Derailed trains of thought
Après moi le déraillement
By Steve Dunham, copyright 2005
My neighbor is always cutting across my yard. I have asked him nicely to stop but he insists on using our property as a shortcut. Now my nice lawn is scarred by the tire tracks from his pickup truck. I am frustrated and furious!
It sounds like maybe you need to take an anger-management class. If you are angry, you need to ask yourself, Whats wrong with me? not Whats wrong with my neighbor? Meanwhile, I think you need to establish some boundaries to control your own emotions. With all the new homeland security products on the market, I think you could find some attractive concrete barriers to surround your yard. Just be sure your neighbor doesnt get hurt driving into them, or you could find yourself causing even more trouble, and this time you would have to pay for the harm youve caused.
Several times a week after dark, my neighbor starts doing yard work. He has bright floodlights on poles and he turns these on and uses his power mower and gas-powered weed whacker and digs in his yard, making a lot of noise and keeping me awake till midnight. Isnt this against the law?
Arent you just a little bit paranoid? Just because the poor man digs in his yard at night doesnt mean you can practically accuse him of burying bodies there. And just because you go to bed early doesnt mean the rest of the world has to adapt to your schedule. I am really tired of hearing you so-called morning people whine about people who light one candle to banish the darkness. How do you think we feel when you are out there mowing your yard at
Whenever I say good morning, my neighbor doesnt answer me. I thought that maybe he is hard of hearing (he is kind of old), so I have tried shouting. I know hes in there, because his car is still in the driveway when I leave for work. I know hes not dead, because his paper is in the driveway every morning and gone every night. How can I get this old codger to act neighborly?
Dear Friendly Guy:
Its high time you had a lesson in good manners. Standing outside your neighbors house at the crack of dawn and shouting, Good morning! is not going to get you the response you wish. Maybe he is hard of hearing, or maybe he is retired and is still asleep when you go to work. Please be considerate, because old people get lazy. The neighborly thing to do, if you want to talk to him in the morning, is to ring his doorbell like a civilized human being. If he doesnt answer the door within a few seconds, just go to work and leave him alone. If you do this for a week and he still hasnt responded in a neighborly manner, then stop trying. Maybe he is not a morning person.
Steve Dunham is an advice columnist dispensing neighborly advice under the pen name Pat.
By Steve Dunham, copyright 2008
I am in love for the first time and the feeling is wonderful. I am crazy about this girl. But I cannot get her to notice me! I cant even get a chance to meet her, because I have only seen her on TV. How can I let her know that I am her knight in shining armor?
Prince Charming Wannabe
Yours is a classic case of unrequited love. Despite your best efforts, the one you love does not even know you are alive. Love like yours demands persistence. For example, if you call her up, you probably get a voicemail system with messages like To book a
My boyfriend is so secretive, he wont tell me where he works or how much money he makes. I havent met his family, and he hasnt introduced me to his friends either. We both want to get married, but when I ask about his background, he says I am prying, and he says his first three wives were the same way. How can I get him to communicate?
This is what I call a pattern. Probably there is something in your background that makes you distrustful of people. Getting men to communicate is always difficult, but it sounds like you are a control freak. You need to give people more space to be who they are, and stop trying to saddle them with your emotional baggage.
My fiancé is a real catch! He has a steady job, he is nice to me and my family, he is kind to his younger brother and sister, and in every way seems like he would be a great husband and fatherexcept one: he likes to play golf. Superficially he seems like a good man, but I dont want to end up a golf widow.
Wondering What I Caught
Your problem has a psychological name: performance orientation. You are judging your fiancÚ by his behavior. Actions may speak louder than words, but you dont have to listen. You are right to look to the future, and do you know what I see? You are at home on a Saturday morning with crying children while your husband is out playing golf. You are practically widowed already. You should think about finding a man with whom you have more in common.
My boyfriend and I both love comic books. We also love movies that are based on comic books. We would like to get married and share our comic books, but he would still own his and I would still own mine. Also, we would like to start a website about comic books and maybe we could make some money from it. This would be good because right now neither of us has a job. Do you have any advice for us?
It is encouraging to hear from young people who are planning beyond their wedding day and thinking about their life after they get married. And while a
Pat is an advice columnist who has a good head on her shoulders.
By Steve Dunham, copyright 2008
After laying off half the employees, the company made me head of the morale committee. I have to do it on my lunch hour, and Ill get laid off too if I dont improve employee morale. I dont know what to do!
Company Loves Misery
Cheer up! Thats quite an honor to be head of the morale committee. The first thing Id do is start an employee appreciation program. Clearly you and the other employees need to show appreciation for your bosses. While the managers are out at a restaurant having lunch, why dont you lead your co-workers in concocting a happy surprise for the bosses when they return? You could use waste from the shredder to throw confetti and cheer for the bosses when they come back from lunch. (Be sure to stay after work to clean it up.) Thats what Id call a real morale builder!
I understand that corporations want productive workers, but they can be really unreasonable. I have had many jobs, and at every one, the boss has insisted that I come to work by
Out of Work Again
Dear Out of Work,
Its about time (ha, ha!) you and your bosses learned about a wonderful thing called flextime. Basically, you come to work whenever you want to, and as long as you get all your work done, its OK. Now, if you work in a store that opens at 10, you might have to adopt a different attitude, which is this: pretty soon everybody will be doing
It is so hard to find dedicated employees nowadays. They rush out the door at night, and they are cranky about coming to work on weekends. How can I attract people who will put their jobs first?
You need to understand that even workers have competing priorities, and although they love their jobs, they often feel obligated to their families as well. Have you heard of telecommuting? People use a computer and the Internet to do their jobs from home. However, not all work can be done from home, so many companies are turning to a better system called reverse telecommuting:* with a little help from you, your workers can take care of family business without leaving the office. You might give them an hour of free Internet access every evening, along with
* Doug Good thought up the phrase reverse telecommuting.
Al Gore invented the Internet.
Would you please address the issue of gifts at work? Sometimes I feel like buying gifts for others gets to be a burden.
You didnt say whether you are a worker or a boss, but it really does make a difference. If you are a boss, then gifts are a way to recognize employee performance. The ones who remember you on your birthday, your anniversary, Christmas, Bosss Day, etc., are showing you that they are loyal employees, and those are the ones you want to favor: make sure they get raises and bonuses and words of appreciation from you. Occasionally, gifts may need to go in the other direction. For example, if you are dating one of the employees, its important to give her frequent gifts so she knows she is your favorite among all the other workers. On the other hand, if you are one of the worker bees, then its only common sense to remind the queen that you are a loyal part of the hive. Just consider it a job expense, like buying a monthly subway pass or getting nice clothes to wear to work (if you have money left for that). The one thing you want to avoid is getting things like birthday gifts for your co-workers. That kind of showing off just leads to gossip.
Steve Dunham is an advice columnist and reverse telecommuter.
By Steve Dunham, copyright 2008
My older brother pulls my hair, calls me names, hogs the TV, and makes fun of my friends. How can I get him to treat me like a buddy? By the way, he
Unhappy Baby Sister
Your brother is probably going through a midlife crisis. This is a stage of immaturity that males go through between the ages of 1 and 79. But do you really want to be treated like one of his buddies? When hes with them, he probably gets drunk, talks too loud, swears, and tells jokes that arent funny. If you want to be treated differently, you need to take the first step and reach out to him. Try treating him like one of your buddies. Invite him to go shopping with you and treat him to a romantic movie. You might be surprised at his reaction!
All my husband does is watch football, except in the summer, when he watches baseball. All he talks about is sports. He wont go to our daughters violin recital because violin music is not a sport. How can I get him to take an interest in the rest of the family?
Married to Football
Marriage is a big job, as you are finding out. Being married to a sport or to an appliance, such as a television, is even harder. You need to look for common areas in which you can relate. For example, have you noticed how popular the Super Bowl commercials are? You could start by having conversations about
My parents are so strict with me! They wont let me stay out late, they make me call them if I dont come straight home from school, they wont let me watch
Ready to Rock
Your parents may be thinking of how irresponsible they were when they were your age. Probably they made some bad choices about friends, dating, what movies to watch, and where they went after school. You should try to show them how responsible you are. Give them a chance to meet the boys you want to date. And I know this is a painful choice, but you could think about getting a job.
Our daughter thinks she should be able to stay out late, go places after school without telling us, watch
Parents of a Renegade
I can understand your concern. Probably, when you were her age, you made some bad choices about friends, dating, what movies to watch, and where you went after school. However, your daughter may not be as wild as you were, so cut her some slack. Invite her to bring her boyfriends home to meet you, and suggest that she look for some legal employment. Maybe she is ready for more responsibility than you realize.
My wife and I can never agree on how to spend our vacation. I like to drive straight to my cousin Jimmys, where I can go fishing and Im sure there are other things for my wife and kids to do. But they want to stop in every state along the way, and we always end up arguing about this.
I think the key word in your question is spend. Women like to shop while on vacation, and your kids will probably be happier if they get some extra allowance to use on the trip. While driving to Jimmys, why not encourage your wife to buy the gas when you stop to fill up? And maybe give the kids a few quarters to get snacks from the vending machines at the gas station. Im sure this is a compromise everybody could be happy with.
* Elin Gursky invented the phrase family and/or loved ones.
Steve Dunham lives with family and/or loved ones.
This column appeared in the Fredericksburg, VA, Free LanceStar on
My train broke down and the railroad told me to seek alternate transportation. I dont have a car, and I was afraid to hitchhike. The only alternate transportation I could find was, fortunately, a freight train going the same direction. But the railroad police threw me off. Even though I had validated my ticket, I still got a summons to appear in court! Is catch a train really
I can see that you are making an honest effort to read between the lines. However, you still need some lessons in communication. You need to become an active listener. When someone asks how youre doing, I hope you do not start whining about your difficult commute. What the person is really trying to say is I do not have time to talk to you right now.
When the railroad says, Seek alternate transportation, it does not mean Try a different train. It means You need to leave now. If you listen to what people are really saying, you will not get into so much trouble. For example, if your boss says, So you didnt feel like showing up until eleven today? it really means Youre fired.
The police said I should get out of the way of aggressive drivers. But when I pulled off the road, I couldnt get back on because the traffic was moving so fast. I gave up and walked the rest of the way to work, but I was two hours late, and the boss said Id get fired if I was late again.
Your problem is that you are in too much of a hurry. You need to leave home early enough so that you can get to work on time without being in a big rush.
On Bike to Work Day, instead of driving, I rode my bicycle into town over the park trail. But when it was time to go home, the park was closed, and I had to ride on a busy highway in the dark. How can I be green and ride my bike to work if I cant take the bike trail to get home?
Green and Purple and Blue
You need to learn that your rights end at the tip of your nose. Being green is not supposed to interfere with driving, so please keep your bicycle off the road. If you want to be a responsible citizen, you should look into flex time. Ask your boss if you could work only six hours a day so that you can leave before sundown. Under the popular 7/40 schedule, you could work only four hours on Sunday and six hours all the other days. I admire your efforts to be green, but if you are serious about it, you really need to put your thinking cap on!
Commuting is a grind. The trains break down. Theres almost no safe place to walk or bike. The highways are nothing but tax-subsidized playgrounds for bullies behind the wheel. I joined a vanpool but the boss gets mad when I tell him I cant stay late. I tried to find a job locally but I cant support my family on $7.50 an hour.
Did I ask, How are you doing? I did not. So as my fellow advice columnists like to say, listen up, Buster. Life is tough. Get used to it and stop whining. And, if you can read between the lines, my advice to you is Seek alternate transportation.
Pat is a commuter who knows that life is tough.
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