Zamboni Lady Commiserates with an Advice Seeker

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyone else’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.


Bad advice.  It’s everywhere.

Though the following isn’t bad advice so much as it is advice not to make waves and cause a potentially embarrassing family problem, which all things considered isn’t all that terrible (who needs a rift?), but then again…the family in question seems like they need a verbal kick in the ass.

I really felt like the lady who wrote this letter was looking for someone to commiserate with her.  And I?  Am just that gal.  🙂


Here is the letter as it appeared in an advice column:

Dear Advice People: My husband is a high-ranking officer in the military. He has worked hard to achieve his current position and is highly respected.

The problem is, his family treats him like a child. In a few months, there will be a formal ceremony to mark his change of command. My in-laws will be in attendance, and they are certain to embarrass him. They insist on calling him by his unusual childhood nickname (he cringes every time). They talk down to him and give him gifts meant for children, such as books for teen boys (last Christmas), a small child’s backpack (last birthday) and now a child’s piggy bank, which they intend to present to him in front of his unit at the ceremony. These gifts are not intended as jokes. My husband is always gracious on the outside but horrified on the inside.

Is there some way to remind his family that he is indeed an adult and has certainly earned the right to be treated like one? — Proud Military Spouse


And Zamboni Lady says:


I’ve italicized the advice this woman was given, with my responses in regular, rant-friendly font.

Dear Spouse: It is difficult to change ingrained behavior without the cooperation of all the people involved.

No kidding, it’s difficult!  Especially when the people involved are infantilizing control freaks.  Part of the process of being a relative (aunt, parent, older cousin, sibling, similarly aged cousin, childhood friend, whatever) is accepting that your relationship is going to change with taste and propriety as you both get older.  Stevie McPoopypants might gain control of his bladder and probably won’t always love dinosaurs.  Unless Tooter goes into the world of fashion design she’ll probably lose interest in Barbies.  ShellyBelly won’t want to be ShellyBelly any longer, dig?  Look…I have a niece with an embarrassing childhood nickname.  Should we slip and call her that hated name (which I think is adorable but hey, it’s her call)…even when there’s wine involved, and it’s late at night, the doors are locked and the windows shuttered…we still have to face her wrath.  And that’s OK, because her decision to not want to be called an embarrassing childhood nickname in no way reflects on me.  Unless I’m the asshole who keeps calling her a name she can’t stand.

Your husband apparently has determined that the best way to handle his parents is to leave things as they are. That is his choice.

His parents have apparently decided the best way to handle their son is to pretend he’s never grown up.  Books for teen boys?  Child-sized backpacks?  I get your anger, sister.  There’s some serious neural misfirings there.  Assuming they’re not mean, terrible people whose only joy in life is derived from humiliating their son, I have to ask: do they realize he’s an adult?  Do they know he doesn’t have the same taste in things he had twenty years ago?  Is his room still decorated in the Lone Ranger wallpaper of his youth?  Did nobody read The Dead Zone?  Don’t you people know what happened to the infantilized Frank Dodd?

While we appreciate your desire to be supportive and protective, you might also be adding to his stress because your reaction is one of anger and embarrassment.

Yeah, advice people, you’re right.  It’s not the toy piggy bank they want to give him in front of a room full of the soldiers he commands that stresses him out.  It’s the wife who wants to see his parents give him the respect they would any other adult that causes him anguish.  Yup.  You troublemaker.

Ask your husband whether he wants you to talk to his parents.

OMG, advice people!  You’re infantilizing him all over again!  This is like saying your mom should call the mean kid’s mom to talk about that unfortunate incident on the playground.  (Nuh-uh, Mom!  Don’t call!)  Honestly?  My guess is “talking” to his parents will be equally as effective as talking to the cat about learning how to drive.  I don’t think it will result in anything good.  Here’s how I picture it:

Wife: Hi, inlaws?  Yes, this is your DIL. I’m fine, thanks.  Listen, you know how you always get “Bob” gifts more suited for a nine-year-old?  And he hasn’t actually been nine in a really long time?

Inlaws: What are you talking about?

Wife: Well, you know how you get him age-inappropriate books and toys and things, right?

Inlaws: No, dear.  He’s always liked those things.

Wife: Well, actually, that’s where you’re mistaken.

Inlaws: I’m afraid I don’t understand, dear.

Wife: Some of those things are a little young for him, see?  And it’s embarrassing.  And you call him “Snoodgiepants” in public.  That’s embarrassing.

Inlaws: Do you PRESUME to tell me how to behave with my own son?

(this is where the trouble starts, because what do you say?  “Yes” = WW3 territory, and “No” = defeating the entire point of opening this dialogue)

Annnnd so on, until you’re so frustrated you hang up on them and drink gin straight from the cat’s bowl, while they call your husband behind your back to tell you what a busybody you are.  If they’re the arrested-development, controlling weirdos they seem to be, then take care that you don’t get painted as the interloper trying to ruin their happy family.  The last thing you need is for them to try and tear at your marriage, too.

If he says no, we urge you to separate their behavior from your husband’s reputation.  His patient tolerance of their inappropriateness says many positive things about the strength of his character.

I’ll give them this.  Everyone has flaky relatives they have to deal with.  Unfortunately for him, his happen to be his parents, but he seems to have grown up well despite them.  The problem is, the person who really needs to say something to his parents, is him.  It is ultimately his decision as to how he conducts his relationship with his parents.  No matter how much you may hate it (and I hear you) and no matter how much they piss you off (and I’m with you), it’s his call.  Let him be the adult in this situation, and decide how his parents are to be dealt with, without your stepping in.

Advice grade: C-.  Ultimately reasonable advice (let him conduct his own relationship with his parents), but doled out in a really dumb way

Zamboni Lady Encounters the Worst Sex Advice Ever

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyone else’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.


Recently, I’ve come across the worst advice I think I’ve ever seen in an advice column, and this is for real.  Here’s the problem:

Dear [Advice Columnist],
My boyfriend of one year and I are both recently graduated twentysomethings living at home like true millennials. While this has caused a few bumps in our love life, his mother is very open, liberal and allows me to spend the night at their house with him. Usually his mother gives us plenty of space, except for insisting on making us coffee and breakfast some mornings. The other day as we were being intimate, his mother called him on his cellphone. She often calls even when she knows we’re in the house so as not to barge in. This time, he answered the phone and continued to have sex with me as he talked to her. I was livid and disturbed, not to mention feeling cheap in a very Oedipal way. We talked it over at length and he recognized that it was inappropriate and immature, and he apologized. But I can’t help feeling that this should send a self-respecting young woman packing and running. Am I overreacting?

—Don’t Answer

OK, seems pretty icky, right?  And pretty straightforward.  There may, legitimately, be a time or a reason for answering the phone mid-sex but when that time comes, all booty should stop.  When your boyfriend answers the phone during sex and keeps getting down, it seems to me that he bought himself an express ticket to the curb.  But that’s not the advice this person was given.  Instead, she was basically informed that her instincts preserving her sense of self-worth were off and ultimately, she’s an insignificant tart.  Read on, as I interpret the subliminal context of this woman’s advice.

Dear Don’t,

Obviously what he should have said was, “Mom, we’re in the middle of coitus, so don’t interrupt us.”

I mean, what else was he supposed to do?  He can’t stop having sex because he decided the phone was more important than you!  He’s a guy, if they don’t get that sort of release the sperm backs up and it gets really painful.

Millennials assert that one of their distinguishing characteristics is the seamless ability to multitask, and if you accept the thrust of that argument,

HAHA!  “Thrust”, get it?  Get it?  Get it?  Yeah.  You got it, all right.

then your boyfriend was only demonstrating his prowess.

More haha!  “Prowess”, get it?  I feel absolutely justified in abusing you to your face and telling you that you should count yourself lucky to have your phone-answering man.  Why? Because your question has quickly become invalid; you’re a dirty whore having sex in your boyfriend’s mother’s house.

You’re also looking at the wrong Greek myth to explain what happened.

I need to make you feel stupid whenever possible.

I don’t think the events revealed an attraction to his mother, but to the siren song of the cellphone, a device to which people of all generations often feel more intimacy and loyalty than to their human partners.

So suck it up.

I’ll also offer the following excuse on your boyfriend’s behalf since he neglected to: Maybe when he realized it was Mom calling, he worried that since she knew he was home, if he didn’t answer she might go looking for him and find herself barging in flagrante.

Mother is so sexually naive that she lets you spend the night, but thinks you spend it sleeping.

Alternatively, being in his childhood bedroom may have kicked in the Pavlovian response that when Mom calls, he responds.

A boy’s best friend is his mother, Norman.

Whatever his subliminal thought process, of course his answering the phone ruined your mood. But this is just a tiny hump


in your relationship and not a reason to flee. I’m sure he’s learned his lesson, but the next time you two get romantic, make certain to lock the door and turn off the phone—don’t even let him think about leaving it on vibrate.

Because a phone that’s turned off will completely deter a worrisome, barging-in mother.   VIBRATE!  *tee hee* p.s. I hate your taut young vagina.

I am not making this up.

So let me do what I can to correct an egregious wrong, though I don’t know if the person who asked this will ever see it.  Your boyfriend absolutely took you for granted in the most fundamental and dismissive way possible.  At that moment, you were no more emotionally relevant to him than a fleshlight.  If, weeks later, you still feel betrayed, that’s understandable, and you need to take the time to figure out if you ever think you can trust him again.  Will he always jump at his mother’s call?  Will he always put his cell phone ahead of you in his priority list?  That is not OK.  Start to watch his other behaviors–does he tune you out in favor of Facebook/Halo/Game of Thrones while you’re trying to have a conversation about your day?  Can he leave a text alone?  Is he always like that with other people, or does he only do that sort of thing with you?  I can’t tell you whether or not you should bring your relationship to an end, but I can tell you that if his behavior doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, then you seriously need to reconsider if he’s worth your time.  Good luck.

Zamboni Lady Encounters the Worst Advice Ever: Suck It Up, Ladies

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyone else’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.


While I was going through the masses of unread books that gracefully line the Zamboni Cave, I came across A Guide to Confident Living, written by Norman Vincent Peale (hereafter known as NVP), 1948. Ho…lyyyyyyyyy… In my quest to bring you all the finest cheese in all the land, I’ve gathered up quite a few things for future examination in the Zamboni Cave, and some of the things I have, on closer inspection, turn out to not be what I expected them to be.  NVP’s A Guide to Confident Living is just such a thing. Have I said “Ho…lyyyyy”?  Because what I meant to say was, “Holy shit.”  I mean, I’d heard of Norman Vincent Peale.  I think my parents had a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking floating around the house for a while and if they didn’t, then surely one of my friends’ parents

Wayne Dyer: such a nice man.

did.  But I never read anything he wrote.  I mean, I don’t really read self-help-feel-good-happy-squee books (with the exception of books written by Dr. Wayne Dyer, about whom I want to put a bag over my head when I admit I like, but he seems so niiiiiiice and pleasant…and I digress).  Usually, I’m the person who positively wants to punch a self-help acolyte in their happy throat. But this book is about being confident.  Who doesn’t want to be confident?  I want to be confident.  We all want to be confident, and get over that constant feeling of being mentally thirteen years old, when it’s your first day at a new school and you walk in with your fly undone.  We all secretly worry that we’re that kid (and I know you do, even if you deny it).  Look at the title!  This book can help with that!  This book can make you the capable, charismatic, functioning adult you know you could be if only you were sure your fly were in the right position!  To keep the record straight, this book is something I picked up at either a yard sale or a flea market and I am fairly sure I didn’t pay more than a dollar for it (it is hardcover, after all). This book?  Is also appalling.

NVP was a minister who spent more than half a century pastoring his flock of confidently living Manhattanites.  In that time he did his fair share of counseling, some of which gets recounted in the pages of this book.  The worst advice ever, and the point of this blog, comes from my favorite story recorded here from his counseling days, which involves a married couple who were on the brink of divorce and had even taken separate residences.  He said they were both college-educated, extremely smart, and came from “good” families.

  • She was dowdy and a little bit disheveled, hated housework, only served “improvised” meals and spent a few afternoons a week playing bridge with whatever of her college girlfriends lived close by.
  • He had a series of affairs that he told her about “brazenly and rather cruelly”, says NVP, who witnessed the recounting.
*cough cough*
Since I couldn’t make this shit up even if I tried, I’m just going to copy verbatim from NVP:
To my astonishment he opened up a vigorous tirade against his wife on the basis of her alleged poor housekeeping, plus personal dowdiness….Late in the afternoon she would dash home and throw together a few things, ending up with an obviously improvised dinner.  Often the beds were not made until time to retire.  The clutter which normally accumulates in a home was allowed to remain.  This, he said, was more than he could stand (emphasis mine)….Moreover, he complained, “Why in the name of heaven can’t a woman keep her petticoat out of sight?  It hangs down all the time.”
While I sympathized with him and shared his views on both housekeeping and petticoats….
—NPV, The Guide to Confident Living, some of page 190 and all of 191

And now?  It’s the woman’s turn:

…I noticed that he was right, the petticoat did show.  Her hair was rather frazzled.  She was basically a nice looking lady but no care had been exercised in her dress…One chief trouble with her husband was that he didn’t make enough money for her to have a maid, she complained….I raised the question why once a week wouldn’t be sufficient for her bridge parties with “the girls.”  I also politely suggested that she pull up her petticoat and that she make the beds first thing after breakfast and pick up the newspapers and sweep the place out….

She wanted to know why a minister from whom she expected some spiritual counsel laid all this stress on how she fixed her hair, on why she didn’t pull up her petticoat, and on being a better housekeeper.  I replied that those matters seemed to be the trouble points (again, emphasis mine).     –NVP, same book, one paragraph stating the wife’s concerns on page 192, and the rest of 192/top of 193 talking about what a slovenly, complaining harpy she is

Sigh. Actually, no.  And here’s the thing, people.  Whatever gender you are, whatever your sexual orientation, when the person you’re involved with is a controlling prick, IT’S NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR HAIR.  There’s not a syllable of discussion in this book about why she stopped giving a shit about her appearance, there’s not a peep about why the husband felt the need to A) cheat and B) cruelly discuss it.  (His term, not mine.)  The worst advice imaginable in this situation is, “Well, you know, you do look like crap.  Why don’t you put on some lipstick?” Because surely, a little mouth rouge will rein the straying husband in.

He never once asks her about the depression she’s trying to offset by (my guess) drinking too much sherry with her girlfriends during their bridge sessions.  He never once explores the husband’s rigid view of acceptable relationship parameters.  He doesn’t try to get the husband to accept his responsibility in regards to his affairs.  NVP, apparently, agrees with him AND allows him to place the blame squarely on the wife.  (In one brief moment of conciliatory gesturing, he said the husband had “deficiencies” which they discussed.  That’s like saying a professional auto thief is “mischievous,” and I digress.)

Seriously, this is terrible advice.  Among the worst I’ve ever read, and I love me a good advice column.  It’s sad but true that relationships can suffer terrible blows, and people can inflict horrible pain on each other.  But what you can’t do–especially if you intend to stay in that relationship, and want your relationship to grow once you get past the pain–is blame the other person for your own bad behavior.  EVER.  That wasn’t cool in the third grade, when you blamed Timmy Johnson for making you trip him during the fire drill because the glare from the sunlight bouncing off his glasses hurt your little eyes.  It’s not cool now.  Knock it off.

NVP is kind of passive in his voice and approach, which makes him sound pompous and snide.  It provides no leeway for the party he isn’t mentally aligned with–which of course, in this case, is the wife.  His refusal (or maybe it’s an inability, who knows?) to dig anywhere below the surface and examine actual causes for bad behavior, and then tell this lady, “Your husband’s wandering eye is tied to the sheen of your hair.  You don’t need no stinkin’ therapy, you just need to tidy up yourself and the house,” is the 1948 equivalent of, “I’m just saying.”  We all know how satisfying that term can be.

Before I go one step further, YES, OK?  I know we all want our partners to be attractive to us, so sure, maybe an unkempt appearance can become a turnoff.  But, consider this: If your previously put-together spouse suddenly starts opting out and you wonder why, you won’t find the answer in someone else’s booty.  (I’m assuming she was previously put together because something tells me Mr. I-Can’t-Stand-Her-Petticoat wouldn’t have married her if that’s how she dressed before.)  This is where coaching in communication skills would have come in handy, if NVP were a real therapist and not an inflexible demagogue intent to maintain the trappings of patriarchy.  Interestingly enough, there’s no shiny, happy reconciliation epilogue at the end of this story.  NVP simply slides from “they had to work on this stuff” to “let me tell you about another letter I got…”.

And sure, you’re thinking, but Zamboni Lady, this book was written in 1948.  Nineteen.  Forty.  Eight.  That’s, like, a thousand years ago, and times have changed.  And probably, like, nobody ever reads this book anymore.  To be fair, there is a legitimacy to pointing out that women have made tremendous strides in the intervening 64 years.  Personally, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be an educated woman in 1948, having to exist within such rigidly-defined social roles.  I’d probably fall into a depressive funk and drink too much sherry in the afternoon, too.  And I’d like to think this book is just a throwback, some anomalous, out-of-print dinosaur that I managed to get my meathooks on, that it was just a blip on our historical horizon.

Only that’s not true.

This book, originally published in 1948, is still selling.  Its copyright was renewed in 2003 and is currently distributed by Touchstone, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  Today, its rank in sales on is #76,518 which might seem like, so what, right?  Until you consider that Amazon has millions of titles for sale, so ranking in the top hundred thousand is really a pretty healthy sales statement.  AND, it hasn’t been revised, so what was written in 1948 still stains the pages today. If this were the only example of NVP’s work, I might not look at it with so much concern.  But he’s got a few other books, also in print for more than fifty years, still on the shelves.  He had a radio show that he hosted for 54 years, until 1989.  He’s had lots and lots of time to add fuel to the gender-related fires that we still have to address now.  Accepting the concept that a woman bears responsibility for her husband’s misbehaviors feeds directly into the ideas that a woman in a short skirt is “asking for it”, or that a man can’t control himself, or that boys will be boys.  His impact on the cultural attitudes towards women and emotionally abusive relationships can’t be minimized.  But it can be put on the table and examined.  Justice Louis Brandeis once said that the proper actionto take against harmful speech is not censorship, but counterspeech.  As I ride in on the Zamboni of Righteous Indignation, I challenge all of you to counter his unhealthy approach to relationships with compassionate discourse.  Try to understand each other.  Don’t make your partner’s problems all about you. He gives crappy advice, people.  Think.  Would you want your spouse to disregard your obviously acted-out images of unhappiness?  Or would you want to be blamed for it when they made your issues all about themselves and went boinky-boink on the side?

If you see this?

Advice: Zamboni Lady Explains Guano, Irony and the Tea Trade

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyoneelse’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.


Dear Zamboni Lady,

Why do I always cringe when I hear Michele Bachmann speak?


Duck N. Cover

Dear Duckie,

It’s self-preservation.  I think that we, as a general rule, can get a “vibe” about things.  You know when someone’s staring at you (especially when it’s the piercing stare of a psychopath, please see above image).  Do you follow the gut instinct you have to stay out of that room or not get on that plane or not take the candy from that attractive stranger?  Mostly do you follow your gut, give or take some candy?  Then you’ve got some mighty fine instincts, and here’s why this relates to Mrs. Bachmann.

The Guanay Cormorant, a veritable poo goldmine

Nitrates are essential for plant growth so they are commonly used as a fertilizer, though they have also been shown to aid in the preservation and color maintenance of meat.  I won’t judge.  What?  I eat meat too.  It’s just that—in the spirit of research—I’ve come across this uncomfortable connection and if it’s going to make me feel ooky, then it’s only fair you should feel ooky too.  Anyway.  Both organic and inorganic nitrates can also be used as propellants.  Explosives.  They blow stuff up good and if you don’t believe me, just ask the Chinese, who have been blowing things up with saltpeter—potassium nitrate—since the first century.  Yes, the very first.  And guano, or bat poo, is a rich, natural source of nitrates (though perhaps not quite as good as the guano that comes from the noble Guanay Cormorant, but that’s a different debate for a different article).

So where does this all lead?  Simple.  You cringe because, instinctively, you know the batshit crazy flying out of her mouth is potentially explosive, so you’re just trying to get out of the way.  Because who wants to get covered with flaming crazypoo?  Not I, my friend.  Not I.

Dear Zamboni Lady,

What’s the best way to make white pants white again?  Bleaching doesn’t always work.


Sad Laundress

Dear Laundress,

About a thousand years ago, I finished a shift at a restaurant and went with a co-worker to another restaurant.  This other restaurant (which shall remain nameless) made their waiters wear all white as their uniform—white shirt, white pants, white aprons.  I felt like I was being waited on by an orderly…a head-to-toe dirty, food-covered orderly.  Is that what happened to your pants?  Because girl, quit your job and burn those things, as white pants subjected to restaurant grime cannot be redeemed.

Just another day in the restaurant industry.

If you don’t work for an incredibly short-sighted restaurant chain and you’ve got whites that are not white, then you have a few options.  Ironically, bleaching, the sort of “go-to” whitening practice, may be the cause of your whites turning yellow as apparently, bleach can interact poorly with the finishing treatment of the material, especially if it’s a poly-cotton blend.  I mean this in a legitimately ironic way instead of the faux-irony professed by Alanis Morrissette in her song “Ironic” (not linking the video, you’re welcome), which is more a litany of unfortunately juxtaposed but unrelated instances and plain old bad luck.  The fact that her song “Ironic” is actually not about anything ironic is in itself a pretty good example of irony, though I doubt she was aiming for anything quite so meta.   Martha Stewart says you should boil whites in fresh lemon juice, but she probably means lemon juice rendered from hothouse Meyer lemon trees and squeezed by Peruvian dwarves specially trained for this purpose.  If you lack either the Meyer lemon trees or the dwarves, then go to this page and see what this lady has to say.  She clearly thinks a great deal about laundry, and makes her blog way more entertaining than I could ever imagine a laundry blog being.  Go, Mama!

And if it comes down to it, don’t be afraid to burn those pants.  White?  Really?

Getting ready for some tea, in China.

Dear Zamboni Lady:

Why does nothing seem to affect the price of tea in China?


Caffeinated and Curious

Dear Caffy,

Actually, this is a bit of an urban legend.  Chinese tea cultivation experienced a decline about twenty-five, maybe thirty years ago (or so).  Collective farms were broken into individual lots which created a change in the mindset of the farmer and a change in the way land was used, and as a tea bush has to grow for five years before you can use its leaves, tea farming became more of a “hobby” than a profession.  Unless you’re a prisoner; the other manner in which tea is primarily farmed now in China is through prison labor, and the prison farmers lack the incentives (pay, freedom) that would compel other farmers to make more efficient use of the land.  The price of tea in China has gone up and down wildly with its production, though in recent years it has been on the upswing thanks to efforts to reinvigorate tea farming throughout China.

The tea trade has changed dramatically in the last decade, with increased yields from countries like Sri Lanka and Kenya changing the dynamics of the global market, but for China that’s not such a bad thing.  Tea has shown a remarkable overall stability in its pricing, and experts believe that is largely related to the expansion of the tea trade.  In 2010, China produced 1.4 million tons of tea (1.1 million of it for domestic consumption) and exported the rest, though as their exports were often raw and unrefined tea they did not command as high a price per kilogram as Kenya or Sri Lanka.  It’s all about the balance.

And for you, American consumer, what this means is: while the price tea in China may have suffered a destabilizing blow thanks to the privatization of some farms and the use of prison labor for other farms, an aggressive influx of products from alternative markets stabilized the industry as a whole, helping restore competitive balance to China and assuring that the person who has not been affected even a little by the fluctuations in the tea trade, is you.

Have a nice, big cup of the fruits of economic competition.

Zamboni Lady: Licensing, Universal Health Care, Why You?

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyoneelse’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.

Dear Zamboni Lady,

Do Zamboni drivers need a license?

Signed, Not a Scofflaw

Dear Scoffy,

It depends on what you want the Zamboni driver to do.  A Zamboni driver needs a license to:

But, a Zamboni driver doesn’t need a license to drive a Zamboni.  For that, you simply need grit, determination, and the willingness to see a job through to its brutal, bloody end.

Dear Zamboni Lady,

How can we make people understand that universal health care is not part of a communist plot to undermine American values?

Signed, A Komrade

Dear Komrade,

Many versions of universal health care—particularly in Europe—evolved after the end of World War II, when Europeans had to rebuild their various societies from the ground up.  Governments looked at what was left standing and who needed help in what way and realized, rich or poor, young or old, employed or un-, the devastation of war affected everyone and everyone deserved, if nothing else, the right to medical treatment.  So the violent dismantling of society caused society to remantle (yes, I made it up) itself with compassion and concern for the larger concept of community.  These traits seem to be lacking in modern America’s value system.

The problem with the word “community” is that it sounds an awful lot like “communist”, largely because they are derived from the same root, the Latin communis “in common, public, general, not pretentious, shared by all or many.” Universal health care requires a broad sense of community-mindedness, broad in its fundamental principle that all people ought to have access to health care if for no other reason than that a healthy citizenry means…well…a healthy citizenry.  And, it’s non-judgmental and non-discriminatory.  With universal health care in place you can’t say, “Hey, if you wanted to engage in high-risk behaviors, you should have known what the potential consequences were.”  Under the current American system you should never smoke, drink, engage in unprotected sex, rock-climb, swim in an ocean, drink from aluminum cans, have a troubled youth, use fluoride toothpaste, escape from an oppressive political regime, eat tainted peanut butter, get a yeast infection, use a band saw, paint the window sills on the second floor of your house, drive, fly, or have a baby unless you can find some way to obtain health insurance OR pay for it all out of pocket.  Not all medical incidents come about as the result of risky behaviors and even if they did…so what?  Our lives are not about sitting in a stress-free environment all day, subsisting on a nutrient drip.  Our lives are messy; people fall down, fall ill, have hammers fall on their heads, need glasses, chip teeth, get high blood pressure, and it’s often through nobody-in-particular’s fault.  Who am I to deny someone the right to medical treatment, for whatever ills befall them?  In the greater sense of community, is it better to make sure the person with the hammer sticking out of his head gets proper treatment, or is it better for him to try to function—work—drive a car—with a gaping head wound-slash-concussion?

And, we engage in community-based behavior all the time, even if we don’t realize it.  For example, I am childless, by choice, and part of that decision was made thanks to my internal realization that I don’t want to surrender my autonomy to the demands of a child.  However, that doesn’t mean I resent any portion of my tax money going to support the local school system.  Why do I care if the schools are in decent condition, since I don’t have any kids there?  Because it’s better to have an educated society.  I drive, but I’m not expected to keep my portion of the street patched—the local government does that for me.  And I’m happy to contribute to farm subsidies that help keep food reasonably priced and smaller farmers in business.  These are all functions that serve the betterment of the community at large, even if they bring me no personally profitable benefit.

I’ve heard all the rhetoric, that universal health care is Big Government, and Sarah Palin was word-vomiting about death panels a while back, but here’s the thing: this logic?  Is ass-backwards.  Death panels already exist in the health care system, thanks to the committees that approve or deny coverage for treatments.  They hide behind the statement, “We don’t deny care, we deny payment.”  As though, for the significant portion of the American populace who can barely afford a doctor’s visit without insurance coverage, there is any difference.  And Big Government is the government that limits freedom of movement by binding people to their jobs because employers provide health insurance—and even if it’s crappy, in today’s America bad insurance is better than no insurance at all.  Bad Government is the government that resigns its citizenry’s well-being to the dictates of an industry, because that industry has lobbyists that put money in government’s Big pockets.

Would there be insurance cheats under a universal system?  Sure, probably, though the total expenditure of fraudulent claims would probably be nowhere near the $85 billion paid to just one insurance company, AIG, in bailout money in 2008.  Would non-US-citizens benefit from a US universal health care system?  Sure, probably, much like Americans benefit from cheap drugs from Canada or an efficient health system when travelling abroad (true story: friends were in Paris when their little girl got chicken pox; a house call from a doctor and all necessary medicines set them back something like 30 euro, or about fifty bucks.  Can you imagine a house call costing fifty bucks?).  But what would also hold true is that there will be more opportunity for people to get treated with dignity, as the question of the ability to pay is removed.

Much of the espoused American value system stems from the Declaration of Independence, which says that “…all men are created equal, that they have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…[of] life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Universal health care would support these values, not undermine them.  Life: OK, that’s pretty self-explanatory.  Liberty: Health care would remove the invisible chains that bind a person to a job in order to retain their health benefits, which could then allow them to Pursue their Happiness.  If we are to hold as true that all men are created equal, then we should also hold as true that all men deserve equal access to medical care, not just the ones with the most staying power in a job, or the ones with the most money.  That undermines the aforementioned value system much more thoroughly than universal health care ever could.

Dear Zamboni Lady,

What pretension to knowledge or supreme ego do you have such that you believe that you can dispense advice to the rest of us?


Angrily Wondering

Dear Angry,

You certainly give me much to think about.  Why do I think I’ve got answers?  What sort of ego has coaxed this out of me?  How can I justify making these sorts of presumptions?  And the more I thought about it, the more it boiled down to just one thing:

‘cause it’s my microphone, bitch.  BOO-YAH!

Advice: Ask the Zamboni Lady

DISCLAIMER: The Zamboni Lady is not a doctor, nor does she play one on TV.  She is, simply, a busybody who wants to know everyone else’s business.  The advice, while well-meant, is not meant to substitute for legal advice or protection, indicate a definitive way to live one’s life, or in any way imply that you should take her advice any more seriously than you would the advice of the bestie of your bestie, given out over a long and tear-soaked evening of nachos and margaritas.

Dear Zamboni Lady:  What about those women who happen to be from Mars?

                                                                                                Signed, Astrologically Perplexed

Really from Mars = legitimate issues

Dear Astro: I’m curious as to why you are unconcerned about the men who happen to be from Venus, but nevertheless you don’t raise that point.  Here’s the thing: That “men/women, Mars/Venus” idea is a dotty piece of crap written by a person who clearly perpetuates a cycle of dysfunction in his own relationships, pursuing relationships with women who withhold affection and projecting his own dissatisfaction onto his clients and the seven million readers who looked to this book with forlorn earnestness.  Men “score” love in large blocks of points while women score acts singularly; one nice act = one “point” rewarded by women, while in men’s eyes Big Acts can score 20, 30, 40 points at a time…WTF?  You can’t scorecard relationships like that, and you can’t jam people into Martian/Venutian pigeonholes.  Unless, of course, they actually ARE from Mars and/or Venus, in which case there are bigger fish to fry than whether or not they score relationships correctly.  I have seen men withhold affection, I’ve seen women lump piles of love points on their plates like love is the meatball that tops their spaghetti.  As human beings, we exist in a continuum.  Our sexualities exist in a continuum, our intellectual ideals exist in a continuum…hell, even our taste for condiments exists in a continuum, as aioli seems to be sneaking onto menus just about everywhere now, and sriracha has become the darling condiment of the foodie set.  And, not surprisingly, I will claim that gender-based behavior-in-a-relationship issues exist…are you with me here?…in a continuum.  So when you find that woman who happens to be from Mars, accept that her behavior is perfectly normal and this Mars/Venus delineation is a contrived and dysfunctional yardstick by which to measure the relative health of a relationship.  Unless, of course, she really IS from Mars.  In that case, offer her some gum.

Dear Zamboni Lady:  How do you tell a co-worker they need to wear a bra?

                                                                                                            Signed, Sad about Sag

Dear Sad:  I like that your protective nature made you use the gender-neutral “they” in asking this question, as though you don’t want to even begin to insinuate which co-worker you might have in mind.  But I will assume that the co-worker in question is indeed a woman, and will from here forward use “her” and “she” as is grammatically correct.

If you’re talking about a dude…I got nothing.

Anyway, how do you tell a co-worker she needs to wear a bra?  Does this also include needing to wear a better bra?  Because I have seen instances where a bra was being asked to perform heroic feats of uplift and just didn’t have the fight—or the supportive fabric—to do it.  Either way, it’s a situation that results in bizarrely shaped silhouettes, unprofessional appearances, and the potential for all manner of wardrobe malfunction, especially if Justin Timberlake is anywhere in the vicinity.

Can you stand this co-worker?  Can you invite her out for a shopping date?  It’s nearly impossible to come up with a gentle way to say, “Honey, them girls need some boosting!” at the water cooler but get them into a dressing room?  It’s amazing how frank you can be.  If she wears a bra but it’s ill-fitting and saggy, you can pull the straps up so the girls sit where they’re supposed to live, and she can see the difference.  If she doesn’t wear a bra, you can wonder aloud what that particular shirt would look like with a bra under it, since a women’s shirt is cut with the expectation that boobs will be up here and not

Et tu, Drew?

down there.  Some women really DON’T KNOW.  Estimates and experts say something like 80% of women wear the wrong bra size.  Chances are, if she’s an ill-fitting-bra wearer, she falls into this 80%.  And if she’s over 25 and doesn’t wear a bra?  It’s time she started learning, unless her girls are teensy.  I know one woman who is in her 50s and can get away with going braless, but that’s it.  Just.  One.

If you don’t really want to invest that kind of time (and believe me, I’ve had some co-workers about whom the thought of spending an afternoon with shopping breaks me into hives) and can’t figure out a polite way to say, “Hey, Mme. X., your boobs swing like Brian Setzer!”, then you have one of two choices:

1)      Start leaving lingerie sales flyers in her mailbox, and hope she gets the hint.  OR

2)      Get over it.  Joan Rivers may be the fashion police, but she won’t actually show up at this woman’s door.  And you can’t force a new bra on someone, no matter how much you think it would improve the way their clothes fit.  Or their general appearance.  Or their posture.  Or their relationship with their own reflection.

But seriously, if you’re asking about a dude?  I’ve got nothin’.

Dear Zamboni Lady:  If you’re traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on your headlights, what happens?

Signed, Fred Einstein

Dear Einstein: I’m assuming that you’re driving a car at the speed of light, and that there are no police around.  All things being relative, we have to assume that the car you’re in is traveling at the speed of light.  We also have to assume that the simple mechanics of the car will still work as they had originally been designed.  There is no way that the wiring in the car that operates the headlights will be able to process your request for headlights in a manner that will allow the light to shine forward—the wiring does not operate at light speed, so you’d be ahead of the light before it had a chance to get out in front of you.  So your car will trail light like Pigpen trails smoke, and you’ll still be in the dark.  Sucker.  If you had turned on the lights before you left this never would have happened.

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