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John Kelly's Washington Live

John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2005; 1:00 PM

John Kelly writes five times a week about the joys and annoyances of living in Washington. He aims to show readers the Washington (and Silver Spring, Alexandria, Manassas, Bowie ...) that they know and take them places they don't know. He wants to make them see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and unfamiliar things in familiar ways. ("We may occasionally end up seeing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways," John says, "but such are the risks of the job.") His columns take a cockeyed view of the place the rest of the planet knows as the Capital of the Free World but that we all call home. John rides the Metro for fun and once kidnapped an Irishman to see what made him tick.

Fridays at 1 p.m. ET John is online to chat about his columns and mull over anything that's on your mind.

John Kelly and unidentified revelers. (For The Washington Post)

Wednesday's Sessions
World: Greece's second bailout, 11 ET
Food: Free Range on Food, 12 ET
Entertainment: Reliable Source Live, 12 ET
Style: 30 Lessons for Living, 12 ET
Weekly Schedule

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Weigh in with your opinion on the latest news and analysis 24-hours a day.

Readers Are Talking About...

This week's columns:
Stopping By for a Nice Chat (Post, April 22)
A Ticket for Trouble at Home (Post, April 21)
Old Friends and Familiar Strangers (Post, April 20)
Meeting the Microscopic Enemy (Post, April 19)
Answer Man: At Home in the Cemetery (Post, April 18)

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


John Kelly: Another Friday, another chat. I tried to throw some chum on the waters today by printing chat excerpts in my column. Why should we have all the fun? But now people want royalties and credit and are accusing me of being lazy. Me! Lazy! Me who rolled in today around 10 a.m. Sheesh.

There's just no pleasing some people. In fact, I'd like that to be a recurring feature of my column. Ideas?

This week Answer Man visited a Russian Orthodox chapel in Rock Creek Cemetery. I visited D.C.'s official pollen counter. We mused about high school reunions. I slipped off to a ballgame one night. And today, well, you know what happened today. Also you may have seen my piece in the wonderful Extra Community Guides that came out yesterday.

Okay, have at me.


Del Ray, Va.: Wow, John, today's column marks you as the ultimate Washington insider. You openly recycled the thoughts of others without so much as a paraphrase, sold the same piece of work twice to a single client, and promoted yourself while doing it! When are you opening that K Street office? (My alternative theory is that you skipped work and went to RFK yesterday and cut and pasted bits of the chat for a column in desperation.)

John Kelly: Oh that I had only gone to watch the Nats lose in the 9th inning in the rain. Instead, I was donating blood while teaching immigrant children literacy skills and bathing the feet of dialysis patients. But if you'd prefer I didn't do that....

No, I wasn't doing that. I just thought I'd mix things up a bit. Your material is just so darn good that it seems a shame to limit it to cyberspace. And now you can claim to be a published author. Even if you aren't.


Arlington, Va.: I read the Metro article about how state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax)is outraged at a sex eductation fair put on by George Mason students. Apprently he believes that discussions about safe-sex, contraceptives, and rape will lead to non-stop orgies throughout the GM campus. Should we be worried?

John Kelly: If he doesn't like "Sextravaganza," he doesn't have to go. And if he has any juvenile children, he can keep them from going. But we're talking about college students who presumably have free will and can make their own decisions about what they find offensive and what they find informative. Maybe it's the journalist in me, but I think that more information is usually better.

Having said that, the organizers do seem to be courting controversy. "Sextravaganza"? It sounds like the title of a bad porno movie. (As opposed to a good porno movie.) What, "Sexapalooza" was taken?


Northern Virginia: Happy Friday John,

I'm coming up on my 15th high school reunion. I haven't gone to any of the others because as I take a good look back ... I didn't really like too many of my former classmates, I just tolerated them.

Much like my world now-a-days too. Am I just too picky?

John Kelly: Well you ought to have some friends. Everyone needs friends. Or one friend. One imaginary friend, a sock puppet named George who understands you and doesn't shout at you like that pinhead boss or yell at you to put your cereal bowl in the dishwasher or...

Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, friends from high school. I only have a few friends from my year at high school, and my best one refuses to come to any of the reunions. I've been to every single one! Not that I know why.


Stafford, Va.: I read your response last week to the reader who complained that the Post gave a better subscription price to new customers, and I'm not impressed. This is exactly the kind of poor customer values that leads to 30+ percent annual turnover in among cell phone services. If the Post had any legitimate competition more of your long term valued customers would also switch. Your Post rewards card does me little good in Stafford. Enjoy the ad revenue when I'm online, because I'm dropping my subscription and saving a few dead trees.

John Kelly: I can't understand your attitude. Are you that cheap? The fact that a guy gets up at 4 a.m. to get bundles of newspapers and deliver one to your door by 6 every morning, at the cost of a whopping 37 cents, isn't enough? You want it to cost 28 cents? You want us to show our glee at your "loyalty" by never trying innovative ways to lure new customers? I'm sorry to lose you as a subscriber, but, really.


Arlington, Va.: John, I listened to your Marketplace reading after the chat last week. You definitely sound young and short. Even so, I enjoyed it. It makes me wonder how you picture people when you talk to them on the phone and then they look completely different in peson or something along those lines. Ever happen?

John Kelly: That's an interesting thought. I do talk to a lot of people on the phone and sometimes I meet them later. I haven't had any real surprises. The ones who always surprise me are DJs. Radio DJs never look like what you'd expect. Add about 200 pounds to whatever you're imagining and THAT'S what they look like.


Arlington, Va.: I don't really "get" the new WP bus ads. "Want to know the real value of an MBA? You live here...Washington Post"? What the heck? There are others...can't remember right now. But you must use your infinite wisdom and explain. I feel so incompetent.

John Kelly: I haven't seen those ads, but if they are as you describe, perhaps they are meant to create mystery, like "What the @*$!@ does this ad mean?"


Washington, D.C.: John, I was feeling lucky today, so I bought myself a $5 lottery scratcher ticket. Sure enough, I scratched off a winner. I was riding high! Then, however, I scratched off the prize box and found that I had won $5.

Now I don't know what to feel. Am I a winner? I'm right back where I started from. Am I a loser? My brother said so, but he always says that (except when Mom's around).

John Kelly: I think we should take a vote: How many people think "Washington, DC" should reinvest that $5 in ANOTHER scratch ticket and how many think s/he should just walk away?


New York, N.Y.: Hi John,
I really enjoy your articles every day. Always fresh and interesting...
My question:
Am I the only one who gets a mental image of Michael Bolton whenever I see a story about the UN ambassador nominee?

John Kelly: No, I don't think you're alone. However, don't count me among those who picture the blue-eyed soul singer. Whenever I see a photo of John Bolton I get an image of the Walrus from "Through the Looking Glass." Something about that mustache.


washingtonpost.com: John BoltonJohn Kelly: John Bolton...


washingtonpost.com: http://www.rothetechnologies.com/Image25.gifJohn Kelly: And the Walrus....

(I thought the Walrus was Paul, not John.)


Norristown, Pa.: For the lunch eater, a better response would have been "Sure, you can sit here, I'm just heading in anyways."

John Kelly: Now why didn't I think of that? Your honesty is refreshing. Still, there's times where a fake pager would really come in handy.


Washington, D.C.: Re. calling your house the "Kelly Compound", I suggest that you start buying guns if you're serious about that. Any compound with fewer than five firearms per person is a joke. How many guns does your family own now?

John Kelly: I have a 44-year-old blunderbuss, does that count? (Just kidding Ruth! No need to make up the sleep sofa in the study!)


Newry, Maine: I haven't been to Camden Yards in about 5 years and I was wondering if they still play 'Country Boy' every 7th Inning Stretch? Also do you know when/why that was started?

John Kelly: Any traitors, I mean chatters, been to an O's game this season and can report? My Lovely Wife and I used to have season tix to the Orioles and they always sang it, much to our amusement. (We never saw any country boys in the stands.) I remember being at Memorial Stadium in '83 during the playoff run and John Denver Himself was there and he sang it on top of the O's dugout. So they've been doing it at least since then.


Washington, D.C.: If the paper arrived to my NW DC home by 6am I wouldn't have had to cancel my subscription. As a teacher, I left the house before the paper arrived most mornings... what happened to the kid with the paper route?

John Kelly: He's busy studying for the Stanford 9 test. Plus he'd be herniated if he tried to deliver the paper. And his parents are too worried about crime to let him out on dark mornings. That's what happened to the paper boy.

Have you mentioned to your carrier that you need the paper earlier?


Economics major: Actually John, Stafford is saving $0.37 per day (less some electricity) by reading the Post on-line, because he objects to being charged more than other customers for the same paper. He probably never tipped his carrier and yes he is a cheap but growing part of the population.

John Kelly: Thank for the economist's view. And remind me to tell you about the Phillips Curve some time, the only thing I remember from my single college economics class.


Frederick, Md.: What a gloomy day! It would be a nice day to stay home and take naps all day. Answer Man, I want to thank you for finding the answer to the song that was sticking in my head. Ray Stevens also sang "The Streak". Now, that song was an institution!

John Kelly: Ah, yes, "The Streak." He likes to show off his physique, I recall. And it wasn't I who helped you. It was your fellow chatters. (The same people beating up on me for recycling their material.)


My vote: "Washington D.C." should walk away from another lotto ticket. Clearly, he/she is the Jerry Seinfeld of the lottery (destined to break even).

John Kelly: So that's one for the walk away column. (I just saw that Seinfeld episode the other day myself.)


Re: Lottery Ticket: Just save the $5 you won. A higher power (or lower, whatever floats your boat) was nice enough to intervene and give it back to you.

And, yes, I start hearing Michael Bolton songs in my head whenever I read about the UN nominee.

I also thought that using already published questions and answers in your column was lame. You could have at least used previously unposted questions. But I appreciated the column on the pollen.

John Kelly: Make that two.

"Lame." I don't think I much like hearing that word. I guess I'll table my plans to make next week's columns be selected excerpts from this week's columns.


Falls Church, Va.: Is it too late to save the word "lie"? It's bad enough that everyone says he's going to "lay down," or that she "laid around the house for hours." But it's starting to creep into print, even in your fine paper.

My mother was drilled, "Lay takes an object." That true, but it misses the point, which is more basic: they're different words! They share an unfortunate overlap in that lie's past tense is the same as lay's present.

Make it stop. Now.

"Hi, how are you?" "Fine, how about yourself?" is my wife's answer, and I grit my teeth. It should be only a simple "you," but even I know enough to let that sleeping dog lie.

John Kelly: I wish I could help you, but I'm one of those people who, because he knows the difference between "me" and "I," and "its/it's," others assume can also handle "lay/lie," "who/whom" and all sorts of other grammatical conundra. I stick in whatever sounds right and hope that if I'm wrong, the copy desk will fix it.

As for "lay" taking an object, again I'm useless. I've lost my ability to diagram sentences and to identify predicates and injunctives and conjunctivitis and other things, something that routinely gets me in trouble in the Latin I've been taking for the last few months.


Campus: I've got nothing against using the word campus to describe an office complex, IF it's actually TRUE!; Two mirror-image buildings, a parking lot, and a couple of shrubs around the sidewalk don't count. A campus should be fully walkable, including access to the street. It should also have a little variety to it.

John Kelly: Another reader wrote that voicing the opinion that "campus" was fine as long as it referred to buildings that have a common purpose, ie, a hospital campus that includes many health-related buildings, or an office campus with buildings that are all of one company. I think that most non-collegiate campuses (campi, in Latin) are fully walkable--at least from the parking lot.


Takoma Park, Md.: I don't know about you, but I was kinda hoping the Nats' new mascot would be a big furry GNAT. An eagle is a bit predictable.

John Kelly: They're never gonna have a gnat. Anything with a compound eyeball just scares little children. I think Skreech's problem is he looks too lumpy, like a few hundred pounds of tapioca. He know he's a chick and thus has baby fat, but he needs to slim down a bit. If he was a kick-ass kind of eagle--more like a superhero--he'd be better.


Dontrena, Maine: Renaming the stadium: Please please please jump the cubicle wall and beat Marc Fisher with a rolled-up Express until he agrees to stop calling it "The Bobby." Gah! Ptui!

RFK Stadium. RFK Stadium. RFK Stadium. RFK Stadium.

John Kelly: I confess I'm not a fan of "the Bobby," and it's becauase Marc has been so successful at linking "Bobby (Haircut)" with Gubnor Ehrlich. Whenever I see "the Bobby," I get a mental image of that pageboy 'do. So, RFK is fine with me. Or maybe get Toyota to sponsor it and call is Scion Stadium, since that's what RFK was.


washingtonpost.com: Lawmaker Decries GMU Health Fair, 'Moral Depravity' (Post, April 22) John Kelly: I forgot to post this earlier, so you can decide for yourselves.


Alexandria, Va.: Thank you for using one of my questions to you as a sample in your article today. Especially since I'm the guy whose wife asked you some time ago to stop printing stuff from her "Darling Husband", this has given me an excellent opportunity to gloat. You made my day.

John Kelly: My pleasure. You're not Claudio from Santiago of Chile, are you?


Laramie, Wyo.: Hi John,

I've lived in many cities and towns throughout the U.S., including Friendship Heights, MD and will be moving to Arlington, VA, in a month.

While looking for apartments in Arlington, I met my cousin, who just moved there from Oakland, CA. We started talking about customer service in the D.C. area, and came to the conclusion that D.C. area customer service is amoung the worst we've ever experienced, with people in stores being surly, unhelpful, confused, or even outright hostile (one time a Giant employee berated my wife until she cried, just because she asked where something was).

I'm curious, have my cousin and I just had random bad luck with people in stores, or are D.C. area low level employees somehow less competant and more hostile than other places?

(I hope this question doesn't sound mean, and I must say I've had many many minimum wage jobs, so I'm not speaking as some elitist professional looking for servile customer service.)

John Kelly: I think you've just been particularly unlucky. I have met a few out of towners who think DC people are rude. (One even had an involved theory about how the Federal government is to blame.) It does seem that many lower level employees are kinda surly wherever you go. They seem unable to find the joy in working at a McDonald's or wherever. Anyone else think we're especially rude here?


Re: Reunions: So you only spent one year in high school (answer above)? No wonder you don't get much out of the reunions.

John Kelly: When I say "year" I mean the year of my graduation: 1980. I suppose I could have said "class." I knew what I meant. And so did my sock monkey.


Fairfax, Va.: the walrus ... definitely the walrus

John Kelly: Poor guy. What with the Robin Givhan essay this is going to seem like piling on.


Alexandria, Va.: I found the only high school reunion I've had yet (my 10th) to be a disappointment. I went hoping to see some good human train wrecks to laugh at. Ideally these would have been people who were the SGA or otherwise very self-important types who have since fallen apart. Unfortunately, none of those people appeared to have had any amusing failures (unless you count short marriage, but those didn't result in any funny stories). They just became more even more boring and straight-laced than they were then. My misanthropic side was not amused and whatever other sides I have (if any) were bored.

John Kelly: I'm always hoping to see my old girlfriend, D-----. But she never shows. Also they never play enough 1978-1980 music at my reunion. If I don't hear 'My Sharona' at the 25th it may get ugly.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I think the scratch off player should invest in another five dollar ticket. Either that, or donate it to the John-Kelly-Is-Too-Lazy-To-Write-An-Article fund.

John Kelly: Oooo, a gambling man. If he wins again he should donate it to Send a Kid to Camp.


Arlington, Va.: Ok, I have an idea, which may or may not be viable, but which could help Metro. I suggest that local communities and/or civic groups sponser new rail cars. Sort of like "adopt-a-highway" thing, except, maybe if local governments can be involved, result in purchase of more and much needed train cars.

The cars can be given names, like, "Orange Liner" or "Crystal City Blues" or something. Contests can be run to choose. The fund-raising possibilities know no end.

So, whadya think?

John Kelly: I like it. Are these groups then responsible for the upkeep? Cleaning, vaccuuming, etc? And can they decorate them as they like, so that in addition to regular Metro cars we could have Old West-themed cars and a Gangsta car, and maybe a Berlin-between-the-wars car?


John Kelly: Speaking of Metro cars, I received this from Metro this week:
To enhance the appearance of the Metrorail fleet and to reduce safety hazards, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (Metro) Board of Directors today authorized a $1.5 million program to replace the carpeting inside approximately 200 rail cars by next summer.

The carpets will be replaced inside the Rohr 1000 series rail cars and the Breda 4000 series rail cars. Metro's car maintenance department currently repairs and replaces carpets and floorboards on approximately two cars a week.

Today's authorization will allow Metro to initiate and award a contract to replace the carpets in the remaining 200 rail cars by next summer.

"The carpets and the floorboards inside these rail cars are showing normal wear and tear from age, increased ridership, and continuous removal of stains and substances embedded in the carpets," said Steven Feil, Metro's Chief Operating Officer for Metrorail. This authorization today will allow us to step up our efforts to replace these carpets, and restore the interiors of these cars to like-new conditions, which will, no doubt, please our customers."


Washington, D.C.: I demand not royalties but DAMAGES on the column today for my husbands contribution. It was bad enough hearing him go around talking about how he got John Kelley to post "egg sacs" for him, but now go ahead and print it to?? I tell you what, I will settle with having the lottery winner/loser pay me the $5. They are obviously willing to throw their money away, I demand damages and will get them and everyone will be happy!

John Kelly: He had me at "egg sac." I just like the sound of it.


rudeness in DC: Absolutely!;!; People in this area are some rude that outsiders are usually very happy to be going home.

My in-laws (from PA) like to visit us often and we usually end up going out once in a while. In the past 3 years that we have lived in this area, we have only had a handful of pleasant servers in restaurants.

The pepole at Lowe's and Home Depot are actually the worst. If you look don't look like a building contractor they just ignore you. What's up with that!; My money is just as green. AGHHH!;

John Kelly: Maybe they're just shy?


Camden Yards: They make you sing 'God Bless America' and then they play "Country Boy'...Thank god, I'm not one.

John Kelly: They actually make you sing those? Each usher has a taser? Yikes. That Angelos really is mean.


Arlington, Va.: I don't even get invited to my high school reunions. I went to school in NY, and my parents still live in the same house so it would be easy enough to contact me. So I can only assume they don't want me. Which reminds me of why I didn't like it when I was there originally.

But the idea that people eagerly go to reunions only to find that no one recognizes them, and even worse, no one is mature enough to even say hello to them, is just sad.

John Kelly: Now, now. I bet they want you. All the organizers I spoke with said that's what makes a good reunion: as many attendees as possible. Maybe you just slipped through the cracks somehow. I think you shuold go to the next one, even if it's just for yucks.


How "Live" are you?: I note with some bemusement that the Washington Post home page is listing the other three online discussions as "LIVE!;" while yours is just listed as "John Kelly, 1 p.m." Maybe your bosses/editors are commenting indirectly on your slackerdom? hee hee hee.....

John Kelly: And how do you know that these aren't all questions that I posted to myself yesterday and then answered before going home. I could just be running a computer program right now that posts them in random order.


John Kelly: But if a computer was posting them in random order, how would it know to post this one next?


Arlington, Va.: John, I was at the Nationals game on Monday night and, even though the Marlins scored five in the third, I was quite content and realized how close I was to "I don't care if I never get back." How wonderful life is in the upper deck!

John Kelly: I'm glad you had fun. I'm gonna have to take in one of those midday games myself. I loved the headline on the story today in Metro: "Take Me Out to the Dentist."


Fairfax, Va.: John, one of my joys is when I have time in the morning to sit down, have breakfast, and read the paper. At least skim A, hit the comics, and a quick read over the Business section, with a mandatory Dilbert stop. I know I am being radical, but sometimes I even do it in the evening, after dinner. Sure, some of the news is old, but the comics age OK, even if front page does not. So people, don't cancel your subscriptions! Think outside the box and enjoy the newsprint.

John Kelly: It may be a dying skill, the ability to read a newspaper. Just like the ability to read Latin.


Tenleytown: John: The advertising links at the bottom of your chat today are particularly amusing. There is one link which would allow me to buy "John Kelly Posters". This is the text of another:

Find John Kelly, Only $9.95
Get address and phone number for $9.95, or get a complete background check for only $39.95.

I think I need to order the background check before buying the poster, however.

John Kelly: My background is an open book. I have nothing to hide. I am a bit embarrassed by those posters, though. It's a photo of me in a leiderhosen clutching at a knotted rope with the words "Hang in There, Baby!"


loyalty: Actually, there is a bigger point here. It seems to me that showing people your loyalty is not rewarded - when non-loyalty is rewarded is not a good message. At the extreme it encourages a thowaway-I'm-out-for-myself society

Yes, encourage people to try your product, but when they like it and stay with it for years and are treated worse than people who've just joined it makes loyalty very undervalued,

What it does is create frustration. In fact, I've been tempted to take the 'new reader' offer, cancel at it's end and take it up time and again as often as I can. Obviously this is unethical and I don't do that, but the point is that this policy gives rise to these feelings.

What rewarding joining without rewarding loyalty does is encourage people not to value loyalty and this can permeated all areas life. Some companies do give you a loyalty bonus. Why can't we have some sort of compromise and do both at the Post.

It's not about being cheap or mean - it's about the principle of feeling that your loyal custom is appreciated. If you're continually treated worse than someone who's shown no layalty it makes you feel that your custom is taken for granted and ignored.

John Kelly: You articulate your position well but you still seem an example of the throwaway-I'm-out-for-myself society.


Rude customer service in DC: Of course, it's true!; From the person at the register at Hecht's who ignores you while she' on a personal call to the bank rep. who would rather flirt with a customer and makes sure to let you know that you're bothering her by sighing loudly. Those are only a couple of examples of many encounters with the DC customer representatives. I've lived in New England and never had to deal with that kind of rudeness.

John Kelly: I think it's not a question of encountering excessively rude people here but of encountering excessively polite people elsewhere.


$5 winner: Take the money and run!; Consider yourself lucky to have learned that the lottery and especially scratch tickets are just a tax on being bad at math.

John Kelly: And then wait for slot machines to come to Maryland.


RE: Losing Subscribers: Amen John. I can't understand why people are so cheap when it comes to the paper either. I wrote in a few months ago to tell you I upgraded my WP subscription from Sun Only to Daily because of my use of the FREE online edition and the how these chats got me thinking about how I should support a business I use and enjoy often. I see people at my office spend $4 for coffee across the street when we have free coffee available in the office, yet fight over the Sports section everyday. I don't get it.

Keep up the good work, John.

John Kelly: Thanks. Now what about this: Let's say I wanted to get some new hi-hat cymbals for my drum kit. I see them online cheap, but I can't hear what they sound like online. So I go to a local music store to listen to the same make and model. I tell the salesman, "Thanks, I'll think about it." And then I go home and order them online, saving myself 30 or 40 bucks. Meanwhile, the music store goes a little closer towards oblivion.


Silver Spring, Md.: John,

I'm the guy who wrote the DC United haiku you published on 31 March. Just wanted to say "Thanks"! Consider yourself invited to a United game this summer as my guest.

John Kelly: Great. Do they have any day games?


Re: loyalty: Comcast offers $29.95 for internet for the first three months, and after that you pay the normal fee, but no one seems to complain about that...

John Kelly: Well there's so much else to complain about with Comcast, including how they're trying to mess up our ability to watch the Nationals on TV.


loyalty: John, how's about this -
subscribe for 5 years, get a freebie bag or something
subscribe for 10 years, get the next Washington Dining Guide for free
subscribe for 20 years, get the opportunity to put a columnist of your choice in a dunking tank
subscribe for 30 years, and find out who Deep Throat is!;

John Kelly: It's a deal. I'm looking for my leiderhosen right now.


Washington, D.C.: John,
What advice could you give to a college junior who is looking to break into the journalism business? I write for my college newspaper? What's the next best step to take?

John Kelly: Write as much as you can, all sorts of stories. Read as much as you can (ditto). Try to get a summer internship at a newspaper during senior year. Then the typical job path is to start out at a small paper and move up, like a professional baseball player. Good luck.


Washington, D.C.: John,
Call me a prude, but if my son or daughter attended GMU and I found out they were hosting something called a "Sextravaganza" I would be inclined to halt my tuition payments and find them a university that focused on academics.
I understand the concept of information yielding smart decision, but that information, quite frankly should come from home. Not a "Sextravaganza."
Perhaps its the name that has me freaked out, but when you ship little Jane or Johnny off to college, you expect them to be attending seminars on topics like the "Managing Telecommunications Across the South American Diaspora."

John Kelly: It's an awful name. But when a kid is in college, isn't he or she able to decide what he or she finds offensive?


Herndon, Va.: Heh! The Sextravaganza "is set for Monday afternoon in the university's Johnson Center". How appropriate.

John Kelly: All right you, you're grounded.


Potomac Avenue Metro: Hey John,
Would you help spread the word to newly minted metro riders (aka baseball fans), that some people actually get off the metro between L'Enfant Plaza and Stadium Armory. While we appreciate that they are about to enjoy an afternoon or evening in the (hopefully) sun, others of us are slogging are way home on the train and would like to get off - before the stadium.


John Kelly: Move to the center of the car, please.


$5 Lottery Ticket: Wrong!; Wrong!; Wrong!; You HAVE to buy another lottery ticket. You already made the choice to blow 5 bucks on a ticket. See it to the end. If you then win $10, you must buy two $5 tickets. Keep going till you can't go no more.

John Kelly: So what you're saying is, "Let it ride."


Manassas, Va.: I think MLB requires God Bless America be played on Sunday games. At Camden Yards they play Take me out to the ball game and then Country Boy on other days. What bugs me is if they are going to play any song, play the whole thing. Cutting it off early is really tacky.

The NATS need to find a 7th inning stretch song. At the opener it was "Bustin Loose". Are they still playing that one or are there others?

John Kelly: They didn't play it on Monday night. I was disappointed. I sang TMOTTB, though. Lustily, I might add. (Hope that doesn't offend anyone.)


Washington, D.C.: People in DC are rude on average and I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't moved to the Midwest for four years. I grew up here and assumed this how the world is, but no people in the Midwest really are nicer (now it is a superficial nice). When I moved back it took a good year to get used to the rudeness again. And now I'm more rude again too!

John Kelly: Is it better to be superficially nice or sincerely rude?


Fairfax, Va.: John, I don't think you should be giving anyone advice on how to "break into the journalism business." What happens if he breaks into the Post, and you come in to find your desk empty? Well, you'd probably do another online chat-based column and call it a day, but what if it was some other hard-working Post reporter, like Weingarten (ok, bad example). That is columnist activism run amok!

John Kelly: My god, what do you people want from me? Isn't it enough that I went to Medieval Times twice in a one week period? For you. I did it for you.


Washington, D.C.: Why am I bothering you with my pet peeve? I don't know but here goes. Paul McCartney's tickets for his October show go on sale Monday -- 6 months ahead of time! that's ridiculous. Please speak to him about this.

John Kelly: The fact that they cost like $200 is also disturbing. Maybe people who've seen him before (as I did in '97 at RFK) should get a loyalty discount.


The DH: I would like to publicly congratulate my wife. Her post to your chat this week is much funnier than the ones that I wrote.

John Kelly: I'm sorry, I can't allow you to do that. (And this isn't a contest.)


re: the prude in DC: I doubt the "Sextravaganza" that the school is hosting can't be as bad as the sextravangas that might be going on in little johnny or jane's dorm room nightly.....let's face reality people!;

John Kelly: Not only don't the clerks say thank you, but they stand there staring at you until YOU say "thank you." Only then are they satisfied. It's kind of wierd.


John Kelly: Whoops, that's the wrong answer to the wrong question. The question seems to have vanished. It was about how salesclerks don't say "thank you" anymore.


Virginia: I studied Latin for nearly four years in high school and college. I also took some Greek and even went to Italy and Greece for a month. What did I learn? The ancient languages are dead. They are a novelty, unless you are in the Vatican, and can actually hear the pope during his blessing. Nothing can diminish my love for the classics, but my curiosity got the better of me and I tried Italian. Talk about romantic dynamite, I could tell my wife she looked like Mr. Bolton and she would still think it sounded romantic. Yes sir, Italian Poetry=Romantic Dynamite. DYNOMIIITE!;!;!;

John Kelly: And yet I was so proud of myself when that guy stood on the balcony in St. Peter's and said: "Habemus papem" and I knew he meant "We have a Pope."

The fun thing about Italian is that they Italians are so grateful for you giving it a stab. Unlike the French who are offended if you can't speak their language perfectly, the Italians want to kiss you on both cheeks just for saying "pasta."


Petworth, D.C.: Where are these people shopping and dining?

Sure, there are plenty of rude people in service jobs. There are everywhere, not just in the DC area. My policy is to find places that value customer service and support them.

For example, no Home Despot or other big box places for me thanks. They don't understand my old house anyhow, and they are indeed rude there. But Logan Hardware, Strosneider's, 17th St Hardware, Galliher and Hu (I can't remember how to spell it) lumber yard, Smoot Lumber and a long list beyond that - they value my business, taking time to help me and to answer my questions and get me the RIGHT thing for the job.

No Target for me thanks. They are rude and impersonal too. But Rodman's is great for a lot of that type of stuff.

Best Buy? Forget it. Never setting foot in there again. Graffitti, Myer-Emco, those places are polite, helpful and their prices compare.

Restaurants - no chains thanks. I don't need manufactured food served by kids trained in a script. I'll go to a very long list of wonderful local places where they know and value their customers.

Why would anyone do otherwise?

John Kelly: I think you've nicely combined a few points there. We should be willing to pay more for service, for places that encourage our loyalty. I'll go to Chuck Levin's to buy those hi-hat cymbals.

I don't know where that leaves The Post in all of this.


McLean, Va.: The Washington D.C. parent of non-GMU students needs to chill. It's not like GMU is holding this poorly-named event instead of other lectures and classes! It's just another opportunity to learn.

And this parent says "the home" is the place to learn about these things? Right, but these are college-age young adults we're talking about here, not 6th graders. Please.

John Kelly: Right. I didn't go to a single football game or basketball game while attending the University of Maryland. But if they'd had a Sextravaganza I'd have been there, with bells on.


loyalty: The worst is loyalty with apartments. I rent an apartment, and when it's up for renewal my rate rises by, say, $50. A newcomer is offered a rate $100 below mine, but the management won't let me take the cheaper rate. What gives there?

John Kelly: It's time for you to get a mortgage, pal.


Alexandria, Va.: You and Fisher and others all wax
rhapsodic about the joys of reading the
dead tree paper, and why shouldn't you,
it's you rice bowl, but I'd rather not. I
would, on the other hand, gladly pay a fee
for the online content. Then you could
offer maybe a multi-tier service like cable
where you decide if you want only certain
parts of the site, or no ads, or whatever.
Customize your WPost.

John Kelly: I'm glad you'd gladly pay a fee for online content. I fear you are in the minority. We're still figuring this whole internet thing out.


Rockville, Md.: John, I read your cemetary column and was prompted to write in.

My mom died in March and the cemetary where she was laid to rest offered to create bookmarks for the family with a portrait of her and my dad (also deceaased), a bible verse, and a group photo of the family.
It seemed like a wonderful keepsake - at least until it came in the mail...with a brochure trying to sell me a burial plot.
Can you think of anything more crass or insensitive?

John Kelly: Were they giving you a discount? Some sort of loyalty deal? Bury three people and the fourth one is free, like with tires?


GMU Clarification: John, please clarify.
Is the University putting on this thing, or are they merely allowing a student group to do this? Huuuuuuuuuuge difference.

John Kelly: The story seems to say that the event is put on by a group called "Pro Choice Patriots" and that groups from a variety of viewpoints are invited.


Rude Hill, D.C.: As Anis Nin said, you don't see people how they are -- you see them how you are.

As someone who has worn my share of ugly polyester shirts and nametags as a teen, I can tell you that it is hard to be pleasant and smiley in the face of mean, overly demanding (can I smell the cork on the $2 happy hour wine - why not??!!!) customers while making $2.15 plus tips an hour. If someone is rude to you, why not respond with a little kindness?

John Kelly: Let's all try a little kindness, if only to confuse people. (Speaking of which, I hope you like Monday's column, which is about kindness gone horribly wrong.)


Washington, D.C.: OK, I'm going to buy another scratcher ticket. I was put off a bit by the scolding tone of the don't-waste-your-money crowd, and I like the idea of letting it ride.

By the way, my name's not really "Washington, D.C."

John Kelly: Go for it! And let us know how it goes.

Thanks everyone for stopping by today. Look for me in the paper next week (and online, too). It's gonna be a rainy weekend here in DC, perfect time to get laundry done and some vacuuming, maybe tidy the basement.

As always, I'm reachable at kellyj@washpost.com.


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