Story Of An Advice Columnist

Dear Ron

I have gone and done and won. At times I didn’t win. When I didn’t win I sometimes took a spin. I have taken hikes too, a long time ago. Now I’m back and I don’t know where I’ve been. As you see, maybe saw then too, but no, you didn’t know me then, so how could you? What I am getting at is this: I stand, I walk, I jog too. “Where am I?” you ask.  I am at the gym. I am on the treadmill. When I look back I realize I have always been on the treadmill, but not always at the same gym. When I wasn’t on the treadmill (there have not always been treadmills, after all) I was jogging around in a circle (same thing) So metaphorically I am back where I started from, or I never left. I run in place. Do you do the same?


Dear Dizzy,

This has been a very slow week at the question depot, so I will answer you. You sound like somebody who has fallen so deep in a well that your echoes are putting you to sleep.  Why not get off the treadmill and take a shower? It will clear your head of all the cuckooness and you will feel up to taking a walk and getting a 6-pack, which I have found always does the trick of perking me up.

Then you can read a comic strip or something. If life were a treadmill, would I be where I am now? I was not born an advice columnist. I was born a baby. I grew into this slowly. It was years before I gave my first piece of advice. It was around the age of seven. I told a little girl in the neighbourhood that she should get her bicycle fixed or she would hurt herself and she ran over my hand. When I stopped bleeding I realized that giving advice is not always the sanest thing to do if the person you are giving advice to is standing too close to you.

So, some years later, I decided to do it by telephone. I would call people in the phone book and give them advice. It was not always the best advice, but I was practicing. By the time I hit the D’s I was  building up some steam.  I found that courtesy helped. I would always ask them how they were to begin, and I never let a cool reaction bother me.

The next question I posed was, “How’s the breathing going?” That one often aroused their curiosity. “Who wants to know?” they would snap at me. Then I explained how important it was to breathe effectively. Before you know it we were comparing breathing methods and I was giving them good advice. You would be surprised to know how often people stop breathing when they are around lawyers.

I tried to explain that one doesn’t always have to breathe through one’s nose. The mouth can fill the lungs just as effectively. From that point on we were almost pals. I would find out about their wives and husbands and children, and I always had some good advice to give. You would be surprised at the number of problems people have in their families. I had a great answer for those. “Why live together?” I would say. “The reason you have a problem with so-and-so is because you live in the same house.” That one, I can tell you, was a winner. I think the divorce and orphan rate shot up that year. I was on my way.

I knew I had a gift. Over the years, I have helped people in all walks of life,  the rich, the poor, the healthy and the sick. You know what they all had in common? They never wanted to tell me their problems.

But I finally got them to. Sometimes in order to help more people with their problems, I would ride around on the bus all day. I would spy somebody who looked a bit out of sorts and I would confront them. “You got a problem?” I would blurt out. Of course, sometimes I got a solid head butt for an answer, but that never derailed me for long.

Before you know it I had them crying like babies, blubbering on about this or that misfortune. One thing I always told them was, “I understand.” People seem to like to hear that. It got a little difficult at times because some of them spoke in another language, but in those cases, I used body language when the tears began. I touched their wrist. Things like that.

Sometimes I would even followed someone home and got their address and then I would send them a letter of consolation. It always surprised me when the police told me to stop doing this.

Then I had a brief period in jail for some research I did on people’s bathroom habits . In jail I had a captive audience. Yes, these guys really had problems and I was just the person to help them out. I gave them advice.

I advised them that sodomy was not the ideal way to greet someone.  And that throwing their feces into the guards’ faces would just cause annoyance. Boy, did they ponder this one!  Unfortunately, one of them did not agree with my etiquette and cut just a little bit of my nose off.

I did manage to raise their spirits, though, while they waited in chow line by singing John Denver songs. They needed that.  Some feel that society doesn’t like them and that that’s why they have been locked up. I explained that society does not dislike them, but rather dislikes what they have done. That seemed to make them think.  For about twelve seconds.

After prison, I had some business ideas, which unfortunately did not work out as I had planned. I wanted to revolutionize the jellybean and make it chewier. I thought of a great way to sell it too. The customer would not have to pay . Nobody went for that. But I might have been ahead of my time.

I wanted to stop wars too, so I sent letters to some world leaders telling them to lay down their weapons, and got letters back saying they weren’t at war. Was I ever disappointed! Here I was trying to help people who didn’t even want my help. I felt like a fifth wheel.

That made me think that I needed to reach a wider audience. Why go to people when they could come to me? I put an ad in the newspaper offering my services as a guidance consultant to anyone anywhere. After six months of no replies, I decided to beg  people to answer, and finally did get one from a lady who wanted to know where I thought she should bury her cat, in the lawn or under the house.

She seemed to like my choice (under the house, of course. That way you don’t have to take up space with a headstone), and then she told all her friends about me and my career as an advice columnist was launched.  The rest, as they say, is misery.


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