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Fairly Unbalanced Retorting*

By Joe Heim, Justin Rude and Dan Zak
Sunday, November 2, 2008

Three Wise Guys: Orange Inundation, Magic Marker Scents, Carolyn Hax Cameo!

Dear Wise Guys:

It's almost time for the orange inundation to begin. How can I politely tell everyone I know in Florida to please refrain from sending crates and bushels of oranges and those drippy honeybell things? They mean well, but (1) actually, I hate oranges; and (2) so many arrive I can't even give them away (everybody else gets a lot, too) and end up throwing them in the trash, which makes me feel guilty. I drove a couple of crates to a shelter last year and the very next day got three more crates. I can't stand this. Please help.

DC in DC

Joe: Orange you glad they're not bananas?

Justin: With a large enough liquid storage container and industrial volumes of apple cider, rum and cloves, you could throw a truly epic wassail.

Dan: What a ghastly predicament. You could fake your death, but that's a lot of work -- especially if you want your Floridian friends to know you "died" of a fructose overdose. So just tell them that you're moving and send a bogus new address. That way all the crates will be returned to the senders, and they will be made to feel at least a fraction your orange-influx anguish.

Guys:

As I sat at work looking at a Magic Marker, it suddenly came upon me to ask: Why can't a Magic Marker be made to smell like something nice such as roses or fresh-baked cookies instead of like the town drunk?

All Marked Up

Joe: Funny, I've been inhaling from the toner cartridge and wondering the same thing.

Justin: Why are you sniffing pens at work? If this is going to become a habit, I suggest you at least make it a bit more upscale to protect your professional image. Many high-end pen companies, such as Montblanc, make scented inks for their fountain pens. Or, try adding essential oils, available at health food stores, to your inkwell.

Dan: Inkwell? Is this question from Bill Shakespeare? I called Sharpie and asked if the company has flavored markers. It doesn't. The marker potion is alcohol-based to eliminate odor, the customer service rep said. Which means the markers would smell even worse without the town-drunk additive. Want to experience that? Open a xylene-based marker. The rep recommends cracking a window first. Oh, also: Crayola has a line of markers called Silly Scents that features such odors as Voodoo Vapor and Dragon Drool.

Joe: The Crayola folks were sniffing Sharpies when they came up with those names.

Dear Wise Guys:

I have a brother who just turned of age to get a job, which for some reason he wants. The problem is his grades are horrible. My parents think that it's the best thing in the world that he wants a job, but I think if his grades suck now they won't be any better when most of his time is taken up. Should he get a job and have the possibility of flunking out of school (which he is close to doing now)? Or do you think it will help his responsibility level?

The Sibling

Dan: This is so out of our league. Where's Hax? Does Hax do this kind of stuff? HAX!?!!

Carolyn Hax: Why is he struggling? If it's a motivation problem, then the job can be used as a carrot: If he gets his grades up this term, then he can get a job next term (and keep it for as long as he maintains a B/C/whatever average). If it's a learning or unidentified problem, then good parents (ahem) would enlist the school's help in identifying the underlying issues; a little effort toward finding an education that suits his needs could save him from a lifetime on the economy's lowest rung. Obviously the parents aren't the ones asking, so these are suggestions for the writer to urge on his/her parents, which is a little weird. But, hey, we support supportive siblings.

Joe: Wow, Carolyn, now that's a helpful answer. There's no way we could have come up with that. No wonder you have a column all to yourself.

* * *

* This week's motto was submitted by Laura Kauffman Williams of Arlington.

The Wise Guys are working on a special column in honor of our one-year anniversary, or man iversary. We're going to tackle the impossible: Please send timeless riddles, vexing Buddhist koans, cosmic queries (and, of course, heartfelt congratulations) to wiseguys@washpost.com. Also, we have established a Three Wise Guys Hotline at 202-334-4232. Call 24 hours a day with your questions or concerns. The hotline will be casually staffed weekdays from 3 to 3:15 p.m. Other times, leave a message.

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