop, or how deeply into the emails they are entitled to go -- gimme a break.   Snooping is snooping.  It is a serious invasion of privacy, a violation of trust arguably of the same magnitude as infidelity.  

Marriage is not ownership.   It is based on trust.   

It was hard for me to answer this poll question because it was hard to put myself in that place, as I have been in a committed loving relationship for 20 years. In the end I decided that my partner's alleged breach of trust (infidelity) doesn't justify a breach of trust on my part (snooping), even though infidelity is worse than snooping. If I'm reduced to snooping then there is something seriously wrong in the relationship. Not that I wouldn't be sorely tempted.

Thank you.  See previous answer. 

"MPO Burchfield's investigation revealed that the woman in question was the gentleman's wife and that he suffers from medical issues involving memory loss." And why would this even be considered funny. You're making fun of a ill man. Even you aren't this low (but I guess not)

Have you ever had a conversation with the caregiver to someone with Alzheimer's?   Many people see humor with the sadness.  It's an inherently absurd situation.  Laura Blumenfeld had an amazing story about that, with the humor.   I'll try to find it for the update. 

"dry, laconic sense of humor of" Bill Murray? You don't think we noticed that? And when did he join the police?

Ha. 

Funny. I guess. But sooner or later we wil be on the Moon. It will take the ability to lift to orbit for a few cents a pound. That will take a while. It is not sin to be without imagination. For some it is a virtue of sorts.

Promising this to a Cape Canaveral area audience, three days before the election, and saying it would happen by the end of his second term?  That's hilarious.  That's chutzpah. 

I live in DC so I clicked the "I live in a big city" link -- and have to ask: Why is it necessary to write: "There were no other available spaces." Seriously, do people need that kind of assurance? Why would anyone CHOOSE to squeeze his/her car into a space with three fourths of an inch of excess room? Who does that when there are 10 feet of available space across the street? BTW, I am the original "my car bumped another car as I was parking and a police officer yelled at me" writer. The resuliting vitriol spewed by those who consider their bumpers precious investments to be swathed in cashmere has shocked me for these two or three years now. [And I didn't even really bump the car; I tapped it. No damage. Still pissed off that cop.]

It is amazing, isn't it?

I said that mostly because some people might have thought I maneuvered into that spot JUST to take the picture, for the chat.  

Want to see law-abiding citizens to the nth degree? Try Germany. There could be no cars for literally miles and a German will patiently wait for the crosswalk light to change. It's like a scene from the Twilight Zone.

Yep.  Germans LOVE rules and record keeping. 

It is an interesting fact that one of the reason prosecution of the Nazis was a pretty straightforward affair is that they kept records of everything.   

Just writing to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for your assistance last chat!!!! Just being able to put a name to my problem and figure out what's causing it has been such an incredible help. I'm looking around for treatment in my area, but in the interim, knowing that it's a muscular issue that can be controlled with proper technique, and concentrating on relaxation and proper form as described in Dr. Rao's paper, has reduced the number of times I've had to deal with my... problem... by something like 50-75%. Bless you and bless Dr. Rao! You may have both quite literally "saved my ass."

Excellent last line!!!!!  

Glad to help, Poopfinger.    

For those of you who are confused, we gave this lady help, as promised, in the update after the last chat.  Here it is. 

Gene, thank you from the deepest recesses (I did not wish to say 'bottom') of my heart for your bravery in posting the comment from---and your kindness in assisting---the young lady who reported resorting to manual intervention with a private personal task one doesn't usually think of as requiring digits. I am a young, hot, and a meticulously clean germophobe with the same problem, except that no one knows of my secret shame, not even my mother. I always berated myself that no one else could possibly have this terrible issue, until your chat. I am relieved to know I am not alone, and to have had both cause and cure revealed. I have long adored you, but the love I now feel for you is boundless as the ever-expanding universe (though it truth it was probably partly urged on by the pics of that ultra-hot parking job; be still my beating heart). Yours ever

I feel curiously happy about this.  Really.  Chatological Humor has materially helped two nice people.   With a problem they might not have solved anywhere else.   

 

While I found the pix on your parking poll entertaining, I seriously question whether you really parked between those two other cars. I say this because the angle backing maneuver required for standard parallel parking increases the apparent length of your vehicle, cranberry or no, and it doesn't look as if you had enough room for the backing maneuver. If in fact you parked very close to one of the cars, and then the other one parked on the other end of your car, it's time to 'fess up. Don't worry, it won't disqualify you as a presidential candidate. (Other things would, of course.) What inquiring minds really need is a video of you completing a park job such as the one pictured for the poll. When can we expect to see that on YouTube?

I swear it's real.   This will sound messianic, but I think other journalists would understand:  I will never knowingly lie in print.  There is a terrible fear we journalists carry (or most of us do, anyway.)   For many it is noble, and ethics-oriented.  I don't claim that for myself: In my case it's fear of being found to have lied, which is a career-ending event.    And you can NEVER be fully protected from being found out.

I might lie in speaking to someone, but never in print.  

(And yes, you can ALWAYS be caught: In this case, someone might have watched me take the picture of the car, and have seen that I hadn't just parked it.)  

 

Aaah, I take back my "the ticket was fair" vote! Any no parking sign is supposed to be put up 72 hours in advance I believe. So fight on!

This is true, but there is an exception in the case of an emergency.  

Yeah, I've researched it, and am going to fight.  At the very least it will be a column. 

I did it. He was using an account that was an offshoot of mine. Yep, he was cheating. Whose lack of trust is worse?

Both were bad.  Sorry. 

but what if he could have killed Bin Laden instead of being distracted by Monica?

That speaks less to the sin than to our reaction to the sin.  We made it take all of his time.  It ruined the end of his presidency. 

Saw/heard a wonderful line: Newt Gingrich Loves America ... at least until it gets cancer.

Indeed. 

I've caused a Facebook war because of an article about whether parents should let their child attend a sleepover where only the father is home. As a nonparent who has both married and single male friends who are dads, I found the sexism reprehensible. Others quote the statistics that men are overwhelmingly likelier to commit an assault and say they'd never allow it. Obviously, you should meet any adult chaperone first, regardless of gender. That aside -- were you OK with being screened more closely than The Rib? Would you have flinched if Molly's friends didn't let them stay with you? It's not a particularly funny question, though I do find it amusing that the alternative essentially is to force all women to stay home and be the primary caregivers.  Here's a link to the article.

We never had a male babysitter.   We felt awful about it, but we never did it.   I get this.  I can't defend it, really.  But I get it. 

for quoting H Ross Perot but I sort of agree with his view on adultery. He was criticized for firing employees caught cheating on their spouses. His view was basically: No one made you get married and no one is making you stay married. You did however, freely and willingly choose to promise fidelity and you made this promise in front of friends, family, and probably a deity of your choosing. If you can't keep THAT promise how can your employer trust you to keep any promises made to them.(I am sure their are some extenuating circumstances out there somewhere, but I really feel this is applicable the vast majority of the time.) Beyond employment, I do think this applies to the rest of your life and that adultery means others cannot trust your promises. Caveat 1: Fidelity is defined by each couple for themselves and only the significant other is allowed to judge your guilt or innocence. Caveat 2: If you disagree with the judgement of the SO in caveat 1 and a mutually acceptable compromise is NOT possible, then you can either knock it off or hit the road jack, your choice. (FWIW I think Perot was the worst thing to appear on a presidential ballot till the Alaskan Barbie doll came along.)

Your contention is logically inconsistent, to begin with: If the cheated-on spouse is the only one to judge guilt or innocence, how dare Perot insert himself as that arbiter. 

Mostly, though, I think this is a private matter, and that different marriages have different stresses, understandings, values, problems, and whatnot.   Fidelity is ideal.  Infidelity is not "good."  But I think ultimately it's a matter for exactly two people to make judgments about.   I would not automatically dislike someone whom I knew had cheated; I'd need to know more, and I have no right to know more, so the hell with it.  Private. 

I realize I am late to the conversation, but I believe I have determined the correct punishment for your transgression against the Giants. Your punishment should be that you never refer to the Giants as the "Gents" again. You obviously take pleasure in doing so, but as you likely know it really really annoys the rest of us. So it's a lose-win. In addition, this corrective punishment relates favorably to your interest in tolerable syllabification and pronunciation variations. After all, were you on a first-name basis with the two gentlemen, you would not confuse Bryant Gumbel and Brent Musburger, would you? While I have your attention, I am compelled to correct your assertion in the 1/3 chat that the Giants will make it to the NFC title game. It is true that congratulations are in order for predicting their triumph over the Falcons (at least to the extent that any congratulations are due for correctly predicting a coin flip or other even-odds proposition), BUT the Giants will definitely lose to the Packers. What sort of fantasy world do you live in?! Next you'll be seriously contending that Eli Manning is a better big-game QB than Tom Brady.

You have no idea how much joy it gives me to publish this two-week old post. Seriously: No idea.  

 

Have you seen this video? I think it's a kind of well done summation of the gay rights movement in this country, both the victories and the considerable obstacles still left to overcome.

Pretty good.  I love Sarah Silverman's suggestion that straight people should boycott marriage until it's equal, on the same principle that you should not join a country club that discriminates against blacks and Jews. 

You're right that imagining being male or female during sex is about taking or relinquishing control. For a woman to imagine briefly that she is a man having sex with a woman is REALLY common and often necessary for orgasm. This is true for me, and it shocked me when I first discovered it. When P.J. O'Rourke discussed this in a "Rolling Stone" article about--if I remember correctly--his taking a turn one day running a sex advice radio program, I spoke to some female friends and learned this is true for them, too. All of us found we only had these thoughts right before orgasm, none of us ever visualized much about another woman's body or face, all of us are attracted exclusively to men, and when we are asleep, we never dream of having sex with women, but often dream of--and are turned on by--having sex with men.

Wow.   Whoa. 

I love this chat. 

Does this sound familiar, ladies?  

I actually think jaywalking can be safer than using crosswalks at some intersections. With all the red light runners and those not stopping before turning right on red, there is a lot of uncertainty. At least in the middle of the block, I know what's coming. We just got back from Australia. Not only do drivers respect even unsignalized crosswalks, they will stop if they see you on the curb and think you want to cross.

I agree with this.   The Post ran an extraordinary story about the art of jaywalking about 15 years ago, by Lawrence Proulx.   It was titled "To Get to the Other Side."   I couldn't find it to link to it.  Can any of youse? 

I'm a professional driver and I loathe jaywalkers who slow me down. I honk. They give me the stinkeye. Once had a good staredown with a guy who had made it across before I had to slow down, but his elderly dad didn't. It was his fault for dragging his dad across the street in front of me. I feel no remorse. Another time, two guys decided to cross at a strange intersection that leads into an underpass, where, for them, it doesn't look busy, but I get a right-turn arrow. They called me an ahole. I yelled back, my voice booming through the tunnel. I'm still kind of happy about that one.

Well this is the point: Those were BAD jaywalkers.  You need to be a GOOD jaywalker, or you shouldn't jaywalk. 

Car owner called the cops. My insurance company has to replace the entire bumper for a teeny , barely visible scratch. Thank god my coverage forgives the first accident & doesn't raise rates.

Car owner was jerk. 

Gene, A night trip to the emergency vet with our sick cat led me to thinking about how Emergency Veterinarians deal with patient trauma. I imagine that for many ER visits, the outcome is euthanasia. I've had to witness a number of pets being euthanized, and it gets harder, not easier, for me with each one. How does a vet cope with the grim task of repeatedly putting down animals? I cannot emotionally comprehend how they are able to retain their equanimity. Does your DMV daughter have any insight?

A uncomfortably substantial amount of Molly's day involves killing animals.   It is not easy, but she is okay with it, mostly because each and every time she does it, it is to relieve suffering that cannot be cured.  It is an act of mercy, and she knows it on a visceral level.   

In the poll, I voted that what Clinton did was odious - not because of the adultery itself, but more because of the imbalance of power and authority between the two (an issue in which feminist writers for some reason gave him a free pass), and because Clinton served as head of organizations (the USG and the military) where this is verboten. Newt is substantially worse because his camera-ready outrage contrasts so hypocritically with his actions. Had I been John King, I would have asked about the hypocrisy, not the allegations per se. It is rare to see a character wandering around the body politic that Dickens and Moliere would rejected as being too far out to be believed.

Yeah, with Clinton there was an imbalance of power, but it was an open and acknowledged imbalance of power, and Lewinsky was getting something in return.   What happened that was bad is that she lost her job in large measure because people around Clinton were worried about her.    She was then given another job. 

Hi Gene, Does your daughter have a talent for parallel parking as well? The reason I'm asking is that I have reason to believe that parallel parking skills are, at least in part, genetic: my dad is amazing at it, and my sister and I are as well. He didn't teach us to parallel park, so it couldn't have been his instruction, and though we both live in the city, practice alone can't account for our skills. I suppose we could have absorbed some of his technique through years of driving with him, but I wonder if there is something in our DNA - good spatial reasoning? - at work.

Both of my kids are very good drivers, but they are not especially known for their parking skills.  I think they reject it as roll-your-eyes Dad bravado. 

Do you ever fear that parking so closely to other cars puts your car in risk of damage? You may be a master of the bumper tap but it's possible that the driver of the gray car in front of you might not be so skilled or may not appreciate your parking ability and may damage (accidentally or not) your car in the process of leaving their spot? Maybe you're counting on the likelihood that they care more about their car's bumper than you do.

Simple answer:  I don't care about the condition of  my car's bumper.   So long as the other guy is not a downright vandal.  It's like caring about the condition of the bottom of your shoe. 

"but what if he could have killed Bin Laden instead of being distracted by Monica?" This is sarcasm, right? Right? Because if not, this may be the single most stupid thing I've read on this chat.

No, I think it was serious, and I understand it.  Clinton's attention was distracted at exactly the time we could have been getting bin Laden.   Instead, as I recall, he fired bombs at an aspirin factory. 

You should. It is significant. And good. Congratulations!

I know!  The ability to do tangible good is a rarity.  I will never know if my baby-death story saved even a single baby's life.   But here, I appear to have done something to help some nice people!  I am seriously happy about this. 

I was among the very small percentage of men responding that knowing a candidate had an open marriage would make it harder for me to support the candidate. This is not a moral issue for me, because I do think it's their marriage and their business, etc. This is more of an issue of incomprehension -- I don't get how anyone could live like that. It makes me think the candidate must be an alien, or at least someone who is very, very different than I am on a fundamental level. I know it shouldn't matter to me, but it does.

If it's what they both want?  I just have no problem with it.   People are complicated. 

It appears all sorts of bodily function and body parts and sexual questions are being asked, so I figured I might as well, too. I'm a 37-year-old guy. I *just last week* learned that there are (basically) two types of penises in re: flaccidity -- one is roughly the same size flaccid as erect, while the other type grows extensively when it becomes erect. How did I get through 37 years not knowing this? Is this common knowledge that I missed out on? Heck, it was even mentioned on Two and a Half Men with a cutesy label ''mine's a grower, not a shower." Do other guys not know this??

Yeah, you know, I think when penises are concerned, men know only what they have.   Women know more about penises than men do.  Honestly, I don't actually know how an uncircumcised penis works.   What goes where, and what moves where, and how.   

I'm strangely okay with Clinton lying to the grand jury about his infidelity. If he lied about anything else, I'd be upset because it has an effect on the American people. But OF COURSE he's going to lie infidelity.

Yep, that didn't bother me much either, in retrospect.  It made me mad at his pursuers, who were REALLY just going after him for licentiousness.    But couldn't admit that. 

Here's the issue with your parking job. The car in front of yours may or may not have the "18 inches" to spare when they pull out of their space. Following your example, someone else could pull a bumper to bumper parking job in front of that car leaving them unable to get out of the spot. You have to leave a reasonable amount of space between you and other cars in case circumstances change on the block. If everyone parked as you do, no one would be able to get out of their parking spots, but if everyone left 4-6 inches on either side, then everyone can get out easily.

Fine, in theory, but how about in practice: 

This would me thousands of parking spaces forfeited.   Thousands, in every city!   Because the norm would not be 18 inches space -- that would be ideal, but it would nevever happen.  The norm would be something like six feet of space. Parking is simply too valuable to throw away opportunities. 

The fact is, a car can get out of ANY space, including touched bumpers front and back.  It's a pain, but you can do it because suspensions give several inches of "rock." 

Gene, I could use some advice/help. I am a soon to be a 30-year old virgin. But more than that, I have never been on a date with a woman. Whenever I've asked women out, it generally runs the gamut of three reactions: 1) laughing in my face, 2) a look of utter confusion before finally saying "No", or 3) an admission the only reason she talked to me was for emotional support. Needless to say, I'm socially awkward and extremely nervous around women after a lot of rejection. I don't know what to do. Friends tell me I'm not bad looking (about 5'10", 190 lbs) and that I'm a nice person with a sarcastic sense of humor. And I'm moderately successful in my chosen profession, for what it's worth. So what's a guy to do, Gene?

I am going to ask the ladies about this one.   My feeling is that you are in a pickle because what you need -- self confidence and self-esteem  -- is precisely what you lack.

Ladies?

I'm dying to know the reaction from my fellow suburbanites of Sunday's column. Vienna really is a quiet, safe neighborhood and it's one of the reasons we enjoy raising our small children here. But there will always be people who look for things to be offended about, so I guess you'll be getting some angry reactions.

The only real anger came from people contesting my calling it a "distant" suburb of D.C.    That probably wasn't fair, actually.   It's 12 miles away; my theory was that there is a certain distance where a town is no longer really a suburb, but that's probably longer than 12 miles.  

With respect to the poll question about Pepco's emergency street repairs: my preferred answer was not listed: "It was completely fair AND you should contest the ticket." Pepco needed access to the street, pronto. Possibly cars would even need to be towed away if Pepco didn't get the space they needed. Pepco and the city did the best they could do under the circumstances to notify drivers to 1) leave and 2) stay away until repairs were done. The signs and the tickets were both reasonable. Any person who saw the signs but didn't bother to move their car deserved a ticket, as of course would a person parked their car there after the signs had already gone up. But people (like you) who can cause reasonable doubt that you knew the sign ever went up should have the right to go to court and give your evidence. Once the signs are up, it shouldn't be up to the meter maids to sort who knew what when -- that's the court's job. In other words, it is fair to make you choose between the inconvenience of checking your car daily to find out if there is new signage or the inconvenience of going to court to clear yourself. The only thing that would be unfair would be if you went to court, and the ticket stuck.

So, I have to lose a half day to contest it?  And how, please, can I prove when my car was parked?  How can I prove that I parked before the sign went up?  When I contest it, I will probably lose.  

There's only one fair thing to do:  Put up the sign, and then tow to someplace nearby any car that is still there.  No ticket.  

Hi Gene, I'm a huge fan of yours; if I was a woman I'd refer to myself as a panty-thrower, as a man...well, lets just stick with fan. I love your columns, your articles, your chats and your books. Which is why it's so hard to tell you that I'm done with "Barney and Clyde." I've tried...I really have. I've read every strip from the very beginning, and supported the Facebook page. Now I'm forced to admit...it's just not funny. In fact, it often reaches the "painfully unfunny" level. If you were still analyzing comic strips in your chats, I believe you'd be ripping it apart too. Where did it go wrong? Is it the badly forced jokes, the eye-rolling political/issue commentary (and I agree with your politics almost 100%), or the overinflated cast of uninteresting characters? Probably a combination of all three, but one thing is for sure...it just doesn't bring the funny. It was a noble experiment, but please back away gracefully and go back to talking about the comics in your chats. Thank you

You say this even after it has been chosen as Strip of the Year by the American Society of Sunday Features, Artists and Cartoonists Enterprises?

--

Not sure how to respond here, actually.  Many people really like this strip.   Besides, how can you criticize a comic that will make jokes about transvestitism and homophobia, like today's. 

I have never visualized myself as a man during sex, or at any other time. Perhaps this explains why I have never had an orgasm. Putting it on my list of things to try...

Excellent!  Maybe we help another young lady! 

If Newt Gingrich had really wanted an "Open Marriage" with wife #2, that would've allowed her to have extramarital affairs as well. I believe that what Newt really wanted was the old-fashioned (in a bad way) combination of a faithful, dutiful wife and a hot blonde mistress on the side.

I do believe you are right. 

Dr. Gene - need your thoughts. My sister has undiagnosed mental health issues stemming from a marriage that is not great and a certain amount of unhappiness with her life. I assume there is some level of clinical anxiety and/or depression, but she won't get help. Her endless is excuse is that she's too busy and she knows she's "nutty" and just has to learn to deal better. But there is one part of her behavior that I feel like must have a diagnosis and wonder what you think. When her middle child was about a year old, she had everyone around her convinced he had autism because he was not speaking as well as she thought he should. It was an awful time for everyone around her because she was just a basket case. Bottom line - he is a perfectly fine and healthy 6 year old boy with no developmental delays of any kind. She makes herself so crazy over things in her life that make her unhappy that she's had many physical symptoms over the years. If you look up those symptoms on WebMD (her favorite website - ugh!), it matches clinical anxiety. But of course, she does not believe that and has gone to endless doctors and had endless tests that have shown nothing is wrong with her. Recently, she needed a biopsy following a mammogram. Doctors suspected something benign, which was something I've had, as well as our mother and our aunt. Given that family history and the fact that no one in our family has ever had any kind of cancer, it was very reasonable to assume nothing was wrong and that doctors were just being cautious. But for 2 weeks, she made everyone crazy once again until the lab results came in confirming she is just fine and had the same issue as the rest of the women in the family. She is also an obsessive blog reader, mostly focused on blogs written by other moms with young kids who have special needs. My sister has 3 healthy kids and no one in our family has special needs. Yet I feel like her interest in these blogs and her inclination to assume something awful is happening to her or her kids is not just unhealthy, but something that has a name. Almost like that munchausen syndrome, but not really. And almost like hypochondria, but not quite. What is wrong with my sister?

There is someone out there, reading this, who can diagnose this better than I can.  What is clear is that she needs a pro.

 It sounds to me as though she has a bad combination: hypochondria and depression.  They feed off each other. 

I was a raging hypochondriac, but I was never depressed.  Though I drove myself nuts with superficial worries, those worries never got so deep they really impaired my life or affected my worldview.  I never lost sight of the humor in it: I knew I was a comical character.  I'd get a pain and tell myself it probably wouldn't go away until I resolved some issue with my career.    And I was right.  

Your sister is vastly more seriously affected.  She can be helped if she will accept help.  My advice to you is to show her this post, and my response. 

This just in via email from a friend:
On uncircumcised penises: Owing to having had a tiny premature baby in a country where I didn't trust their circumcision skills, I actually have learned some answers to this.
When it comes to potty training, one answer about how they work is: LIKE A LAWN SPRINKLER HEAD.

 

If fidelity is defined only between two people (and, incidentally, I agree with you on that), then how can you judge email snooping by an objective criteria? Isn't that a trust/relationship that is also different between any couple? I've never snooped or been snooped, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to judge people who are trying to determine what is going on in their (clearly) already troubled relationship. It's sad, but I don't think it's the equivalent of being unfaithful.

Well, yes.   That is true.   Someone else wrote in that she and her husband share an email account and always read each other's.    So, sure.  

Gene, there is also the Thin Man Theory. The thinner the guy, the bigger the... yeah. Nude pictures that surfaced last week of Travis Barker from Blink 182 confirmed this theory once again. PS I am female.

Clearly I need to lose some weight.   There IS cause and effect, right?   

The family members of persons with Alzheimer's have to find the humor in it. My grandfather had senile dementia, and my cousin once caught him in the front yard with a baseball bat. When asked what he was doing, he responded that there were ladies with white dresses in the yard and he wanted them to go away. At the time, this was of course heartbreaking; twenty years later, I find it almost amusing that he hallucinated some Gibson Girls (he was born in 1902) and his first reaction was to grab a baseball bat.

I am laughing. 

This is true for me most (but not all) of the time. Only I don't necessarily have to imagine my partner is a woman (those times that it's not actually a woman). I like to imagine having gay male sex with my male partners. FWIW, I also actively do other things associated with that type of encounter, although not the types that involve accessories.

Thank you. 

You know, Chatological Humor would totally suck if people had to ID themselves. 

Truer words were never spoken! I found out about this "grower/shower" thing a year or so ago. Would have helped with some shower shame back in middle school, I'll tell you that. Apparently I'm in the "slightly below average flaccid, slightly above average erect" category. But the few "showers" I saw in the shower (different pronunciations!) always made me feel like less than I (later found out) I was.

Several men have said exactly this. 

How selfish can you get? You think you have a right to damage other people's property and if the owner of the damaged property is provided relief, he is a jerk.

I love you, I really do. 

A tiny scratch to a bumper is not "damage."  Compelling someone to pay many hundreds of dollars for it is insane, and just a scam by insurers and body shops. 

It is a BUMPer.   It is there to be BUMPED. 

I have the same thing, where I can only fantasize about strangers - people I've never seen, who do not exist. But I know exactly why that is. When I was in jr. high, my Sunday School class had to watch this movie about what Judgment Day would be like. Basically, according to this film, we'd be stuck in this hall with giant screens on which would play all of our sins - including the bad things we thought. More importantly, however, the room would be filled with everyone else who had ever lived and they would be watching. That was such a powerful image to me that I immediately stopped ever thinking about having sex or anything beyond kissing with people I knew. As embarrassing as it would be to have everyone watching my fantasies play out on the big screen, I knew it would only be worse if the people I'd been thinking about would see it too. That was almost two decades ago, but it still affects me, even though logically, I know it shouldn't.

Wow. 

Guilt is an amazingly strong impetus, isn't it?

Hey Gene, I'm curious for your reaction to this story, where a writer decides to ignore the stipulation that a conversation be off the record. (The whole story is quite interesting, IMHO, but skip down to the 4th section of the story to see what I'm referring to) .

The reporter's argument is that the request for going 'off the record' was itself an attempt to manipulate the reporter and so he shouldn't have to honor it. I'm sympathetic, but I he think he crossed the line here (though at least he's up front about it in the story). What say you? Incidentally, I was led to the story above after reading this absolutley fascinating piece by the same reporter about how parking regulations affect urban growth.

This looks like a terrific story.  I will read in full after the chat.   But regarding section four:  Yes, the reporter had every right to report that absurd "off the record" statement.   There are some things you simply cannot put off the record.   In this case, the reporter had no choice:  To have kept as "off the record" the fact that Trader Joe's has no comment would have made the story seem terribly unfair, as though they never tried to contact the store.  Can't do that. 

Here's another thing you can't put off the record:  A confession of having committed a serious crime.   Why?  Because you are compelling the journalist and his organization to commit a crime in not reporting it.   Abetting the crime after the fact. 

You remarked recently that you've come to the conclusion that EVERYONE picks his/her nose. I'd like some clarification whether you mean that we've all indulged in this behavior at least once in our lives or we're all habitual pickers who feign otherwise. If the latter, I'm here to tell you that, no, we do NOT all pick our noses on a regular basis. In fact, I'll bet I've picked my nose fewer than five times in the past 20 years (I'm 43, fwiw). Hook me up to a polygraph. I don't feel superior about this; it's just the truth. Now, here's another personal hygiene issue with which I DO have some difficulty -- toilet seat covers that adhere to my buttocks and cannot be peeled off except in many pieces. This only happens when it's been a long-ish sit on the can (I am female). Anyone else have this problem? I am in California, where, I believe, it's required for seat covers to be provided in public restrooms, and I love that. But I think there's room for product improvement.

I cannot identify with the toilet-seat question, but on the other one:  

Is there anyone else out there (other than a quadriplegic) who can honestly say you have not once picked your nose in, say, the last year?

Yeah, according to Dr. Oz, for every 35 lbs a man loses he gains 1 inch. They had a man on either his show or Oprah (can't remember) who lost a lot of weight and his wife verified it was true. BUT, it seems to me that guys who are naturally thin or lanky always have the biggest things.

WHAT?

This cannot be true.  I disbelieve it.  You are a troll. 

Where you lost me was on the joke about Tourette's Syndrome a few weeks back - the association of the disorder with uncontrolled cursing is a big generalization. I have a brother with Tourette's and he is nothing like the popular characterization in movies and in your strip. I generally don't mind when people make jokes about categories I'm in (gays, women, liberals, etc) but it seems completely unfair to perpetuate this exaggerated stereotype.

Now, wait.   I once edited a story by a Tourette's sufferer, about his attending a Tourette's symposium.  I know that cursing is a generalization that does not hold true for many sufferers, but it IS a significant subset, no?  

It's going to feel like feeding yourself to the wolves, but you have to put yourself in situations where it's obvious that you're looking for a date. It's really common for socially awkward guys to take a while to work up the courage to ask for a date, and once you do the girl already thinks of you as a friend and not a boyfriend. It sounds like that's what's happening here. Online dating might be especially good for you because you can get comfortable with a person before that face-to-face meeting.

Good idea.   And I would think you could prepare the woman for it, too: " I am painfully shy and awkward at the beginning.  It will go away."

So my dear friends, men who are gay, and have two children will never be able to host a sleepover if one is away? Or even with them both there, are you worried that the danger is double. Unbleepingbelievable. HOw about the bimbo mother who is on the phone or doing her nails and misses all the dangerous things the kids are doing? Can we be more sexist? (I am female)

I admit to sexism, in this regard.    I do not seek to justify it.   It's not about gayness, though.   It's about the almost exclusivity of child molesting to males. 

Both confidence and esteem matter mightily, but may it also be the environments in which you meet/ask these women? From the emotional support line, I take it you do sometimes get to know the women first, so there goes the most common reason for frequent rejections (really, the second or third thing you say to a woman shouldn't be a proposition unless it's that type of bar or website). Are these work women, then? That would set you up. I'd encourage you to pursue an interest/cause that needs lots of people to perform/contribute. Get to know women that are watching you display a cause or passion. Then ask out those women. Bonus: you'll seem more confident in a place you're doing something you love

Thank you.  Also smart. 

As an actual crossdresser, I'd smile, enjoy the compliment and let it go at that.

Cool. 

Well - my 7 year old son, who enthusiastically reads the comics every day, just a few days ago, came running over to me shouting "mom, you have to read Barney and Clyde - it's hilarious! I also feel compelled to point out he thinks Beetle Bailey is a scream. . .

Noted. 

I was kidding about Barney & Clyde getting an award.  Please note the acronym of the organization.  I mention this only because no one has commented on it, and I don't want to perpetrate a lie.  

Disclaimer: have never snooped, probably never would, even though my exes all gave me their e-mail passwords for some insane reason (I did not reciprocate). Normally I'd agree with the privacy thing, but...if you've got that bad sinking feeling going on, if he's acting all kinds of shifty and blowing you off and you don't trust him to give an honest answer if you ask him if he's cheating...I would not totally be against someone snooping. Mostly because if the alarms are going off in your head and you have good enough reason not to believe what's coming out of the dude's mouth, how else are you going to find out? And especially, what's with the guys who leave their computers/e-mail/porn/chat logs out and open to see when they leave the computers alone with their wives? Or don't clear caches, save their illicit texts, whatever. It makes me wonder if they want to get caught. Eh, I don't feel great giving this answer, but I can't 100% say "no, never snoop, even if your sexual health is at risk" either. What else would you suggest someone do in that situation in lieu of snooping, anyway?

So what if you snoop and don't discover cheating but discover something else you really have no right to know?  Something your partner would be devastated knowing you knew about?   How 'bout that? 

I'm a straight man living in Pennsylvania. I respectfully disagree with Sarah Silverman. If I were to find someone I wanted to marry and she wanted to marry me, we wouldn't get married here -- we'd do it in New York state or D.C. Once the Pennsylvania Legislature realizes how this discrimination hurts economically, they'd have an incentive to change the law.

I think that was implicit in her observation.   New York is not a club that discriminates.   

I looked on Yahoo Answers for your question, "Why are 'Yahoo! Answers' so stupid?" and didn't find it. (Found 13 hits for "Why is Yahoo! Answers so stupid?") Did you not really post that question, or did Yahoo remove it? To answer, Yahoo! Answers are stupid because of the way Yahoo set up the system. You are rewarded with points for stupid answers to stupid questions. You get a two points for every answer, regardless of whether it is thoughtful and well researched or an off the cuff, "I don't know". And you get ten points for having a "best answer" regardless of whether it was the best of 50 submissions with lots of votes or it was the only answer submitted and you voted yourself the best because even the person who asked the question lost interest.

Didn't know about the points system!

This question references this column. 

I also didn't mean to imply I asked that question: What I did for all of the items in the column was see if anyone else had asked the question, and then read the answers.   Same with the last one: No one ever answered that question, near as I could find.  

How the heck did you -- or your neighbors -- get OUT of that spot? Getting in is pretty impressive, even if I don't really agree with tapping bumpers. But getting out. How did you do that?

At the point I had to move, the guy in front of me was gone, and someone else parked a little further away from me.  I had about a foot clearance. 

Right?  Pretty good, huh?

It is.   Quite impressive!  I initially thought it was fake, but nah.   

I can ALMOST do this.  You have to instantly see the word spelled out in your head.  I can, but I have trouble holding it there long enough to read it backwards. 

I don't get them. I know public restrooms are germy, but... you're really worried about having germs on your thighs?

Er, men often have another part come in contact with the seat.   Having said that, I don't bother with covers, either.   I have at times washed off the seat, tho. 

Unintentionally, not intentionally. It's designed for protection against additional damage. Like your stance on drunk driving, you believe just because you haven't hurt people or things, you're fine doing it, which is absolutely wrong. Egotistical, really, very similar to Newt.

I never said I'm fine doing it.  This is something people keep repeating.  What I said was that different people have different levels of alcohol that make them unable to drive.  Mine is higher than some people's -- I remain a good driver with a little alcohol in me, as I proved in a column once.  (Some people are bad drivers at "legal" levels of intoxication.)   But I went on to say that the laws are fair -- there's no way to make meaningful allowances for this difference, so you need a relatively low threshhold. 

OK, so the parking poll is just so you can brag (once again) about how great you are at parking, right? You say the car in front had 18" to pull out. But what if the car in front of him left and was replaced by some one who parks like you and thus left half an inch?

As I said, you can ALWAYS get out.  It might just be a pain.   Lemme ask you: I have a very small car.  Very few cars are smaller.   So by your prescription, 9-plus feet of curb space had to remain vacant?   That's a lot of wasted space.  

ARGH I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT DELICATE FLOWERS PEOPLE ARE BEING ABOUT YOUR PARKING THING. Sure, the bumper issue (and everyone's absurd pearl-clutching) has come up before, but this new business where now I have to worry about annoying someone by... forcing them to maneuver for, what, 15 seconds, in order to leave their adjacent spot? I am speechless.

"Pearl-clutching."  I love that. 

If you know what you are doing, and you do not damage anyone else's car or any other property, and you are able to park as shown in the photographs, then I renounce my atheism and declare: You are a God.

Thank you, my son.   

And I hereby ordain that we are done for the day.   Thank you all -- terrific questions and admissions of weirdness.   See y'all in the updates. 

In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

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