Chatological Humor (Updated 10.12.07)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 9, 2007; 12:00 PM

DAILY UPDATES: 10.10.07 | 10.11.07 | 10.12.07

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

This Week's Poll: Men| Women

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

You know what's been bothering me lately? The way we entertain ourselves, as a society. I am sick of all your "hip hop" "music" and your hoochie-cootchy girls with their dresses up to their puppicks, and your smart aleck Daily Shows and Colbert Reports and Onions. Mostly, though, I am sick of baseball. What a stupid way to pass the time.

My parents' generation, now THEY knew how to entertain themselves. THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is entertainment. You will notice they have a midget AND a Negro AND a fat guy. Plus dames in tight sweaters. I sent this link to a friend who wrote back: "Evidently, this is what gay people had to do before there was an interior design industry."

I just got back from L'Enfant Plaza, where I played the harmonica in the same spot and at the same time of day and before the same rush-hour crowd as Josh Bell did when he played his violin. Like Josh, I was incognito. Like Josh, I was being secretly videotaped. I was doing this for a stupid reason that must remain secret, but the organizers of the event have authorized me to disclose exclusively to my chat audience that I am ugly and have no musical talent.


I hope you all saw THIS.

It becomes clear at the bottom that Craig's wife wrote this. She must think about hot dogs slipping into potatoes a lot, poor thing.


Next, we have this entertaining story out of England.

Which eagle-eyed reader can find an important clue that this story might be a little ginned up?


Just so you all understand the nature of the excitement of daily journalism, mere minutes before this chat began, every reporter at The Washington Post received this email, under the subject line "BIGGEST STORY OF THE CENTURY NOT A JOKE MUST TAKE SERIOUSLY." I am sharing this with all of you now.

"To anyone who happens to receive this letter,

"My name is -----------. I am a citizen of the United States. I am currently a student at Bloomsburg University and have recently become aware of certain empathic and telepathic abilities that I have developed. Bloomsburg, PA is currently the testing ground for these abilities, and although everyone involved is under directions to keep me from realizing this, it has become extremely obvious that the entire area is being quarantined for observation. I believe it may be the government who is keeping these exercises and tests under wraps, for they are attempting to make me believe that the world is "watching" when in actuality it seems as though this is merely a simulation of the world watching. Either way, the world needs to know all about these abilities, for they would pose a threat if they were to fall into the wrong hands. To any journalist reading this right now, I implore you to not ignore this story due to its extreme nature. This is a worldwide headline that will probably go down in history as one of the biggest stories of the twentieth century. My phone number is --------, although I believe that any call would be intercepted and answered by someone posing as me . "


The pick of the week is Monday's Rhymes with Orange. First runner up is today's Nonseq. Honorables are today's Candorville, and yesterday's Lio.

Please note the really bizarre confluence of yesterday's Zits and yesterday's Hagar.

And lastly can anyone (and I am including Mr. Stephan Pastis, here, of Santa Rosa, Calif.), provide a plausible explanation for why Rat beat up Pig yesterday?

Oh and one more thing. I just noticed, to my astonishment, that Sally Forth's mother has a remarkable physical resemblance to Amy Lago, the hottie comics editor of The Washington Post Writer's Group. Amy will deny this, and complain to her co-workers, who will look at Sally's ma and say, "You know, Amy I have to say..."

Please take today's poll ( Men| Women) which, as you all understand, is proving to be a pretty unnerving testimonial to the degree of tension in our lives. I will give my analysis early, so we can discuss.

Okay, let's go.


Potomac, Md.: People: Not everyone walks fast. Some people have ailments, disabilities, health problems. People walking slowly should NOT anger anyone. Simply wait for an opportunity, and politely walk around them. NOT EVERYONE IS IN A HURRY, EITHER. In fact, most of us need to slow the heck down, walk a bit more slowly, and just take it easy. And be more patient. And be more mature. And drink less caffeine. And talk less on your cell phones -- or please do it somewhere where we don't have to listen to your noisy, obnoxious calls. People are just getting more annoying, more rude -- and less patient. Everyone just needs to slow down.

Gene Weingarten: We all hate you.


A really good question: My five-year-old just asked me, "How do mermaids poop?" I must confess I had never given the matter much thought, so I'm turning to you, the Pope of Poop, to guide us in our quest.

Gene Weingarten: They poop the same way tropical fish poop. There is a little poop hole, and the poop comes out in long strings until they whip against something and it gets cut off. Mermaids are really disgusting.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, I should add that your kid's question is the adorable innocent version of a different question some people have posed about the physiology of mermaids.


Tattoo Guy: How is it that his back is more tan than his arms? It looks tan, not red from the needles...does he wear armsocks & nothing else when outdoors?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. You are being blind to something obvious.


Upper East Side, N.Y.: Gene:

I'm not sure women/men is the right breakdown for this poll.

From my observations, this is more like big city vs smaller city/rural.

As a person who has always lived in big cities (D.C., NYC, Boston, L.A.), I'm always in a hurry. It's just what you do. I've spent some time in Buffalo and Cleveland, and am driven to distraction by nobody ever being in a hurry at any time.

And my wife is, too!

BTW, I answered "Angers me, no guilt" on every single one. Maybe I need some blood pressure medication.

Gene Weingarten: I think you are right. Would have been a better split. I'll tell you something else: New Yorkers are honkers. In the way they talk AND the way they drive. It is not considered rude; or rather, it simply blends in to the baseline rude.


Washington, DC: So who did you lose a Yankees bet to this time? Did Dave Barry take Cleveland just to spite you?

Funny moment at my poker game last night: only one out of the 15 or so people there was a Yankees fan, but he's a very loud and boisterous type. He was repeatedly demanding that the television be turned from the thrilling Dallas-Buffalo finish to watch the bottom of the ninth in New York. His constant refrain: "This game is over. Dallas is done!" I love watching Yankees fans eat crow.

Gene Weingarten: I knew it was over when Jeter grounded into a double play with two on in the sixth, I think. When Jeter isn't clutch, it's over.


Ginned up story: The wife is wearing the same blouse in both photos.

Gene Weingarten: There ya go! And the background is the same. This is a big put on.


Charlotte, N.C.: You were extremely unfair and unnecessarily cruel in your updates to the poster who wanted to spread the word about the abandoned puppies. Yes, I know it turned out that the case was a hoax. More accurately, according to, it had been true once at one time but even after the puppies were adopted the e-mail took on a life of its own and has been passed on with sometimes changing contact information.

Gene, this happens even among people who are genuinely nice and genuinely concerned. That same post was forwarded to the volunteers at a local shelter here in North Carolina by the animal control officer, who had no reason to doubt it when he received it himself. The thing is, the person who had sent it to him probably had no reason to doubt it. And so on up the chain. Many of us who volunteer our time in rescue are on multiple e-mail lists and pass on information to others we think might be able to help. Inevitably, a few get through that have already been resolved.

I've worked in dog rescue for years. People really do dump dogs in the road. We adopted out a sweet little beagle who had been found tied in a bad in the middle of the road. Sadly, that's far from the worst thing I've ever seen happen to a dog. So can you please save the ire for the sick morans who hurt, neglect, or otherwise mistreat animals and give this poster a break? She may have been "all over Liz to post it" because she was determined to help. Believe me, I have days when my heart hurts so much it's an actual physical pain, trying to help these animals. I think my soul, or whatever passes for a soul for someone with no religious beliefs, has taken a permanent hit by what I do.

Off topic, but what the heck. It might be easier if I did believe in heaven and hell and could hope that these monsters would be punished long term for what they do to innocent animals. As it is, our corporeal laws are inadequate and said monsters will probably pass from this world unaffected.

Finally, a word to the original poster. I choose to believe that you cared enough to make a fuss, and that you truly thought these puppies were in danger. Thank you, both for the belief and the action.

Gene Weingarten: You are referring to my statement that if the poser was a woman, she is dumpy and dowdy, and that if it was a man, he is hung like a miniature golf pencil. You found that cruel?

Hey, I am with you, kid. I love dogs. The problem is I am virtually certain that the chatter who posted that KNEW it was a fraud, because the post purported to be from the person whose (bogus) email was appended. Also, the poster lobbied Liz during the chat to get it posted. It was chicanery.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, now this is interesting. I wrote the above response before reading the next post, which I do believe. So, I take back what I said above, but I'm still publishing because I like the golf-pencil analogy.


I'm the original puppy poster: I'm the original puppy poster. I'm really sorry that it turned out to be a hoax. I got the e-mail from someone I trusted, and she got it from someone she trusted, so it didn't even occur to me that it could be fake. (I guess I know now to Google absolutely everything before I believe it.) I have neither flabby intellect nor a nonexistent sense of humor; instead, I have a soft spot for animals and have come to love this chat as a resource for people (and animals) who need help. I was glad to become a part of that and make a sad situation better, and it really was not my intention to mislead anyone. And finally, knowing that it's relatively hard to get people to care about anything, I am really sorry that people (especially you, Gene and Liz) started to care about something that turned out to be false. And I know you can't tell who I am, or if I'm really the original poster, but I just wanted to say it. Apologies, all.

Gene Weingarten: And I apologize back at you.

The day after the chat, my wife got the same email from her boss, who was passing it along "from a friend." He also knew it was true.

It's an interesting phenomenon, isn't it? Back when urban legends were passed mouth-to-mouth, and not instantly debunkable by the Web, people always heard them "from a friend" and it always happened to a friend of the friend. The missing kidney. Reggie Jackson and his dog in the elevator.


Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C.: Apropos of the assertion you make (that gets you in trouble, apparently) regarding finding your passion in life and then finding a way to make a living at it: in an honest evaluation, what percent of your success would you ascribe to your own talent and ambition, and what percent would you ascribe to luck? Meaning, if there was another you, with exactly your personality, exactly your experience, and exactly your ability, do you think it's a mortal lock that he will end up as satisfied as you are? Or has there been a time in your own career where you've gained a pivotal opportunity simply by being in the right place at the right time - an opportunity this Other You might not get, which would prevent him from reaching your level of success and happiness? (And yes, this is coming from a 33-year-old lawyer who sort of wants to blame her career dissatisfaction on chance.)

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. You are presuming I'm "satisfied." I'm completely unsatisfied, and that's part of the answer.

I think, by and large, and with obvious dramatic exceptions, people make their own career luck. And that luck is based on fear of failure.

When Michael Williamson (two Pulitzers) was shooting the Old Dogs book, one of the dog owners who was an amateur photographer watched Michael work with his dog. Two hours later, when the shoot was finished, the guy told Michael: "I've figured out the difference between an amateur photographer and a professional. You work harder."

He does. Michael works as though he is desperately afraid of missing The Great Shot.

Part of the reason I have attained a small measure of success is that, deep down, I feel I have attained NO success. I am always scared of failure, destitution, public ridicule, etc., and on some level, I believe these things are perpetualy around the corner. My dreams, when they are not inane and banal, are dark and terrifying and filled with anxiety.

(Last night, I dreamed that I was going to star in a stage play, only I knew I was unprepared and would not remember my lines. When it came time to go on stage, I got lost and couldn't find the theater. I desperately raced around trying to find the stage door, and failing, and the play had begun, and I was missing. I realized that, to save face, I needed to pretend I had had a heart attack. So I feigned a heart attack by falling headfirst into some bushes. A woman found me, and she and a friend carried me to their car -- too late, I realized they were kidnaping me. I tried to scream, but they had duct taped my mouth. That's when I woke up, unable to scream.

That's it. Do you really want to be me?

Also, I think ambition is more important to success than talent. But it's more than ambition: It's ambition seasoned with a good dose of fear. Life is cruel.


Carmel, IN: There are a lot of hypocrites in the chat room today. The majority say honking is rude. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Next question about it brings an almost unanimous vote to honk away for almost any other reason. People who don't nudge out into the intersection on a green light are being RUDE and stupid. They need a honk and a kick in the tail light!

Gene Weingarten: I agree about the honking dichotomy. I think that most of the people who do not ease out into the intersection are not being rude so much as they are being timid and clueless as to how to drive.

Do we have any people in this chat willing to admit, anonymously of course, that when they need to make a left turn through oncoming traffic, they do not move out into the intersection, because this scares them, but stay in their lane behind their green light?


Perpetual Guilt: Gene! No fair!! As a doubly-cursed Minnesota Catholic, if you give me the option, of COURSE I am going to have to choose "I will feel bad" -- that's what we do!! And if I were tempted to say, "Ha! No, I wouldn't feel bad!" I would feel DOUBLY bad and probably find myself chanting novenas in front of the church candles I am going to hell for having lit and not paid for!! Gahh! The downward spiral will now continue all day!!

Gene Weingarten: Understood.


Seoul, ROK: Oh emperor of poop, I kneel before the throne of your benevolent authority. Either I have ventured into the surreal or I've been doing it wrong all my life.

My girlfriend's toilette seems, well... insane. Butt, since these matters are seldom spoke of, maybe I just missed the memo.

On the back of her commode is a pack of Wet-Wipes. After she has completed a poop, she wraps a Wet-Wipe around a finger, inserts and twists it around a few times. I &#%$ you not.

Gene, is this how most people do it?

Gene Weingarten: I simply cannot believe that Chatwoman allowed me to see this post, because of the danger that I might actually publish it.


Eagle-eyed: Lisa Jenkins is still wearing her wedding ring

Gene Weingarten: That's interesting. I hadn't noticed that. But the other thing is more interesting.


Tattoos & Printed Shirts: Why were those portraits taken on the same day? The "husband with wife and duaghters" picture depicts a smiling, happy family (despite an awful tattoo). The "wife with hot Latvian lover" dipicts a happy, cheating wife with some young dude. But she has the same shirt on in both pictures, and it's clearly the same sunny day in the same green park.

They're all in this together.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, okay, we've got it.


Honk Haters: There is no nice little button in the car that gently nudges you to move your damn car already, in the voice of James Earl Jones. Deal with honking. It's not personal. Unless you have diplomatic plates, in which case, it is an expression of deep and utter bile.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

First of all, I would like to state that I have found the two hundred humans on Earth who are least like me in the world. These would be the two hundred people who say that honking is rude and would not honk EVEN IF THE NITWIT IN FRONT OF THEM WAS ASLEEP AT THE LIGHT.

Who ARE you doormats? How can anyone be so passive? Explain yourselves.

I will honk. If a driver does not ease into the intersection, I will honk, and when he looks in the rear view mirror, because he has no idea why someone will be honking him, I will gently flap both hands forward, palms down, the universal semaphore for "please move forward."

This is not rude, this is practical. This person needs to learn how to drive so as to not inconvenience people. My actions are not hostile, they are INSTRUCTIVE.

But I'm from New York.

Every single thing in this poll bugs me, and I feel guilty about my anger in all the cases where a human is at fault, instead of a company. Of course there is nothign wrong with being cheerful to the cashier, really. But at the moment, consumed by impatience, inside my head I am a raving lunatic, and outside my head, if I think no one is looking, I am rolling my eyes. I wrote a column about this about a year ago.

I am embarrassed by my impatience, as, apparently, are a good many of you.

You know what's inexcusable? Long lines at the supermarket with unmannied cashier stations, and waiting on hold for a half hour for customer service. It's the same sin. They don't care about us.


New York, N.Y.: I live in New York where the slow walking thing is a problem approximately every single time I walk, anywhere.

People, you are allowed to walk as slow as you want, welcome to it even. Just do it in a single file line on the right side of the sidewalk. Do NOT take your annoying boyfriend out for a stroll at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night and walk side by side at the speed of erosion, taking up the whole sidewalk. People who are annoyed by this are justified because it is RUDE.

Gene Weingarten: I like "the speed of erosion." Thank you. I may steal that one day.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.:"Trousers have always been cut in two styles: plain front and pleated front. Traditionally, pleated-front trousers have been the choice of the well-dressed man. Again, there is a functional basis underlying the use of pleats. It was a device created to combine comfort and function. When one sits, the hips naturally widen. The pleat enables the trousers to respond. Additionally, the pleats help to break up the width of the front of the trousers and allow a graceful draping of the cloth, which is particularly evident when a man is walking."

-- "Clothes and the Man: The Principles of Fine Men's Dress," 1991.

In other words, fashions come and fashions go, and when they come they can look less like fashions and more like immutable truths. If Chatwoman had been young and opinionated in 1976, she'd have been going, like, "Ewwwww" at men wearing ties and lapels too narrow to land a small jet on. And her tattoos would have qualified her for membership in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. You just can't let this one go, can you?

Gene Weingarten: Liz's tattoos -- and I have seen them -- are not like Teamster tattoos. They are like the tattoos on the forearms of NBA strong forwards.


Mail-Order Medicine Bottles: Hi Gene, Hopefully you or the chatters can help. Where do people who receive those plastic medicine bottles dispose of them when empty? The label is super-glued on and contains personal information. They are almost impossible to remove and I don't feel comfortable throwing them in the trash. I would truly appreciate any disposal ideas. Thank-you.

Gene Weingarten: I would melt them in a saucepan, and then throw out the saucepan. But I'm an idiot.



Theismann, Jacoby, Grimm, and Monk - the Four Skins: I'm a Gentile and I honestly don't know if I'm circumcised. I appear have a foreskin under normal circumstances, but it disappears under special circumstances.

Gene Weingarten: Hey, you ought to meet the woman with the Handi-Wipes on the back of her toilet!


Arlington, Va.: Wow, that poll made me angry. I would say all of those situations annoy me, so I answered that I would be angry. And after seeing how many things anger me, I realized that I'm angry a lot of the time. Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, that was sort of the point of the poll; these are momentary delays we are talking about. We're insane. All of us. Particularly me.


What happened to your boring dreams?: I thought you only dreamt of, like, walking down the street?

Gene Weingarten: I still have them all the time. Most of my dreams are boring and banal.

_______________________ Hurry Up and Read This, ( Post Magazine, Sept. 24, 2006)


Silver Spring, Md.:"Do we have any people in this chat willing to admit, anonymously of course, that when they need to make a left turn through oncoming traffic, they do not move out into the intersection, because this scares them, but stay in their lane behind their green light?"

Oh, yeah, I usually do this. So sue me - I'm a timid driver.

Gene Weingarten: GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GET OUT INTO THE INTERSECTION. Every time you do this you consign the car behind you to having to wait through another whole light cycle.


I didn't mean to yell.


Anonymous: Someone said: "There are a lot of hypocrites in the chat room today. The majority say honking is rude. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Next question about it brings an almost unanimous vote to honk away for almost any other reason."

I answered "No, honking is rude" because it was the only "no" answer, dumbass. And in that situation, honking IS rude. But in the next situation, honking is helpful. So shutup, stupid amateur chat analyst.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Yes, good point. If you wouldn't honk in that situation, you HAD to say it was rude. Sorry.


Theat, ER: Regarding the movie question in the poll, I don't like the generic ads for Coke or whatnot. But the previews are fine. A self-published internet movie critic once said, you know the preview is the very best 2.5 minutes of a movie. So it's like getting to watch 4-5 movies for free (at least, the parts most worth watching).

Gene Weingarten: I disagree with this. Increasingly, movie trailers tend to be blurry fast-cut snips of half-scenes that are intended to convey speed and urgency and almost never deliver any sense of plot.


Across the Great Divi, DE: Hi Gene,

You'll probably get this 1,000 times [ No, just three. -- Liz], but the lead vocalist who sang the words, "Standing by your window in pain" was actually the fantastic and fatally flawed Richard Manuel, not Levon Helm as you guessed in the updates. I take no pleasure in correcting you, just wanted to make sure appropriate credit was given to a lovely, dearly departed man.

The album "The Band" (1969), is flawless, in my opinion. I prefer it to Sgt Pepper's, Pet Sounds, or even Wildfire. It ranked 45th on Rolling Stones top 500 albums of all time. Do you concur?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it was Manuel, who hanged himself in 1986 for reasons no one quite understands.

I always called that album "The Brown Album," and I agree with you. I think it is among my top five albums, along with Bringin' It all Back Home, Highway 61, and, ah, hm. Okay, Sgt. Pepper. And one other to be named later.


Washington, D.C.: Sally's MOTHER? You are obnoxious, Weingarten, and I take back all the nice things I said about the Oct. 21 Drosophila melanogaster column.

I like to think I look much more like Janis.


Gene Weingarten: You look nothing like Janis.

Arlo and Janis is the hottest strip in the comics, though.

Listen, Sally's mom is quite attractive, and she's drawn to look about 40. Go ahead, ask your coworkers. Report back.


What??: Reggie Jackson and his dog? I never heard that one? Is it suitable for the chat?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it was all over the place. It happened at world series time, and was resurrected every year. Two old white people were in a hotel elevator when a large black man walked in with his dog. The man said to his dog, "Get down," and the white couple, terrified, crouched to the floor.

The black guy turned out to be Reggie Jackson! And the white couple was so mortified, and Reggie felt so sorry for them, that he got them tickets to the world series!


New York: So you are all wise and practically a doctor. I just got diagnosed with a B12 deficiency. Is it as bad as it sounds (or as Web MD makes it sound)? My Dr. apppointment is on Wednesday, but I thought you could give me a little insight today. Do you really need to get a shot every week for forever? Or do I just need to start taking some vitamins?

Also, is it weird that I am a 27-year-old female and this is my second "old person disease?" I had shingles at 20.


Gene Weingarten: I had shingle at 17. AND THEY WERE IN MY EYE.

You'll be fine. They need to find out why you have a deficiency, and many of the possible reasons are benign.


Anonymous: What has The Post got against Judith Martin? Miss Manners is the best column you carry (er, I mean except yours of course) and it was her writing which originally brought me to The Post. A few months ago her column was cut from running twice weekly to running only weekly. Now she's rarely even listed in the pulldown menu on the main page. On Wednesdays I usually have to use the search function to find her column.

This predates the horrid redesign of the front page, so I don't think this is part of whatever plan is in place to destroy the online Post.

Why? What's going on?

You're the only person I figure might tell me the truth.

Gene Weingarten: The Post decided to ease her out after she got caught on camera giving the finger to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was the latest in a series of embarrassing gaffes, and the Post finally had enough. Judith once told Katharine Graham to "blow it out your pie-hole, Granny."


Pronunciation, MS: I also submitted off-ten last week, but somebody beat me to it. But there are a number of words where people see how it's spelled, figure they must have heard it wrong, and go on to gleefully mispronounce it.

Vee Hickle. Get the H out of there.

Ballk. I've heard this from NPR reporters. Balk rhymes with talk, walk, caulk, chalk, and Peter Falk. Same deal with almond. Don't voice the L.

Boo-ee. A buoy has one syllable. Buoyant has two. Lifebuoy (do they still make that?) has two. I know it's hard work to root out from context whether fishermen in a capsized boat were found clinging to an anchored beacon or a young lad, but I'm sure you can handle it Almond? What? No "L" -- so I should say "ahh-monde?"

Gene Weingarten: Correct, Lizzie. Ah-mond.


Medicine bottles: I take a sharp object -- knife point, e.g., -- and gouge at the personal information (my name) until it is sufficiently obliterated. Then recycle.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Oppositesattra, CT: Slow walking has turned out to be a challenge in my marriage. I married a slow walker. I hate slow walkers. It is so frustrating. I know we are supposed to fight about sex and money like everybody else, but slow walking has turned out to be a major challenge.

Gene Weingarten: OOOOh, that's bad. Because slow walkers can't change.


Washington, D.C.: Gene,

I am in a computer training class right now. Can you give me something funny to say to my instructor in order to throw him off a bit?

Gene Weingarten: Yell "Fire!"


Rockville, Md.: While we're on the subject of fashion, and while we are all anxiously awaiting the arival of skirts-and-boots season, let me ask you opinion about something else:

Women who wear crosses around their necks. Turn on, turn off, or you don't notice. Does the fact that you are of the Judaic/Hebraic persuasion change your answer?

Gene Weingarten: It's a negative to me, for a bad reason. My mother told me those girls were off limits. So, I read it like a big Stop sign.


Easing Into the Intersecti, ON: Gene, you're just plain wrong. If I am waiting at a light to turn left, it is the proper thing to wait at the line. Otherwise, I am stuck in the middle of the intersection when the light changes and the oncoming traffic continues to move through so I can't get out of the middle until the light is clearly red. That being said, I will move into the interesection if I reasonably believe that I will get through before the light changes. Intersections that I am familiar with and know there is no way I will get through, I wait behind the line so I don't run the red light. Those sneaky cameras will get me if I do. And don't honk at us because we want to obey the law. We want to get where we're going just like you, we just want to do it without a ticket.

On a related note: When in a right turn lane waiting for the car in front of you to make a turn on red, would you at least LOOK for a "no turn on red" sign? Am I the only person that pays attention to them?

Gene Weingarten: I pay attention to no turn on red signs.

But you are wrong about the intersection. You gotto go out there. You never get trapped.


Washington, so GIT OVER IT: Gene, you must agree that there is tooting, and there is HONKING. When the person in front of you obviously doesn't know the light has changed, the polite action would be to fire off a TOOT of the horn. If they don't catch the hint, then all bets are off. The annoying idiots who HONK when you don't jump on the accelerator the nanosecond the light has changed are just rude.

I thank you. Woohoo! Two hundred bucks saved on therapy this week!

Gene Weingarten: Honk, toot, what's the difference?


Arlington, Va.: I see the egregious misuse of the apostrophe has been corrected: Submit to next week's chat. Which is like a "hat" wearing a "c" on its own head.

I need to be paid for my time -- call it an apostro fee.

BTW, "wearing a 'c' on its own head" doesn't make sense, even without the offending apostrophe. It makes sense to Gene and me.

Gene Weingarten: It does. Lizzie and I are just adorable; we have all sorts of secret cutespeak that even our spouses are unaware of. Here's one of our secret words: "ack." No one else knows what this means. God, we are adorable.


Medicine, bottle: This may be a bit obsessive -- but. If you put a hot towel over the label (I use those rice things that you can toss in the microwave) or use a hairdryer, this will soften the glue and then the label will peel off. AND THEN -- you call your local Humane Society and see if they need medicine bottles. My chapter accepts clean, non-labeled bottles to reuse. Help the Humane Society and recycle!

Gene Weingarten: Aren't we all goody two shoeses?


Ahem: My friend always thought we should have regular horns and "ahem" horns on cars. Regular horns for people who cut you off or are about to hit you. "Ahem" horns for when someone has looked down and hasn't noticed the light changed.

Gene Weingarten: I like that idea.


New York, NY: From a local Christian rap outfit called Genesis 4:20...

(Rapper #1)

You know my man J,

He came

to show us the way

And all He wants

is for us

just to call out His name!

You see you better not mess

with J-E-S-U-S

'cause He's in charge

and He's at large

and I must confess

that His love is so absurd

when you read His word

all you frontin' atheists

man, you jus' haven't heard!

(Rapper #2)

I got His call, word

and it wasn't on my cell

I gots it from the Bible, son

now I ain't goin' to hell

like all you flames and abortion freaks

all you sucka peaceniks

and you sex addict geeks

You all goin' where it's so dang hot

It's a shame, really... NOT!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha. I like the end a lot.


Silver Spring, Md.: Regarding the poll: a friend from South Carolina flew in to visit for a weekend. We spent Sunday driving around town. There were several times when I had to resort to the horn to encourage folks to go on green or pay more attention to their surroundings than their cell phones. "I'm sorry," I said, "I don't usually use the horn quite this much." My (agnostic) friend, unused to D.C. traffic, replied "It's okay. I don't usually pray this much."

Gene Weingarten: Ha.


New York, N.Y.: So, you're going to call that telepethay guy, right?

Gene Weingarten: I thought about it, but no.

Makin' fun of the sick is not cool.


Theisman, Jacoby et, AL: If, under normal circumstances, your anatomy does not bear any resemblance to the business end of an anteater, you are circumcised.

Gene Weingarten: How dare you make this accusation!


Norris, Tenn.: When I was in the hospital for 2-1/2 months and got infections of all sorts, I also got herpes of the eyeball. Since that's caused by the same virus as chickenpox and shingles, could I say that I had shingles of the eyeball, too? I like that better than "herpes of the eyeball," since that implies "sex" to some people. Although what an eyeball could have to do with sex... I don't want to think about.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, that is what I had. Herpes zoster opthalmicus.


Miss Manners: That was funny. Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: You're welcome.

That was so polite!


Seattle, Wash.: This whiffle-ball QA:

"Wiffle Land: I once wrote a column about wiffle ball. My patented pitch "the night train" was a wicked swirler that breaks away, then back at right-handed hitters. Once, a friend took a swing at it as it broke inside and smacked him in the nuts. Good times. "

...makes direct reference to Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy columnist at (don't yawn, Liz, the SG is HUGE among sports-fan/pop culture freaks)...

Anyway, considering his absurdly large fan base and yours, I wonder if this is cross pollinization or another puppy hoax.

Gene Weingarten: Could be either, but if it is Bill, and he is reading: What do you make of the Giants this year? 9-7, right?


More on easing into the intersection: I seem to recall, a few years back, a discussion on this topic in the Dr. Gridlock column of the Post. I think Dr. Gridlock had checked with the proper authorities in Maryland, Virginia and the District, and all of them said essentially that it was lawful and appropriate for the left-hand-turner to ease ahead of the stop line. SO GET OUT THERE ALREADY, TIMID DRIVERS.

Gene Weingarten: It's not only lawful and appropriate, it is inappropriate to do otherwise. I take a Kantian approach. If everyone stayed behind the light, it would take everyone about 8 minutes to make a left turn.


Flirt,in: Hi Gene,

Last week you said: "I think jealousy, in general, is a bad thing in a relationship. I also think drooling over another is a bad thing in a relationship."

Is there a difference between drooling and flirting? Is flirting acceptable? How much flirting is acceptable?

Gene Weingarten: Let's ask the hottest babe around: Liz. Hey, honeylips, do you think it's okay for a married guy to flirt with a woman who is not his wife?


Alexandria, Va.: Potomac, Md. said: "And talk less on your cell phones -- or please do it somewhere where we don't have to listen to your noisy, obnoxious calls."

On Sunday I took Amtrak home from a visit to a friend. During the 5 hour trip I made three phone calls, each of which lasted no more than 20 minutes. I endeavored to speak quietly so as not to disturb others around me. Yet during one of my conversations, an announcement was made asking people to be courteous with their cell phone use. It might not have been directed at me, of course. But once and for all, what is "courteous"? Is it not using the phone at all? (I wasn't in the train's "quiet car.") Should I have left my seat and stood in the area between cars (which seems too noisy for conversation)? I just don't see how my having a modulated phone conversation is any more disturbing to fellow passengers than, say, if I'd engaged in a conversation with my seat-mate.

Gene Weingarten: I've always wondered about this; I think that we do tend to talk louder into a cellphone than when we talk to each other. I think that is why it is annoying.


Tucson, Ariz.: In Arizona, you don't inch out when you're making a left turn without an arrow. The lights are set in such a way that forward moving traffic goes first, and then if there's anyone waiting for a left turn, you get the left turn arrow. It took me a long time to get used to stoplights in other places so cut me a break, K?

Gene Weingarten: Well, OBVIOUSLY this is all moot if there is a left turn arrow.


Hate Cri,ME?: Watching the news about the anti-Islamic posters that were put up around GW's campus has me confused. The media keeps referring to it as a hate crime. But when did putting up posters become a crime? I agree that the sentiments that the posters displayed are bigoted and mean, but isn't this a matter of unpopular speech being criminalized? The posters cause no physical harm to anyone. It makes me sad and angry to see that kind of crap spouted, and I think tearing down the posters is an appropriate response. But it also makes me sad to think we've fallen so far as a society that we have to label hateful unpopular speech as illegal in order to feel like we're doing right.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Well, I am a free speech fanatic, and this issue isn't as clear to me as it is to you. Burning a cross doesn't cause any damage or physical harm to anyone, but I think we can all agree it's a hate crime. It's intimidation. Is this any different?

Okay, maybe it is different. Cross burning carries an implicit threat of violence.

Painting swastikas on a synagogue is vandalism, so it's a crime per se.

I see your point.


Washington, D.C.: A few chats ago you cited two smart friends as being deeply religious. How do they do it?

Doesn't it bother them when their religious leaders say and believe things that your friends know can't be true? Sure there could be a god. But there's so much bs attached to religion. I can't 100 percent buy into the culture despite being raised in it and wanting it all to be true and right.

Gene Weingarten: I think they do not confuse personal faith, which is personal and about faith, with religiosity, which is hierarchical, paternalistic, intransigent, intolerant, sanctimonious, and divisive. Possibly one or both of my two deeply religious smart friends might be reading this, and wish to respond for him or her self.


Nowheresville: Dear Gene,

As someone who understand and prefers such old-fashioned appurtenances as straight razors and mechanical clocks and watches, I thought you might have some insight to this: What ever happened to pipes? Cigarettes have never gone away, cigars even experienced a renaissance, but pipes seem to have completely disappeared. But I'm not that old and I remember a time when they were all over the place and made a certain statement. All the suburban fathers of my '60s and '70s childhood smoked a pipe, at least occasionally. Hugh Hefner smoked a pipe. I'm listening to an audio version of Graham Chapman's (he of Monty Python) autobiography and his pipe figures prominently from the time he was a teen. Where did they all go? (Well, Chapman's dead so I know where he and his pipe went. I meant the others.) I actually saw a man smoking a large Holmes-ish pipe yesterday in Shirlington.

Gene Weingarten: I smoke a Holmesish pipe sometimes. A gourd calabash from the 1920s.

_______________________ I think a little harmless flirting -- conversational, intellectual flirting -- is fine.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Bethesda, Md.: Gene,

Re: circumcision. You are making a mountain out of a mohel.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Rockville, Md.: "Gene Weingarten: The Yankees themselves. They should take it all, if they do not fall apart."

Which they did -- and did so well. Just shows, money can only buy so many post-season victories.

Gene Weingarten: What this showed is that we need to spend more. We're not spending enough.


Myersville, Md.: I must be one of the most laid back people on the planet! I cannot believe how many people are so angry! Their lives must be scheduled to the millisecond if these small things bother them so much - definitely NOT the way I want to live.

The only question I answered "angry" was the voicemail -- and that is really more of an annoyance to me than something that makes me angry. I just want to either talk to a person or leave a message and be done with it.

Gene Weingarten: I am in the angry army, but I agree with you. Several people have written in to say that the poll should have said "annoyed" instead of "angry," but I wrote it the way I did deliberately. It's too easy to cop to being "annoyed." I wanted the people who are pretty steamed enough to admit to "angry."


Washington, D.C.: Liz's opinion on pleats are moot since her tribal tat is so damn passe. Remove that, and then we'll talk about pleats. Right you are -- and, in fact, I'm scheduled to have it covered up with a half-sleeve custom design next Wednesday.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. I get everything last.


Rat beat up of Pig: Um, Gene, this is a loooong running and old joke in this strip about the Vikings and how they are all peace-loving flower pickers insteas of brutal Vikings. There have been numerous series in the strip on this theme before.

Gene Weingarten: Duh, I know. But I contend that Rat beating up Pig for going to a Lilac Convention is out of character, even for Rat. He would say something sarcastic or cruel.


Woman here and you pushed all my buttons...: but most especially that timid driving thing. But, I'm not sure it's a big city/small town thing either. I think it's a personality/aggressive driver thing. I am from the South where people meander, lawd help me. My husband grew up here. I will lay on my horn for a block behind somebody who didn't do something they should have with their car. He will hover over the horn, then touch it lightly cause he doesn't want to offend, which makes me want to reach over and press it for him really hard the way it needs to be to wake up the slow/bad driving soul who had the misfortune to get in front of our car.

Gene Weingarten: I jes' don't see tapping a horn to be a horribly rude thing.


Medicine bottles: Better yet, fill bottle with water and microwave for a few seconds. Label will peal right off. I got this from Heloise and it works.

Gene Weingarten: REally?


Honking: Gene,

I can explain the difference between the two scenarios. When someone doesn't pull into the intersection, they are obeying the law, you are not supposed to block the intersection. Now, I know that most of us do it at least sometimes, but if the person ahead of me doesn't, I don't think it is proper to try to get them to break the rule so I can too. (a little guilt maybe)

But if the person in front doesn't go when the light turns, not only is it legal for them to go, but they will make everyone else miss the light, so it's reasonable to give a little toot to wake them up to the fact that they are making everyone else late!

Gene Weingarten: You are just wrong about that first thing. You are not blocking the intersection if cars are moving through the intersection, and you are waiting to turn. By that theory, EVERYONE is blocking the intersection, simply by moving through it.

"Blocking the box" is something else.


Richmond, Va.: please explain to me what "intellectual flirting" is. Because I'd think the very definition of flirting is not intellectual. IS someone trying to justify flirting when they shouldn't be by labeling it "intellectual"? Must be in PR. I mean playful, thoughtful -- non-physical, non-vulgar.

Gene Weingarten: I got it.


Virginia Beach, Va.: Gene-

I beg to differ on slow walkers being able to change. I grew up in the south among a population of slow walkers. Then I went to college in MI. I spent my first semester feeling as if I were chasing around after everyone, since those of the north are fast walkers. Then when I went home for Christmas, my southern friends asked me why we were running everywhere in the mall. I realized with horror I had become one of the racers. I am still a fast walker, but must consciously adjust my pace to a slow speed when I am in the south.

Gene Weingarten: Also, wherever they are from, ALL tourists are slow walkers.


L'Enfant Plaza: So, as I was straggling in to work today around 8:40ish - I swear I saw you playing the harmonica (badly) at the top of the L'Enfant Plaza metro escalator. Is this some kind of cruel new social experiment? I liked the old one better.

Gene Weingarten: Badly is the only way I know to play a harmonica, but I was being extra bad on purpose. I can play passibly bad Dylan, but did you notice what I WAS playing?


Various bits: Sex addict geeks? Since when have geeks gotten laid regularly, unless they were dating another geek? And since when was Jesus a sucka? He's was a noted peacenik.

As for left turns, no way am I going to get myself potentially creamed by a red light runner nor am I going to block up the intersection for everyone coming out on the other light just so you can get somewhere faster.

Gene Weingarten: You are a bad, thoughtless driver and we are all glaring at you.


Reggie Jackson: I have heard that story with 10 different stars in the lead part, including Lionel Richie (I know, I know), each ending with the couple getting something amazing. I heard the first version when I was 8, hence the LR reference (think 80s).

Not saying the RJ version is bogus, but the story has definitely mutated.

Gene Weingarten: It's a great story, isn't it? These myths usually end in some great irony.


Richmond, Va.: re: "do you think it's okay for a married guy to flirt with a woman who is not his wife?"

Not for my husband!

I guess each couple can have their own standards, but my husband and I do NOT like married people flirting with others.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I disagree, sweetie pie. A woman as attractive as you are has no reason to be jealous.


Atlanta, Ga.: Last week, every time I reloaded the chat, I got the following message: "Load failure at line 666."

What the hell? Precisely.

Gene Weingarten: Haha.


Brilliant idea: Let's give Gene a special horn to use when he travels on an airplane. He can use it whenever he feels that another traveler is not considering his comfort and convenience, such as hogging the armrest or (of course) reclining the seat in front of him.

Gene Weingarten: Many years ago, on this topic, for another newspaper, I wrote a column about my impatience. I wanted to create a superhero called Admiral Alacrity. He would walk around with a swagger stick and whack people who were wasting other people's time.


Where can you smoke a pipe?: A restaurant? A ball game? Life is no longer fun.

Gene Weingarten: Only in the privacy of my own dungeon.


Urban Lege, ND: Honestly, why is anyone gullible enough to forward that junk. It only takes a moment to confirm it thru or other sites.

Over the past few years most of what I get is fed by my conservative friends. There seems to be a Big Lie machine somewhere in the Republican Party: Hillary dissed Gold Star moms, Ted Kennedy demanded a recall of the Massachusetts quarter because the Minuteman carries a gun, Obama's dad is a terrorist, the Koran should have warned Saddam againt pulling 9-11, etc.

What really drive me nuts is when you prove to these fools that what they are spreading is false, they get mad at you for it. Seems they've no interest in an informed electorate.

Gene Weingarten: A neighbor of mine forwarded to me a bogus web thing suggesting that Jane Fonda ratted out some POWS in Vietnam who had smuggled her messages saying they were being beaten. That she reported them to the Cong, and that they were then beaten to death.

Totally bogus. I wrote back to the guy saying that I was forwarding this to Ms. Fonda and he should expect to hear from her lawyer. I suggested that if he had not already put his house in his wife's name, he might well do so. Heh.


Re: Honeylips: AAAUUUGGGHHH!!! I can't get the image of Gene squeezing Honey all over Liz's face and licking it off... everything is ruined forever. Ya, after that the more accurate pet name would be "Vomitlips."

Gene Weingarten: Jeeeeez, Liz.


Cell phone free: Cell phone conversations are annoying for three reasons: they are louder than normal conversations, the person forced to listen is usually trapped (train, plane) and cannot avoid the conversation and the third and most interesting is the same reason we do not like people to have conversations around us that are speaking another language - we cannot understand the whole conversation and our insane curiosity gets overworked and we therefore get annoyed.

Gene Weingarten: I seldom listen to other people's conversations, because I just find em uninteresting. But I too am annoyed by cell phones: I really think it's an amped up decibel level, mostly.


Anger Junkies: All you anger junkies make my day. Don't you realize other people enjoy messing with you just to see your reaction?

Gene Weingarten: I wouldn't be surprised.

We are all dysfunctional, the anger junkies. I know it. I recognize it in myself.


Herndon, Va.: I don't have a problem with people walking slowly. What I have a problem with is a group of people walking slowly and taking up the entire sidewalk.

The groups of folks that take up the entire sidewalk need to get a clue that there are others who are using the sidewalk and may want to move at a different pace.

To generalize, these folks are the same ones who stand on the left side of the escalator and cruise in the left lane without passing anyone.

Gene Weingarten: In my experience, the big group walking slow is not actually aware that there are other people in the world. They also tend to have big butts.


Movie trailers: You're dead right on movie trailers. Roger Ebert put it best when he said that the movie is what the director made, and the trailer is the movie that the marketing people wished the director made.

Gene Weingarten: Ooh, I like that.


Pittsburgh Left: Pittsburgh has the best solution to the left turn. When the light turns green, oncoming traffic actually waits for the first person making a left turn to go before proceeding through the light. In fact, you're likely to honked at if you don't take the Pittsburgh left. I lived in Pittsburgh for two years and found this unwritten rule to be almost universally true throughout the city.

Gene Weingarten: I like that, too.

ER, I sometimes take the Pittsburgh left, if the driver coming at me is slow on the trigger. I award myself the Pittsburgh left.


Yes, Exactly: Liz makes a great point about flirting. It should always be intellectual, conversational, never about the physical or anything lewd obviously. That's not cute anyway.

Now that I think about it, I flirt in some way, possibly unnoticeable to everyone but myself, with almost every girl I meet who is on equal footing (i.e., not a superior or subordinate.) Human females are the greatest lifeforms on Earth, not flirting would be like not being able to dream.

PS-haha, subordinate. Unless subordinate means "empty pizza boxes on your floor", I don't have any.

Gene Weingarten: Flirting with one's boss is actually kind of cool. Because it is daring. You can flirt up, but never down.

Okay,we're done! Thank you all. See ya in the updates.


UPDATED 10.10.07

Gene Weingarten: Yesterday, someone asked how I could have two really smart friends who are devout Christians. The question supposed, fairly obnoxiously, that intelligence and religion are incompatible. I gave my supposition, and ofered a forum to my two really smart Christian friends, if they were listening. The response below is from Rachel Manteuffel.

Rachel Manteuffel: Gene, your chatter asked how a smart person could also be religious, and you responded by pointing out the difference between personal and organized faith. That is a sensitive response, but you are begging the question. The question is, why would a smart person with personal faith in God also need organized religion?

Plenty about religion ooks me out. Religion has been one of the most destructive institutions in the history of humanity. There is something righteously creepy about a roomful of people all chanting the same intricate and bizarre dogma, seemingly without thought; there is something righteously creepy in supposing that a God would be tickled by all the chanting. Crazy people are religious, and horrible people are religious, and tacky people are religious, and stupid people are religious. So if you have a personal relationship with the guy you love, why would you share him with all these undesirables?

Religions are made by people. They're an imperfect record of the attempts of billions of people to connect with God. Somebody wrote this down, somebody crafted this prayer, a committee slaved over a creed, a student wrote this song, a whole city scraped together a cathedral because they all felt the same longing I do. On the whole, it is charming and beautiful. Every so often I will talk to someone about God, or read an essay, and recognize the other person's God as my own. They have the same hunch, the same difficult love for a huge thing that doesn't want to be understood. This is more valuable than any of those miracles depicted in the Bible, most of which are hokey.

Ultimately, faith takes care of itself. It's what you do about it -- in my case, religon -- that is difficult. God (and you have to think this is deliberate) gives us so little certainty that anything we make is going to be sloppy and unclean and miles away from what we wish it were. Like government. Not that government and religion should ever be in the same room at the same time. But it's a good simile. I can't help what other people do in the name of religion any more than I can help what other people do in the name of America.

Gene Weingarten: So, yeah. What she said.


Washington, D.C.: After your admission that you abuse the merge lanes to jump ahead in traffic you are absolutely the last person on the planet who should be giving out driving advice. You are an awful human being who shouldn't be allowed within 500 yards of a motor vehicle. If it were up to me, that kind of behavior would merit a year in prison. Seriously.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, it's time to put this to rest, once and for all.

I do not abuse merge lanes.

Here is what I do:

You are driving on a highway. You know you have to exit at Exit 16. You are tooling along, happily and responsibly in the left lane, a picture of civic correctness, a full MILE AND A HALF away from exit 16, when you suddenly realize, because you see it, that cars are queuing up in the right hand land, apparently to get off at exit 16.

You think: Whoa! That is quite a backup.

You are already past the end of the line for Exit 16.

You realize, I better get into that lane, to be a magnificent citizen!

But what do you do? Do you VEER DANGEROUSLY over to the right lane? Of course not. You respect your fellow drivers. Yes, you do.

You SLOWLY work your way right. You get into that lane at a reasonable time. So you are not putting other lives at risk.

This might take a little time.

That is my point. I am deeply insulted at your inference of my wrongdoing.


Virginia: Do you really never get trapped inching out into an intersection to turn left? I often get stuck in the middle of an intersection with a red light -- you just can't count on making that turn on yellow, when oncoming traffic slows down, because nobody does slow down. I used to not think twice about making the left turn as soon as it turned red and I was sure the oncoming cars had really stopped. But then an old co-worker of mine got a ticket for doing exactly that. I still do it, but now I worry about it.

Gene Weingarten: You should never get caught there. You wait until the cars going in the opposite direction have stopped, even if that is when their light turns red. Then you quickly make your left. If done quickly, you are not inconveniencing the new line of cars approaching behind you.

Listen, folks, this is EXACTLY how you are SUPPOSED to do it. It's in the manuals. Cops don't ticket it. I got a post from a guy who said that he got a friendly lecture from a cop when he DIDN'T do it.

The only excuse for not doing it is if your driving skills are so poor you are afraid to be in the middle of the intersection in a slightly complex and ambiguous position. And, to me, that's no excuse. Learn.


Re: Tattoos: Liz, Wow, a half-sleeve! That's some long sitting there.

I have a tattoo that covers the top 1/3 of my left arm. A Hiroshige woodblock done by a very fine artist in Baltimore.

Will you post a picture of the finished product? Sure will, if Gene doesn't mind.

Gene Weingarten: Ha. Like I could stop her if I wanted to. We shall view this in two weeks.


Boom Town: So, Gene, why didn't the movie folk just turn a Hollywood set into Amsterdam and film it? Seems it would have been easier and cheaper than taking an actual city block and doing it that way. How much do you think that "10 to 15" seconds costing? And being nosy, how much did they pay you for the script they never used?

Gene Weingarten: Considering all costs -- travel, extras, demolition, crew, renting the area, buying and destroying cars, maintaining a three day presence, cleanup, etc., I estimate it cost about $300,000 for those 10 seconds.

That is exactly what my partner and I split for the screenplay, by the way. So if this had been my movie, they would have paid the same for a 10-second scene than they paid the authors of the screenplay.


Elevator story: I am not black, nor am I male or a dog owner, nor remotely famous or in a position to give anything of worth.

But, if I was, I would think I would be pissed, not embarassed such that I would give those stupid white people anything.

Gene Weingarten: In the telling of this urban myth, something is understood: The white couple was old, and kinda out of it, and Reggie Jackson, being a kind man, understood this. It was part of the mutual embarrassment.

It really was a sweet story. I'm almost sorry it never happened.


UPDATED 10.11.07

Idiot Rage: I have a friend who drives a lot for work (he covers a 4-state zone). I was in the car with him once when the person in front of us had stopped for about five minutes at a stop sign, refusing to go until there was no one there. He rolled down the window and yelled, "It's the big pedal. The one on the right!"

Gene Weingarten: Nice.


Left Turn, R.I.: For all you intersection-entering left turners (and I am among you) a very useful safety tip: do NOT turn your steering wheel to the left until you actually make the turn. That way if you are rear-ended you will not be pushed into oncoming traffic.

You're welcome.

Gene Weingarten: A good point. I've heard from a couple of people who did exactly that, were rear-ended, had a head on, and never again ventured into the intersection.


Left Turn Lane, Va.: Gene,

If you're the second person in line to turn left, and the person in front of you can only turn left once the light turns red, how does this make you late? Surely, the next green light would accommodate both you and the person in front of you.

Gene Weingarten: Good point.

1) Because, if the first person ventures into the intersection, so does a second, and sometimes a third. As soon as the light changes, all three can usually scoot through before the traffic on the right starts to move.

2) Also because (this is key) very often the driver who timidly hangs back will CONTINUE to hang back through another light cycle. When the light changes, they're STILL too scared to turn. I got two posts from people who had to sit through that, too.


Washington, D.C.: 'You dial a phone number, and get voicemail. The vet student whom you are calling says, succinctly, "Hey, this is Molly, leave a message." Then there is a delay. THEN comes the familiar robot voice: "At the tone, please record your message. When you finish recording, you may hang up or press 1 for more options. To leave a callback number, press five. Record at the tone." '

You might be interested to note that David Pogue, one of the tech reporters at the New York Times, mentioned in his blog that he once asked a cell phone rep at a conference if those voicemail recordings are so long in order to waste cell phone users' minutes.

The rep said yes.

Are U.S. Cellphone Carriers Calcified? (Pogue's Posts, NYT Online)

So that one makes me angry.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, that is the underlying evil behind those recordings. They're making money for someone.


Pittsburgh Wrong: Wikipedia.

Gene Weingarten: Boy is this a goody-two-shoes interpretation. I bet the writer of this Wiki entry was a hall monitor in school.


L'Enfant Plaza: Missed the live chat, but you asked if I noticed the song you were playing this morning in L'Enfant. "Clementine", right? (Maybe that's not the name of the song, but you know. "Oh my darlin' - oh my darlin' - oh my darling Clementine..,"). Just terrible.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I was. I am thrilled you actually recognized it. And yes, I was playing it badly, although I'm not quite sure how that could be played well on the harmonica. Well, this guy's not too bad.


UPDATED 10.12.07

Washington, D.C.: My favorite solution to the problem walkers was while I was studying in Bologna. Teenagers and university students there, who are about 85 percent of the population on the street, seemed to enjoy linking arms and strolling down the sidewalk while obstructing the whole thing. Not couples, mind you, but groups of 4-5 friends. It was impossible to overtake them, because vespas and mini-opels were shooting past on the street at 80 mph.

But I could get my revenge when walking toward them - they naturally expected me, as an older man walking alone, to step aside while they maintained their formation. I would stop, look off into the distance, and as they got close, check the time on my watch, with my elbow facing them. They inevitably muttered something and twisted tortuously to keep their arms linked while sliding past; apparently, letting go was a social faux pas. They never "learned" but it was still almost worth it just to see what type of maneuvers they would use.

To those who don't understand the "walk rage" and the rest - it's not that I need to save the time, it's that I resent the sense of entitlement that says that YOU are the one who can waste MY time. That's why I don't mind the conversation at the check-out - my time is being wasted, sure, but it's a zero-sum game, where the other options are someone wasting my time for no perceptible benefit to themselves.

Gene Weingarten: I LOVE this. Check the time on your watch! What a great bit of urban guerrilla warfare. Thank you.


Googleno, PE: At a good friend's wedding this weekend, another friend was saying he had eaten and drank so much that he would soon be "vomiting with pleasure". Immediately I thought this would make for a perfect googlenope and after looking it up when I got home I saw that it is one! This is my first googlenope and even if everyone else thinks it sucks, I still think it is awesome.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed. "Vomiting with pleasure" is a superior googlenope.


Ack, phhhtp!: Gene Gene Gene - "ack" is no secret - it was popularized by Bill the Cat in Berkeley Breathed's "Bloom County" years ago.

Gene Weingarten: That is not the "ack" employed by Liz and me. Ours is much more ... intimate. Yes. Intimate. You might call it dominance and submission.


Virginia: Following up on Tuesday's chat, here are some more questions about Mermaids you may want to consider.

Gene Weingarten: I love these guys. Also, there is a really, really dirty expression hidden in here. Can you find it? They hide it pretty well.


Comcast: Hey Gene --

I thought you'd be interested in this story about a 75-year-old woman who got so frustrated with Comcast's customer service, she took a hammer into the Manassas office and started hitting things with it. This woman is awesome.

Gene Weingarten: I so understand this lady. Especially what she said as she was arrested.


To the guy who doesn't know if he's circumcised: I had the same problem. I didn't know if I was circumcised, and my wife didn't know, either. And we had been married for five years. Finally we looked up "circumcision" on the Wikipedia and I picked mine out of the lineup.

Gene Weingarten: HOW WEIRD IS THIS?


Direct all your adoration at next week's chat.


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