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Chatological Humor: The Mazda auction; Tiger's tale; Santa (UPDATED 12.6.09)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 12:00 PM

This Week, Daily Updates! WED | THURS | FRI | SUN

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 one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. This month, that day is Tuesday, Dec. 1 at Noon ET .He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, 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 Polls: Fun, Easy Poll | Boring, Stupid Poetry Poll

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," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

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

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Many exciting things will be going on in this chat -- profound exegeses on various subjects of interest, from sex to poetry, from desperation pooping to mythical, angry lesbians in revolt -- but hanging over it all ominously, like a dingleberry above a wedding cake, will be my ongoing efforts to sell this car on Ebay, for charity. The goal is to establish a new and possibly unbreakable record for The Worst Deal Ever On a Used Car. The auction ends Sunday afternoon.

You know this car. You've read about it here and here. It is the second most famous crappy car in America -- second only to Conan O'Brien's crappy 1992 Taurus. But Conan's POS-fame number is higher only because he is a lot famouser than I am. My car is MUCH crappier than his.

Many of you might remember this complete deconstruction of Gene's car from a few years ago. Well, everything is the same, but a little cruddier now. And, of course, the skull is gone, replaced by something much more tasteful.

Why should you bid on it? You shouldn't, really. It would be an act of folly, unless you read the rest of this paragraph. I'm not keeping any of the money. It's all going to a charity created this year in the memory of two amazing young men from the Washington D.C. area who died in a car crash in July. Their dad is a friend of mine, a former writer at The Post. Their story, and the details of what the foundation is, is here.

I was telling my friend Brady Holt, who reviews cars for Examiner.com, about how I expected a high price because of a combination of people's basic humanity, the faint lure of cheesy publicity, and the pragmatic need for year-end tax shelters. He said: "Um, Gene. No one rich enough to need a tax shelter is going to want your car."

I told him he was wrong.

This is the best car I've ever owned, the only car I've ever really loved. It never had anything go wrong with it. Its first clutch lasted 83,000 miles even though it taught my son and daughter how to drive, and each of them taught at least three of their friends. It was Molly's first car, then reverted back to me when she graduated to something more elegant. This car has given jump-starts to trucks. It was once driven at 100 miles an hour around hairpin turns by a professional race car driver. It is exactly the sort of car that you take for granted, until the day you realize it has outlasted every other car you've ever owned, and is not likely to expire any time soon. This car is a warm cliche: The little engine that could.

It's not just mine: Over the years, whenever I find myself in traffic next to another Mazda 323, I roll down the window and ask the other driver: "Best car you've ever had?" Four out of five times, the answer is yes.

My car has also been in the presence of many admiring famous people. For example, when David Simon, the emmy award winning producer of The Wire first saw me drive up in this car, he sniffed and said, "I bet you get a LOT of [word for cat] with that car."

THAT's the kind of fame this car has enjoyed.

Also, it is to my knowledge the only car in America about which a professional poet has written a double dactyl:

Higgledy Piggledy

Weingarten's hooptie is

Feisty and funky and

Stingy with gas.

Gerontologically

Speaking, this ancient has

All of the charm of the

Crack of an ass.

---

So. In addition to the car, the winning bidder gets lunch with me at a cheap restaurant, when I turn over the keys and the title. If the buyer cannot drive a stickshift car, I will also provide instruction for as long as the buyer feels is necessary to drive away into traffic with confidence. I am a very good teacher.

So. The bidding is open: Make it directly to Ebay, and tell us here when you do. I'm fully prepared to beg in an unseemly manner. Bidding ends Sunday.

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A nearly lost art in journalism is the "great lede," a gripping first paragraph that brilliantly drags you into a story. I found one of them recently in England's The Daily Mail. The writer was Sean McLean. Headline: "Oops! Civilian in joyride accidentally grabs ejection lever but lands safely."

Lede:

"As the plane rolled into another stomach-churning manoeuvre, the passenger was probably wishing that he was somewhere else. Then, just like that, he was."

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On the aptonym front, Andrew Hoenig found a Hall of Famer: East Carolina University has a linebacker named Dustin Lineback.

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Many of you may have seen this, because it got some legs on the Web, but in case you missed it, the marvelously surnamed Utah lawmaker Chris Buttars uttered these fine words in explaining how he has no problem at all with gays who know their place.

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In walking around my urban neighborhood the day after Thanksgiving, I noticed something interesting. Completely understandable, but interesting. When you approach a Christmas-tree vendor while walking a dog, the vendor looks very carefully at your dog's groin. They're fine with females, but they shoo the males away.

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In my continuing series of People Who Should Be Convicted on Their Mug Shots Alone, we have THIS man, who was accused of throwing darts at people in bar, then defecating in parking lot.

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Chatwoman refused to permit me to show you my preferred Clip of the Day on the grounds that it would get many of you fired, even after I warned you it was INCREDIBLY not safe for work. So I can't link to it. I can send you to it, though: YouTube "Louis CK" and go for the "Last Chance" video. Once again: It is PROFOUNDLY unsafe for work, unless you work at a desk in a lead-enclosed room, or have earphones. The problem is auditory, not visual. Note, it might offend some people, even reasonable people. If you are offended by vulgar descriptions of graphic sex, avoid it. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

--

I'll offer two backup CLODs, both of which are good.

This long one.

And this short one.

--

Okay, please take today's polls: Fun, Easy Poll | Boring, Stupid Poetry Poll. You're doing reasonably well so far, except in your guesses on what this auction will bring. I'm banking on 20 grand.

Let's go.

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Seven Ir, ON: I said that Woods has an obligation to speak, but I specifically had in mind to the police. Surely hitting a fire hydrant, which is public property and part of the public safety infrastructure, would make this more than an issue of private property damage (which is the main argument I've seen supporting his decision not to speak with police).

As for explaining things to the public, I don't think there's an obligation, but I suspect this won't go away until there's an answer--or people have settled on a far more salacious explanation, even if it's not true.

Gene Weingarten: But why does he have to say anything more than he has?

I hit it! It was an accident! My bad!

Why on Earth does he need to explain WHY he hit it? No one is alleging any felony or anything.

I strongly believe the cops are going way over the top here.

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About your 323: You're ebay listing says it's "never needed a single repair other than routine maintenance" but five years ago, you declared it dead. Explain, please? Pretty please?

Gene Weingarten: Good question. It needed a new exhaust system. $400 or something. I was prepared to ditch the car, so prepared I wrote about it.

Then I just. Couldn't. Do it.

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Washington, D.C.: Tis the season for that centuries-old tradition of newspaper carriers asking for holiday tips. (Yes, literally: Stephen Nissenbaum documents it in The Battle for Christmas.) What's considered a fair annual holiday gift to the Weingarten household's paper carrier?

Gene Weingarten: A double sawbuck. These people work hard.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene, my husband and I are expecting our first child this spring. Over the weekend, he brought up the subject of Santa Claus. He's an atheist, I'm agnostic. He's of the opinion that our kid should be told from the get-go that there is no Santa Claus, saying it will save the kid the trauma of having his or her bubble burst.

I'm of the opinion that kids need a little magic and illusion and discovering Santa is a gentle myth is part of growing up, a rite of passage.

Where do you come down on this? What should we do?

Gene Weingarten: I believed in Santa; like most kids I figured out what it was all about pretty early, on my own. The disillusionment was negligible. I think it's a sweet, sweet myth.

Now, you might need to know it can go too far. I very strongly recommend "Tinsel" by Hank Stuever. It's about how Christmas is celebrated in a Christmas-crazy town, Frisco, Texas. There are kids WAAAAAY too old who are still buying in.

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The Price Is Right: I'm expecting the sale to raise about $2,500. Your fans, judging by this chat, are do-gooders with secure, overpaid jobs in government and/or academia.

Hell, the winner might actually drive the car to the food co-op on grocery day, just as a conversation starter.

Gene Weingarten: I'm hoping for more.

Is my ego (nearly as battered as the car) involved in this? Maybe a little.

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Arlington, Va.: In apparent response to the controversy surrounding the sexual identity of that South African runner, Caster Semenya, your most recent column suggested questions that might be used to determine an athlete's sex in a conclusive manner. If the issue arises in a situation where it's actually important, isn't there an easier way to tell? I mean, I recall a scene in the first Crocodile Dundee movie where Mr. Dundee conducted a fairly simple and effective test in a fairly straightforward manner, and the test subject seemed actually pleased that he had conducted it so thoroughly. I assure you, a man would not have been similarly pleased.

Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, yes, but what if the testee was using the evasive maneuver popularized by the Ray Finkle-Lois Einhorn character in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.

"Testee" is an interesting word to use in this context.

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Arlington, Va.: Your rant about ice got me think about the stupid bottle water racket again. This cartel has always made me angry, because even though I hate it, I have to support it by subsidizing it.

So most bottle water is just municipal tap water, that is taken out of the local water supply and bottled (they do some purification - but the difference between your tap and most bottled water is not much). -Also anyone that drinks Fiji water should take a look at the government of Fiji]. When I was living in Northern Florida, above a natural aquifer, the tap water was cleaner than the bottled stuff, but people were still buying the bottles.

People are paying a couple hundred percent markup or more per ounce for the same water, which the company purchased at a bulk rate from your local utility. We then stick this water in plastic bottles, and than pay extra taxes every year to dispose of this particularly noxious and useless delivery device.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with 99% of the tap water in this country. I have nothing against taking advantage of stupid people, but this particular scheme causes a public harm to all. It artificially raises the wholesale price of water, because of the large purchasers. And the bottle user is able to push off the cost of their inefficient delivery method on the collective community rather than bearing that cost themselves.

Bottle water companies should pay more not less to use the municipal water supply for this scam, and the idiot consumers who buy into it should have to bear the total cost of their wasteful delivery method. Seeing as their is a more efficient already publicly funded delivery system that is nearly universally available. We are basically subsidizing a stupid system. Make people pay for their wasteful habits.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, good. Thank you.

I have no idea why people buy bottled water, except for its transportability. It is kind of nice to have a bottle of water beside you when you are at a lectern for 45 minutes.

I need some help here. Why are you people buying this stuff? And if we establish it's as stupid as I think it is, will someone please tell my wife? Thanks.

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Detroit, Mich.: How serendipitous! You have a car-related poll, I have a car question. I bought a new, six speed car last spring (had one a while ago, but not recently). My wife and I can't agree on the proper way to slow and stop the car. I will leave the car in gear while applying the brakes, down shifting if necessary. She almost always puts the car in neutral and uses only the brakes to slow the car. She did this getting off the freeway yesterday, and I about lost it. I am right, yes?

Gene Weingarten: Her way uses more break pad. Your way -- unless done remarkably expertly -- stresses the engine and transmission. Which would you rather replace early?

I'm with her, mostly. I downshift into turns, but not into braking situations.

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Warrenton, VA: I'm absolutely astounded that over 20 percent of the people answering your poll think Tiger Woods owes an explanation. (Guess they'll be flipping back and forth between you and Sally Jenkins today.) It was an accident! He wasn't drunk or texting or anything else illegal. There was no safety defect with the car. He just messed up. End of story. All he (or his insurance company) owes is a check for whatever damage he caused.

I'll bet the Salahis are jealous. He's getting all the attention they want.

Gene Weingarten: I think this has gotten way out of hand. Look, we all kinda know what happened. It's his business. He didn't flee from an accident.

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Gene: Troubled...: Gene:

This bothers me lots and I'd like your take on it. I have an Aunt in California who is in the final stages of breast cancer. She's under hospice care with (the Dr says) two weeks or so left.

Sad story. She's in her early 50s with 3 children (sons: 19, 21 and 22). The situation: She gallantly fought the disease for over two years, but it was a particularly nasty cancer that spread far and wide rather quickly. As she is in extreme pain, she is pretty heavily sedated.

Here's the twist: The sedation has made her forget. She has forgotten why she is in the hospital bed in the middle of her living room. For the last week, she has expressed the opinion that she is in the bed as the result of a car wreck, and that she'll be up and around in a month or so.

None of the family, who are collectively in denial, are disabusing her of that opinion.

So what is going to happen, is that this woman is going to lay in her bed, greeting all the visitors who are coming to see her through this supposed car wreck rehabilitation, and one day soon SHE's going to be surprised.

On one side, I think the deceipt is horrible. But looking at it from the other direction, maybe it maks the womans last days less stressful.

All I know that, if it were me, I'd want to know I had only 2 weeks to live.

What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: Oh, man. This is a big question.

Is she sane and merely forgetful, or is she demented? To me, that is the critical distinction.

If someone is not rational, it is probably kindest to disguise the truth, which can only distress her, to no good end; she is not capable of making an accommodation with death; finding closure with people; reaching philosophical truths, and so forth.

If she is rational, I think you owe her the truth.

I say all that without complete conviction. When my father was about my age, he had an operation to remove a malignant tumor from his small intestine. My mother and I and my brother knew the diagnosis, but at my mother's insistence, we did not tell my father. He thought he'd had a benign polyp. She never authorized telling him. His chances of five-year survival at the time were 20 percent.

I strongly felt he should have been told; I felt that even at the time, when I was 19. I felt withholding it was patronizing.

He lived 42 more years. And he only learned the truth when I told him, when he was about 80. He surprised me: He told me my mother had made the right decision -- that she had saved him a great deal of unnecessary worry. He felt the lack of stress might even have helped him recover.

So, I don't know. It may depend on the psyches involved.

Thoughts?

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Tiger Woods: He crashed into a fire hydrant. There may have been damage. The public can go pack sand but the police have to file a report.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed.

Here's the report: He accidentally hit the fire hydrant. Admits responsibility.

Case closed!

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Washington, D.C.: As a regular user of the phrase "I love women" right here in this very chat, what say you about this?

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting, and a comeuppance for me. Except when I say "I love women" I do not mean "I love to have sex with women." I mean something less crude, but no less objectionable, I suppose. I am saying that I find a combination of certain traits -- compassion, empathy, the ability to wield sexual power with sophistication and adroitness and mercy, the sometimes comical pursuit of decency and cleanliness, a distaste for the vulgar and common, an instinctive kindness, and instinctive appreciation of tastefulness and decorum, a charming embarrassment over coarse bodily functions, and several other attributes -- to be adorable and enviable and worthy and beyond the understanding of many men. In this sense, I am, in fact, both generalizing (all women are not alike) and diminutizing (I find these things, God help me, "cute"). I am guilty of this and apologize.

Gene Weingarten: Here's how much I respect women: If I were a gynecologist, I would administer ma'am-ograms.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene -

I need help understanding the appeal of LOLcats. I have friends and acquaintances who have raved about the hilarity of the Web site. I like a cute cat picture as much as the next guy, but I don't get it.

At all.

Please help.

Gene Weingarten: Lolcats is every bit as rip-roaring funny as the I Like Turtles boy.

A large percentage of the American public is humor impaired. They need something to consider funny, so they don't feel like freaks.

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Manassas Car Lot: Ummm, why would anyone sell the best car they ever owned?

Gene Weingarten: Read the ad.

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Fairfax, Va.: What did you think about the "frequent fliers" article in the Magazine this weekend? I thought it was one of the best articles I've read -- mostly because it was an interesting story that was part of the larger context of health care reform. It really put a face onto some of the issues behind health care reform and why it is needed.

Gene Weingarten: I really liked it. I thought it was an eye-opening look at an enormous problem in microcosm, which is often the most riveting way to deal with complex social issues.

The Post had another piece in the last week that tried to do the same thing: A page-one story about a woman who lost her house to foreclosure a few months after getting one of those stinking high-risk loans that wound up collapsing our economy. I was a bit troubled by that story, for complex reasons. Anyone read that story, with an opinion they'd like to share?

Liz, can you link to it?

washingtonpost.com: Fallout: In the real estate boom, one mother took a chance on American dream, (Post, Nov. 27)

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Expos, ED: I'm kind of surprised that so few women have never had men expose themselves to them! I must be some kind of weird magnet. Not counting very young boys (whether intentional or unintentional), I've had it happen at least 3 times when I was younger. The first time when I was about 8 or 9, when a man talked me into his car (I know, I know, but we're talking about 38 years ago in a small town),and then exposed himself - "ever seen one of these", he asked. Luckily he must not have been violent, because I was able to immediately get out of the car. Another time I was about 14 and on my bike outside of a bank, and again the man was in his car. He asked me "how much it would cost to get me out of those shorts", while he was waggling the ol' johnson around, and I responded I wondered how long it would take for the cops to show up (he promptly sped off). And, my favorite, when I was about 15, a female friend and I were walking in our neighborhood and a guy pulled alongside us and asked for directions to "Hornytown". Nice. This time I got the license plate number and we called the cops on him. They snagged him up not too far from us - he was picking his kid up at the local Daycare center. That was one humiliated looking guy at the lineup. I almost felt sorry for him, but my mom made sure we followed thru (my friends mom was kind of mad at my mom for that, for some reason). I either aged out of general preferences for these pervs or it may have been that I became more car bound after that, it sort of petered out (sorry).

Gene Weingarten: This is a reference to a ladies-only poll we conducted during the updates. Liz, can you show the question leading to the poll, then the poll and its results?

washingtonpost.com: The poll question: Have you had a stranger expose himself to you?

The results:

Never: 50 percent

Once: 28.14 percent

Twice: 12.62 percent

Three or more times: 9.24 percent

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Hibbing, Minn.: Did you see Dylan at the Patriot Center last month? Good show. Great to see Bob out in front singing with just the harp and mic.

Also, check out the most bizarrely wonderful Christmas video ever. I can't bring up youtube at work, but do a search for "Bob Dylan - Must Be Santa"

Gene Weingarten: Wow! Check this out.

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Tiger Woods: Has to:

-- I think that there is an allegation that Woods was on pain meds. This would imply he was driving under the influence.

-- The supposition is that this whole "rescued him with a golf club" nonsense is a cover for domestic violence (as in, she was attacking him). If he was a woman in this situation, NO ONE would be questioning why the police wanted to chat with him.

Probably a good idea:

--He chose to make himself a highly visible means by which corporations sell product. His entire image is a carefully constructed package. This got a LOT of negative attention.

--If he cheated on his wife, as rumored, this won't go away.

--Plus, what if she is abusive? He's got kids.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. The domestic abuse angle is valid. I guess.

Okay, I am rethinking a little.

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Santa Cla, US: Working out the Santa Claus myth can be good practice for a kid to work through other myths too. Dale McGowan has a piece in his book "Parenting Beyond Belief" (a book on raising kids without religion), and it makes a good case for allowing belief in Santa Claus.

Gene Weingarten: The great philosopher Nancy Nall believes kids should be told about Santa and then, when the time is right, explain how it is now their responsibility to all the younger kids to BECOME Santa and continue the myth.

I think this is beautiful.

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As I recall about your car?: Didn't you lose or break the key lock for the gas cover so that you could no longer re-fuel it? I assume you had a new lock put on, but just wanted to verify. (Just had a fleeting moment of creepiness when I realized I knew this about you and your car having never met yu at all - kinda puts you in the same category as Jon & Kate)

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I wound up just prying the old one open. It still works, in a very creaky fashion. Good memory.

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Bottled water: I agree it's a waste. The only time I buy bottled water is if I'm out somewhere, thirsty, and there isn't a water fountain or place to get a cupfull around. Or if I want a larger amount than I can drink at a fountain.

I've had people tell me they won't drink from fountains because the water is tainted in some way. Tastes fine to me.

Gene Weingarten: It's like the public is hypnotized on this. We always ask for tapwater in a restaurant. D.C. tapwater tastes fine.

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Fairfax, Va.: Speaking of antiques, I recently inherited a 100 year-old Railroad Watch that is said to be quite valuable. Should I get it cleaned, leave it alone, wind it every month or what? Internet sources are contradictory, but I figure you will know best. Because, you are, you know, a time-piece god.

Gene Weingarten: Ecker's Clock and Watch Shop, Bethesda. It'll cost $200 but you'll be glad you did.

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Rockville: " My car is MUCH crappier than his."

Looks fine to me and the sporty blue is quite a releif after all the gray cars I see on the road. Fix the fender and put in a new driver's seat and go for another 85 thousand.

I guess I am a war baby and had to put up with less. But you have a great car.

And as environmentally correct as you can get.

Gene Weingarten: The best part of this car is how many times I've been able to park legall between two cars parked at a meter.

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Foreclosure story: I didn't feel bad for her, because she bought a huge house she should have known she couldn't afford. I thought the Post was asking me to feel sympathy for an adult who should have known better.

I was similarly un-sympathetic for the trust fund kids who feel bad about having trust funds. Including the one who went to an ER for medical treatment and gave false info so she wouldn't have to pay. Fine, don't use your trust fund, but don't lie and commit fraud so MY medical bills increase. That's gross.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, exactly. The story was interesting and well written, but it made her out to be a typical victim of the downturn, whereas she was a shockingly irresponsible person victimized by a shockingly manipulative agent.

It's hard for me to believe that her case was typical; the woman signed for a $5,000 mortgage when she had no income and no savings.

My mortgage isn't anywhere near that, and we have two people making pretty decent money.

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Miles: I can't believe that you only have 85,000 miles on your car. I have a 1999 car and just hit 100,000.

Gene Weingarten: When you live in the city and have another primary car, this is typical. I've averaged 4,000 miles a year.

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Fayetteville, N.C.: For the family of the terminal woman - Don't tell her, how will she be surprised? By being in heaven? If she miraculously recovers, tell her then, it is a funny story from during her illness, otherwise allow her the comfort of thinking she will get better.

Bottom line - who is harmed by this deception?

Gene Weingarten: I think she is if she is capable of preparing for death in a meaningful way. If I were coherent enough to know what was going on, I'd want to know. I have people I'd like to say certain things to.

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Washington, D.C.: I've been meaning to suggest this topic to Gene Weingarten for a while, and now in a harmonic convergence I just discovered this feature on the Internet while using a borrowed computer in a place where I am pretending to be working.

The name "Chatological Humor" and use of terms like "dingleberry" and "desperation pooping" make it clear that this is the appropriate venue for my question: "Is there a special place in hell reserved for the inventors of the automatic flush toilet, and the people who cause their installation in public restrooms?"

Their comedic possibilities are endless. To name just two: how you have to sit over a bowl that concentrates your fragrance, as in a tulip wineglass, while you fill the bowl with an amount of toilet paper that is sure to clog the toilet; how you can only avoid the situation just described by standing while having not yet completed your hygiene regimen and attempting to twist out of the view of the sensor. And anyway, they don't even save water because they spontaneously flush once as you enter and three times as you are leaving the stall.

You're welcome, Gene

Gene Weingarten: For a while, The Post toilets were not only autoflush, but just before the flush made a whimpery noise EXACTLY like a newborn baby crying. It was unnerving. It's like, wait, did I just flush a ... baby?

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Just Wonder, IN: You were out throwing footballs and eggs... so your knees are 100 percent?

Gene Weingarten: Alas, I was only QB. Can't run yet. Otherwise, okay.

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New C, AR: So what's your new car going to be? And how many people have already sent in this question?

Gene Weingarten: Lots. I'm going to search for a new POS. Cheap, high mileage, stick shift, great mechanical condition. Lousy appearance. As they said in Chorus Line: Dance Ten, Looks Three.

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Savannah, Ga.: I know you're going to have a million reasons why the poetry in the poll was awful, but for a non-poetry lover (although I do like e.e. cummings), I thought it was delightful. Accessible and heartfelt.

Gene Weingarten: I was delighted with the results of the poll, because people seemed pretty well split among the options. No, the poetry was not satire, and yes, it is dreadful -- though a post below suggests that at least one line of it may have been dishonestly dumbed-down in re-translation, for humorous effect.

The poet is Ms. Suzanne Somers, who in the early 1980s managed to persuade a literary publisher to bank on her cheesy fame from "Three's Company, even though she had no depth of thought or range of emotion.

Basically, that is what's wrong with this stuff -- it's as shallow as a loogie on the sidewalk, and self-involved to a childishly amusing degree. About the greatest complexity of emotion she reaches is... "sad."

There is a line in there that is almost poetic, but she ruins it. Comparing sex to a song that's played too often isn't a completely dreadful observation, had the writer been just a LITTLE less thuddingly obvious about it; poetry requires that the reader become an active ally, giving something of himself to reach an understanding of meaning. The writer implies, the reader infers. That's how it should work. To have made that line into poetry, Old Suzanne needed to IMPLY that she was talking about sex: Atonal moans, moistened pillows, dampened sheets, whatever. Sex is a pretty un-poetic word.

The only line in the whole thing that I kind of liked was starting to grope before the ice in their drinks began to melt.

If you are still in that first group, holding stubbornly to your contention that this is good poetry, watch as much of this as you dare: It is

Kristen Wiig's poker-faced dramatic reading of these three poems

.

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Gainesville VA: Gene -- Did you see what Dave Barry had to say today about your car?

Dave, have you ever been in this car? It might [compromise] raise the value.

Posted by: Punkin - December 01, 2009 at 09:39 AM

I have been in Gene's car many times. This is why I had the shots.

Posted by: Dave - December 01, 2009 at 09:44 AM

Gene Weingarten: I can confirm that Dave has ridden in this car many times, not always in an entirely sober condition.

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Chicago: On the Santa front: I'm also of the opinion that we should drop the Santa story. Not because I'm afraid of the tragedy kids will experience when they learn he's fake - but what's wrong with simply telling kids we exchange gifts as a way to represent the gift God gave us in Jesus (if you're Christian) and/or as a way to show our love and appreciation for each other (if you're not Christian but still celebrate)?

Isn't it better to teach kids about the giving side of gifts than the getting side? Just saying.

Also, as to bottle water, the only time I approve of its use is during baking - the chemicals in tap water can really mess with yeast. Otherwise, get off your pansy butts, turn on the faucet, put some ice in your glass and drink up!

Gene Weingarten: Well, in principle I agree, but how long does the myth last? I think five years is fine. At six or seven, they can learn it's really something else, which is also nice. Give em both.

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Water bottle: As a general rule, I am opposed to the wastefulness of water bottles, and only keep them around for road trips (I wash and refill them a few times before trading them in). However, after several nights in a row of my kitten knocking over my water glass at night, either on my beautiful solid-wood nightstand or on my carpet, I am thinking that I need to move to nighttime water bottle use. Can you think of another option? I'll do a sippy cup if I have to. p.s. I drink a lot of water at night. Sosumi.

washingtonpost.com: Yes.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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This is too good to be true: Tourists Seek Mythical Lesbian City in Sweden: Tourists Seek Mythical Lesbian City in Sweden: http://bit.ly/4wR5fo

And this isn't bad either: the 'Google' town that only exists online http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/6474746/Mystery-of-Argleton-the-Google-town-that-only-exists-online.html

Gene Weingarten: These are both excellent. I think Google is being disingenuous about the second one. I bet Argleton is a "trap name" they secretly inserted so they could prove any cases of map piracy in court.

The late, great Gene Miller of the Miami Herald once won a big lawsuit against the film company that had stolen material from his book about a kidnapping. The way he was able to prove it is that among the materials they stole was a mistake he had made. It was accidental, but it worked to his enormous advantage. The mistake appeared in no place but his book.

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Gene Weingarten: I see that the car has been bid up to $374. Not nearly good enough. I will send an autographed copy of Old Dogs to the person who first gets it up past $600. This is tricky, the way Ebay works. You have to be, like, the SECOND caller.

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Over Exposure: I missed the poll for women on men exposing themselves. Here is my story: As a child (back when kids freely roamed their neighborhoods without constant adult superivison) a man stopped his car and asked me for direction, while also exposing himself to me. But since I had never seen a male member "at attention" so to speak, I had no idea what it was. I did know the guy had a creepy look on his face and I sensed something was wrong, but I never even mentioned it at home and I put it out of mind. Only years later did I realize what I had seen.

Gene Weingarten: The first time I saw two dogs in congress I had no idea. I thought it was some kind of weird game.

I went home and told my ma about the leapfrogging dogs. She explained that, yes, it was a weird game, and eat my broccoli, please.

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weird camp song earworm: Do your ears hang low?

Do they wobble to and fro?

Can you tie them in a knot?

Can you tie them in a bow?

Can you throw them over your shoulder like a

continental soldier?

Do your ears hang low?

Gene Weingarten: I have heard this all my adult life. The Rib was a Girl Scout troop leader.

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San Diego, Calif.: Thank You, thank you, thank you. I thought I was just out of touch with popular culture regarding Wanda Sykes. I haven't seen her much, but my conclusions on those occasions have been that there are (a) funnier women; (b) funnier black women; (c) funnier gay women; (d) funnier black gay women. My dog is funnier than she is, and my dog died 20 years ago.

Gene Weingarten: Wanda Sykes is a phenomenon I do not get. By and large, I find her routines to be a series of completely pale observations delivered with outraged body language that is supposed to make us think they are clever.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: foreclosure story. I had mixed emotions when reading that story. On the one hand, this was a woman who was pretty sure this house was beyond her means, but she went through with the purchase anyway, even when it became absolutely clear to her on the closing day that it was, in fact, beyond her means. On the other hand, she was a first time homebuyer and was placing her trust in the loan officers who, it turns out, manipulated her paperwork and out and out lied on the forms that she signed. Yes, she should have read everything, but all of those forms can be incredibly confusing to most people, and when she did ask questions, she was assured everything would be fine. I feel bad for her and her family, even though I think the foreclosure was appropriate. I guess I wish there were more penalties against the folks who manipulated her so thoroughly (although maybe having their names published in this story is some sort of punishment, albeit not as bad as the one the woman and her family suffered).

Gene Weingarten: To me, her decisionmaking process was so flawed it poisoned the story -- I just couldn't think of her as a victim. I felt sorry for her, but this lady is no dummy. To say she should have known better is an understatement.

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Stick Shift Lessons: I'm considering bidding just for the opportuntiy to learn how to drive a stick shift from the self-proclaimed master! Plus I wouldn't have to worry about damaging the clutch during the learning process.

Yeah, I'm a 32 y/o female who never learned, because driving lessons from my parents on our automatic minivan was painful enough.

Gene Weingarten: Bid. I'd love to teach you.

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Columbia, Md.: So my daughter, who turns 11 this month, still believes in Santa. In her defense, she's slightly developmentally delayed and seriously socially inept, so she hasn't come by the truth through the normal routes of logical deduction or finding out from a friend.

This has gone on too long and I'd LOVE for her to know the truth, but just flat out telling her seems wrong somehow ("sorry, honey, time for you to grow up this year. Oh and let me tell you about the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny too"). This isn't covered in any parenting book. What to do?

Gene Weingarten: Use the great Nancy Nall approach. Make her part of a new secret. It's her job now to be Santa, for the little kids.

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Washington, D.C.: How much is a sawbuck??

Gene Weingarten: A sawbuck is a ten-spot.

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The Fit is It: For your new POS, I suggest the Honda Fit. The base model is very analog (though it does have automatic windows), no keyless entry, no cruise control, nothing fancy at all. With the stick shift, I average 38 MPG, and that's driving in D.C. rush hour (highway) traffic. You can fold the back seats down completely flat, which gives you a ridiculous amount of cargo space in a small car. Finally, it's got an impressive safety rating. Highly recommended.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but I'm not looking for a new car. I couldn't justify it, for the amount of use it will get. I want another great piece of crap.

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Williamsburg, Va.: Santa Claus is a lovely myth... just make sure you tell your kids before they get too old.

In elementary school, I loved art, though the teacher always had a red face and a bit of a funny odor (my mother later mentioned she was an alcoholic).

In the third grade, the teacher was talking to us about Christmas, and said, "Oh, I have this great story to tell you! But wait, how many of you still believe in Santa Claus?" Three bewildered kids raised their hands and looked in shock around the room. Worst of all, the teacher was so mortified that she refused to tell us the damned story.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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Conservativetown, but still: I don't want to talk about Sarah Palin - I mean I REALLY don't want to...but, remembering our past discussions about shandas, I realize that's how I feel, as a woman, about her.

Gene Weingarten: As a liberal, I very much hope that she sticks around. In fact, I hope she becomes the lovely, vapid face of the Republican Party.

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Washington, DC: A good friends went as a flasher for a halloween. He wore a large overcoat and would open it up and 'flash' people. He rigged a camera up where his valuables should be located. The developed pictures told an amazing story. Almost every single guy is staring right at the camera, and every single girl has their head turned away, or is attempting to turn their head away. I have no idea what it means, but found it fascinating.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting! That's very clever. He should turn this into art and make a fortune.

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Providence, Rhode Island: I've seen a few different articles online in the Post lately where a quote was obtained from a subject via Facebook. What do you think of this new practice?

Gene Weingarten: You're going to see more of that. In still-small but increasing numbers, people are requesting interview by email.

I can see why some people prefer this: You can take more time to frame your answer; you can answer on your own time; you can't be effectively ambushed.

It hurts the reporting process. You learn more about your subject in a real-time, face-to-face interview. You can read expressions, you can ask timely followups, and there is less time to obfuscate. Even a phoner is preferable to an email exchange, or a Facebook exchange, or a Twit fest.

I predict more standoffs: Sources asking for email, interviewers demanding personal contact. The bottom line is, the reader is gypped when the questioning is done across an electronic barrier. The reader learns less. Truth suffers.

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Another bad used car de, AL: A $244,000 Volkswagen Golf.

And the former owner didn't even offer to do lunch!

Gene Weingarten: Wow. I didn't know about this. I'm not sure it qualifies as a "crappy car," though.

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Catholic Charities/gay marriage: So, here's an ethical conundrum I had. I have previously volunteer taught GED classes at the catholic charities in DC. I found it to be an incredible experience, and really appreciated the hard work and dedication of my students -- so much so that when I became too busy at work and didn't feel like I was giving them the full benefit of my time when I was there (inadequately prepared, etc.), I stopped teaching. A few years passed, and I was ramping back up to call and ask to volunteer again -- then Catholic Charities pulled its political punches w/D.C. over the gay marriage issue and I decided that, although I am a practicing Catholic and have made my own peace with my disagreements with the church's stand on many social issues, that I was not going to work for an organization that played politics with poor people who, all things being equal, likely care a great deal more about access to free GED prep classes than they do about gay marriage. I have found a different organization to volunteer with, but it still makes me sad. Did I make the right ethical call, or am I really a hypocrite because I continue to go to church even if I won't volunteer for Catholic Charities?

Gene Weingarten: I think you made the ethical decision.

An even more ethical decision might be to find another Christian denomination that does not have bigotry as part of its mission statement.

I will get yelled at. Sorry.

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Want my car?: Ooooh, Gene! You need a new POS? I'll offer you mine. It's a 4-door 97 Honda Civic with 128K miles. Stick shift. Blue, except for the multiple scratches and paint chips from various run-ins with parking garage poles. I once drove 6 months with the bumper tied on with shoelaces. It's been broken into 10 times (twice last week!). Part of the window frame is missing on the driver side door. The sunroof hasn't worked since 2001. When it rains, water will trickle on your face when you make right turns (Phil at Capitol Hill Auto says this can be fixed, but I'm too lazy to take it in).

But it runs GREAT. I replaced the clutch at 110K, but other than that- no repairs. It has been known to travel incredible distances on nothing but fumes. No cats have ever ridden in it. AND it lives only about 8 blocks from your house! Come on! It's PERFECT for you.

Gene Weingarten: email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com

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Gainesville, Va.: Is this an aptonym?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it is. I hope he has an aunt with the same last name, though.

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Bethesda, Md.: My office Christmas party is going to rock. It's one of the benefits of working for a company that is run like a very profitable frat.

Gene Weingarten: The reason I put the party questions in the poll is that I have just finished writing a column about my aversion to parties, which borders on the pathological.

I am not a misanthrope. I like people. But I hate what happens when they coalesce into little knots, surrounded by a party. I dread all parties, including those attended entirely by people I like and admire. I hate going to them, and I hate NOT going to them -- knowing that I'm being antisocial.

You'll be getting the full story in a couple of weeks. It's not pretty. I was just wondering how common this disability is; judging from your answers, it's not common, but not uncommon, either.

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Gene Weingarten: I don't expect the serious bidding until later in the week, but $374 is not acceptable.

I'll add to the signed book a signed CD of Christine Lavin's new album AND her own handmixed jar of pizza spices. First person to get a bid over $600.

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I want to b, ID: Gene, I'm a government employee with a lot of student loan debt. So I'd like to support you by bidding on your car to drive up the price, but I can't actually afford to buy it, as much as I'd love to have lunch with you. With your crystal ball, can you divine the magical number that will be the second lowest bid, so that someone will be guaranteed to outbid me? Many thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Well, can't be sure, but I think at the very very low end, the car will sell for at least a thou.

I mean, hell, it's WORTH a thou.

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Wash, DC: I guessed Amy Poehler, but then googled and found the answer was Suzanne Sommers. I am now perplexed.

On the one hand, reading them without knowledge of the author, they seemed clearly satirical. This was Jack Handeywork. Every quasi-poetic sentiment was knocked down or undercut by the very next line. I love that the second poem begins with an Eleanor Rigby concern for humanity at large, only to reveal that its really a front for the narrator's self absorption ("What about me?"). And then comes the dog twist at the end of the second poem, which elevates it to a whole new level.

On the other hand, Suzanne Sommers does not seem that self-aware or clever.

On the other hand, I do not believe anyone could pile on so many clear contradictions, begin each poem with loft pretensions of sentiment, undercut them a line or two later, and be too stupid to realize it. Bad poetry is rarely this obviously or funnily bad. Help!

Gene Weingarten: Check out the next post. That dog line MIGHT be an invention of Ms. Wiig.

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Suzan, NE: To be fair to the Thighmaster, the actual line is "I wish they wouldn't waste it on God." The dramatic reader changed it.

I admit that if I'd thought Amy Poehler wrote this crap, I would try really hard to find the satirical humor, and failing to find it, would assume I'd just missed the joke.

Gene Weingarten: If she changed it, that's appalling. Not fair game. If you're going to savage someone using their own words, you have to use their own words.

I've tried to Google the original poem, and am getting both versions. Anyone, um, have the original book? You don't have to identify yourself.

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USA: Husband is out of town on business for a couple of weeks in a city that is 70 miles away. Many people do the commute daily, but his company pays for expenses for travel for that distance. I think he should commute daily as we have children with many activities and I'm a working mother, with non-flexible hours. He also left without putting up the Christmas tree, which traditionally he does the first week of December. I'm seething because I have to do everything as he skates for two weeks. After a huge argument over the weekend and again yesterday, I found a card on my bed this morning that he left before he traveled yesterday. (Guess I should start making the bed since I must've missed it when I flipped the covers back in place before I layed down.) Of course I feel horrible that I went the night without thanking him.

Why am I writing to you since you're not Erma Bombeck and I'm not a house wife? Well, because It's one of those cards that gives credit to the author of the prose right under the last sentence. Just so there was no confusion of the sender of the sentiment (my husband or the writer), he crossed out her name and signed his.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I had my finger down my throat until the last line. That's a nice touch, he did.

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Love your columns, but....: When do you think we might get a feature story or something else besides just the back page of the Sunday Mag?

Gene Weingarten: Not for a while. I am working on a comic strip, a movie, and a book.

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Springfield VA again: "On pooping: I have a theory that humans are much more in control of their bowels than we think. Here's my evidence: Have you ever noticed how a minor urgency becomes a major urgency, as if by magic, as you approach your house, or open the door, or near the bathroom? You can have been driving for 45 minutes, aware you would need a bathroom, but the real need coincides with the actual availability of facilities? Some major brain-bowel nexus is at work there."

I agree with you. That is why that Pepto Bismal billboard, "The last mile is the longest when you have diarrea" with the picture of a man racing in his car with a look of panic on his face...seems so real.

Gene Weingarten: I have always wanted to ask a proctologist about this. Are there any within the reach of these pixels who can explain?

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I'll donate directly: Because although I would treasure a piece of Weingarten History, I prefer my mementos to be, well, smaller.

I think the correct thing to do is count all the donations you generate as part of what you sell the car for.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I plan to.

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Washington, D.C.: So, why are you not scheduled to appear at this year's University Club Meet the Authors event? I presume this only means you wish to skip a year because you plan to be there next year.

Gene Weingarten: I don't have a new book out. I will for next year.

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Albany, NY: I'm with "Washington, DC" on the foreclosure story. You are right that the woman is no dummy, and that sensible people should know how to figure out how to manage a real estate transaction.

But:

(a) She apparently didn't have family or close friends with experience in these things. I see this all the time in academia, where first-generation college students can't manage minor setbacks because neither they nor their parents have experience in working the system. She put her trust in the broker. And, as mentioned,

(b) The broker behaved shamefully, if legally. A good broker would have raised more red flags.

(c) The woman is also another of the many Americans who believe, or want to believe, that other people are getting rich (or house-rich, or car-rich) with just as little justification. And sometimes it does in fact happen. I can't feel anything but sorrow for her.

I know you are a sympathetic person, Gene, but I doubt you have ever been in a situation where you were even three steps removed from a homeless shelter. I was unemployed for two years and yet I never lived on the street, because I had (a) savings, (b) food stamps and unemployment, (c) my church food bank, and (d) one wonderful friend. And even if all of those failed, I still had family and other friends I could have leaned on. I don't see any of these in this woman's story.

Gene Weingarten: Possibly I am cold-hearted.

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Falls Church, Va.: Would I be correct in surmising that your car smells bad?

Gene Weingarten: Not really. It has had bad-smelling periods in its history, but it's pretty okay now.

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Gene Weingarten: Car's up to $415. It would be nice to hit $600 during the chat, no?

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America: Will you be at the University Club Meet the Author book fair tomorrow? If so, will you have books to sell? Also, what is the Washington Post meet and greet event that is at the same time? Will Post writers be selling their books there as well? Will you be there, thus showing your ability to be in two places at the same time?

washingtonpost.com: I'll be at the Post Points meet n' greet. Not that you asked.

Gene Weingarten: I was there last year, with the Old Dogs book; it was sort of a fiasco -- they'd accidentally ordered too few books, and Michael Williamson and I had to grin wanly and turn scores of potential book-buyers away emptyhanded. Not gonna be there this year.

I'm not sure what the Post meet and greet is; won't be there either!

You all should definitely see Liz, though. When you do, make sure that you only ask her about me. She loves that.

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Woodbridge, Va.: With all the debate over same-sex marriage and domestic partner benefits, maybe you could answer a question for me - Why should partnered people, be they hetero- or homosexual, get these benefits while unpartnered people do not? I'm in favor of granting certain benefits when there are dependent children involved, but what if there aren't? The more I think about it, the more I think that as our legal system is set up, a single person gets screwed just because they're not getting screwed. It just seems like a big, fat celibacy tax.

Gene Weingarten: You know .... I'm not sure! Why IS there spousal-partner insurance? I would say that the original intent might have been to encourage stay-at-home parentage, which seems sort of unAmerican and outdated, anyway.

Is it to encourage the basic Family Unit?

Can anyone elucidate? You ask an intriguing question.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Just to make the cheese more binding, RadarOnline is reporting that the other woman in the Tiger Woods scandal is coming forward with voicemails.

Yeah... somebody's going to have this Tiger by the tail before long...

washingtonpost.com: Tiger Woods Cheating Scandal Grows, (RadarOnline)Note: This is not the same woman, Rachel Uchitel, who denies a dalliance with Tiger.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Honolulu, HI: Gene,

As it just so happens, I was sent to Honolulu on very short notice (tears), without being able to sell my car back home. It's a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid that just ticked 100k miles. It looks and runs great. Plus, it has a manual transmission and, to my knowledge, hybrids with manual transmissions aren't available anymore. Let me know if you're interested.

Gene Weingarten: Ooh. email weingarten(a)washpost.com.

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Anti-aptonym: What would you call the opposite of an aptonym? The Washington Post reports that a pit bull mix that attacked its owner was shot by police (with the owner's permission)in Rockville. The dog's name was Jesus.

Gene Weingarten: It is an inaptonym.

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Is this irony?: Just read the first to grafs.

Gene Weingarten: The first to grafs?

By the way, does the general public know what a "graf" is? Members of the general non-journalistic public, does that term mean anything to you?

Anyway, this is hilariously terrible.

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Very far from any ocean: Just got an email from our former babysitter letting us know that her twin girls had been born. Their names: Marina Grace and Saylor Joy. I'm having a difficult time composing a congratulatory note because the names have just left me speechless.

Gene Weingarten: Be glad it wasn't triplets. The name would have been something like Starboard or Jib.

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Whiff of Desperati, ON: I wonder if this is how Mussolini felt when he realized his Cult of Personality wasn't that strong.

Keep begging...

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. A slap upside the head.

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Googlenope: Gene, I was hoping you could correct and egregious googlenope by publishing something about a callipygian clowder, which is a group of cats with shapely buttocks. It's my first googlenope, just don't ask how it came about.

Gene Weingarten: Done. Though I think that, strictly speaking, cats don't have buttocks.

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cats & the bathroom: I know you don't like cats (and anyone who doesn't just doesn't understand them by the way) but I have a cat story you might like. I have 2 cats both with different personalities, but one thing they have in common is that they will come into the bathroom and want to get on my lap when I use the toilet. Even the one who will never sit on my lap in the living room, will come in and sit on my lap on the toilet. It is usually the other cat who beats him though so he does not get on my lap as much. As soon they hear the toilet seat go up, they come running. I have not been able to read on the toilet for years. Cats are really special by the way.

Gene Weingarten: Apparently.

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Tax Law, Poll: Why do you say that the sales proceeds that exceed the value of your POS car are deductible? If you are giving cash to charity, the ENTIRE amount of your gift is deductible. (I am a tax lawyer who works for a certain government agency, though you cannot rely on this anonymous advice as a definitive statement of agency policy. But I am right.)

Gene Weingarten: I believe that to be the case because the donor is indeed receiving something of value: He or she is buying a car. I believe the market price of that car must be deducted from the gift to the Foundation before tax implications are decided.

Is this not correct?

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RE: Vehicle Auction: Has anyone ever puked in said vehicle, and if so, who? (This might also change the value for better or worse depending on the potential buyer.)

Gene Weingarten: GOOD QUESTION. Someone once puked OUTSIDE the vehicle, dribbling down the passenger side door. I cleaned it up as best I could, but the remnants are still there, in the sense of acid-eaten finish.

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Savannah, Ga.: "You are invited to a Christmas party for your office, at the home of the boss. Employees are expected to attend, with their spouses. You like your work, you like your boss, and you like most of your coworkers. How do you feel about this impending party?"

I'm the boss and I never even considered this! I have a small business and we are all friendly, and this seem like a great, low key, relatively inexpensive way to have a holiday party. Maybe I'm obtuse, but it didn't occur to me that people would dread attending... although a few employees have RSVP'd that they won't be attending...

Gene Weingarten: Parties place an unwanted social pressure on some people. They know they SHOULD go, they are not proud of their anxiety, but it's there. It's hard-wired.

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Platonic frie, ND: Hey Gene,

You and the rib seem to have an excellent rip on the whole married-people-having-platonic-friends thing... give me your take on the following situation? A guy I've been friends with for 5 years, who is in a band w/my husband recently stopped acknowledging my presence in social situations. The last time I talked to him he asked me if I noticed that his girlfriend had been "weird around me." Quite honestly, I hadn't noticed anything/c I've met her maybe 6 times. I told him "um, maybe?" and he let me know that it was because at a party 4 months ago I had apparently "said something about his butt" and it made his girlfriend very uncomfortable. I don't have any recollection of this happening beyond a vague sense that there was some mutual offhand friendly flirting. Also he didn't come to our wedding and may have lied about trying to let us know. Am I even crazy for caring about this? Is this not even worth sparing another brain cell thinking about it?

Gene Weingarten: It is not. There are people for whom relationships are ownership deals. These people are not worth worrying about.

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Post Points: Every time I hear/see that phrase I laugh remembering the mention you made in this chat (or maybe you related something someone else once said) that they look like blue diaphragms.

Gene Weingarten: It was here. Where else would it be?

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Mazda 323: My 1986 Mazda 323 had 186,000 miles on it in 1999 when I tried to sell it to a fellow bartender for $300. He said he'd test drive it and let me know. He drove it around the block a few times, came back to me and said "I'll give you $500 for it."

Best car ever.

Gene Weingarten: It's just stunning how reliable this baby is.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, someone just bid $600 but treebark55 gets the goodies, because his or her bid was higher at the time.

Will treebark please email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com?

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Crappy c Ar: I Bid $600, and someone already had it higher...sigh...Up to $615

Gene Weingarten: Yes. But I honor you nonetheless. Aw, what the hell -- send your info to me, too.

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The reader is gypped?: Did you really just use the word "gypped"? I assume you know what the word means and where it comes from and the persecution and hateful stereotpes that the Roma people have suffered. And you still use this word?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I know. I almost didn't. It just seems so remote from the original meaning. Doesn't say "gypsied." Are there any Romas out there offended?

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Charity: Seems like Gene ought to get the tax deduction. Buyer gets the car; charity gets the money that SHOULD go to Gene. BTW, why aren't you having the money passed through you to ensure that you get the deduction?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not planning on taking a deduction.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, I'll go over length limit. We're still on for a few minutes.

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Parties place an unwanted social pressure on some people. They know they SHOULD go, they are not proud of their anxiety, but it's there. It's hard-wired. : Plus: it's MY free time. I work all day for da man, earn my pay, give dedication, blah blah blah. MY free time is so limited and precious, I want to spend it on ME, not my boss. I want to be watching a movie, playing with my nephews, gardening, reading, etc. IT"S my priceless precious free time, stop stealing it from me.

Gene Weingarten: With me, it's not that logical, though that factor is there. I am a neurotic. I don't like feeling on stage, which is what I feel at a party.

This is one of the parts of myself that I like the least. My belly is second.

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Centreville, Va: I agree with the lawyer. All those silent auction winners who walk away with autographed posters and footballs that are worth more than your car are definitely claiming the entire "donation".

Gene Weingarten: REally? But don't you HAVE to deduct a reasonable amount for the item of value?

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Centreville, Va: You should at least tell your bidders about the open recall that shows on the Carfax Report for those crappy auto-shoulder belts. That might bump up the final bid enough to cover the cheap lunch.

Gene Weingarten: Really? Well, thank you. I've never known about it. So you can bring it in even now, get better belts?

Hark, people.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. W: A friend of mine, who lived in Manhattan for several years, swears this is a true Xmas story: He used a commercial parking lot close to his apartment. Right before Thanksgiving, a cheap Xmas card is put behind his windshield wiper with "Merry Xmas from the guys who park your car," meaning it's time for the Xmas tip. He forgets to drop his envelope off at the parking office, so, the week before Xmas, a photocopy of the card is on his windshield, with the with added comment "Merry Xmas, second notice." Too good to be true, I guess.

Gene Weingarten: I love the story, allegedly true, of the guy who arrived at his car to find a crumpled bumper and a note: "Hi. I'm the guy who did this. I'm writing this so the people who saw it happen will think I'm leaving you my name. Good luck."

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Silver Spring, MD: The "tax lawyer" should brush up on IRS Publication 526 which clearly states:

"If you receive a benefit as a result of making a contribution to a qualified organization, you can deduct only the amount of your contribution that is more than the value of the benefit you receive. Also see Contributions From Which You Benefit under Contributions You Cannot Deduct, later.

If you pay more than fair market value to a qualified organization for merchandise, goods, or services, the amount you pay that is more than the value of the item can be a charitable contribution. For the excess amount to qualify, you must pay it with the intent to make a charitable contribution. "

Gene Weingarten: Ah, good. That's what I figured.

We have five minutes more. Another book another album, to anyone who pops this over $750.

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Smoke Free Virginia... Finally!: Just wanted to give a loud shout-out to VA for finally (today) going smoke-free in bars and restaurants. The home of big tobacco... hard to believe.

Alas, we've given the state house back to the Republicans, but at least you can go out now and not come home smelling like crap!

Gene Weingarten: I am mildly conflicted about this. Just mildly. But I am not crazy about the anti-smoking loonyfringe.

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Hot Steuver: Thanks for sending us to Hank Steuver's poll, which included his photo. I had no idea he was so decorative!

Gene Weingarten: Hank is a hottie. Another reason to buy his book.

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Driving Question: Let's say you approach an intersection that has been under construction, and there's no cross traffic because the other roads haven't been paved yet. The new traffic lights at the intersection blink red. Do you stop?

Gene Weingarten: No. I don't stop in any situation like that when it is obvious there is no traffic for hundreds of feet in any direction.

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Elai, NE: "Hi. I'm the guy who did this. I'm writing this so the people who saw it happen will think I'm leaving you my name. Good luck." Could be true... but it was also done in Seinfeld.

Gene Weingarten: It's way older than Seinfeld. I heard in on Ed Sullivan in a standup shtick.

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Condiments: If you could only have ketchup or mustard to liven up your food which one would you pick?

washingtonpost.com: (snort)

Gene Weingarten: Mustard, in part because there are so many kinds.

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Car Auction: Since you are trying to raise money for charity, would you be willing to open a 2nd line of bidding, for someone who only wanted to get the shift lessons & possibly lunch w. you? I'd give $600 to charity for that in a heartbeat. I am considering trying to get the car anyway just to turn around & donate it somewhere, but would really rather not have to hassle w. the car itself since I have no need for it. Pretty please??

Gene Weingarten: Deal. I will give clutch lessons for a $600 donation to the Stone and Holt Weeks foundation. Make the offer to me first at weingarten(at)washpost.com I may not be able to say yes to everyone.

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How many "watchers" do you have on this auction?: Just curious.

Gene Weingarten: As of right now, when the chat ends, 1,997 page views.

Okay, we're at $605, with five days to go. I will be doing updates all week, with lots of good topics to discuss. See ya'll her tomorrow.

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UPDATED 12.2.09

Gene Weingarten: Well the price of the car is up to $1,000, as of 8 a.m. this morning. Encouraging, but hardly Front Page News yet. So here's what I'm throwing in. The winner will also get the autographed dog book, and the autographed Christine Lavin CD, but also Toilets of the World, one of the finest bathroom accompaniments ever published. It is a brilliantly illustrated book featuring appliances from the ultra modern (and stupid) to the ancient (and stupid), including a toilet one carved out of a cactus in a Bolivian forest that has been in continued use for 100 years. There is also the bathroom in Johannesberg with the ladies toilet and gentleman's toilet, clearly so marked, next to each other in the same room, with no divider. (it resulted from a plumber's error.)

Also, upon delivering the car to you I will juggle raw eggs. I can, and will, do this. The inducements may only get even bigger, so keep your eye on this spot all week.

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Gene Weingarten: Regarding the Crocodile Dundee sex test mentioned in the chat yesterday, Mike Wagner sent in this excellent commercial.

And Heather Moline reports that she was once again disqualified from her neighborhood's "best decorated house contest" for her "bad attitude."

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Gene Weingarten: And somehow we got through the chat yesterday with no one linking to the famous farting turkey.

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Gene Weingarten: This just in!!!! For the first time in recorded history -- proof that farts are NOT ALWAYS FUNNY!

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Gene Weingarten: I don't usually link to The Onion -- it's like backslapping a competitor -- but good work must be recognized. This piece (some NSFW language) is remarkable.

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Gene Weingarten: Regarding yesterday's headline in the Washington Post, and variations elsewhere: "34,000 Troops Will Be Sent to Afghanistan" -- can anyone justify that use of "troop" to mean "soldier"? Hm. Okay, I see Merriam Webster says "troops" means a group of soldiers, and, in plural, means "soldiers." Okay, there's a justification. But I hate it.

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Santaville: I believed in Santa. We're Jewish, but my mom didn't want to me to tell the other kids, so she told me he just didn't come to Jews. In my head, I decided it was sad that all the goyishe children had to have a stranger bring them toys, while Jewish kids had parents who loved them enough to buy things. I was so relieved at least someone cared for them.

Gene Weingarten: Awwwww. This is adorable.

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Gene Weingarten: Oh, and finally, I forgot to answer the raw-egg question in the chat. The winning toss -- thrown by me and caught by Buzz Burger -- was 57 feet. What we tossers quickly learned was that the only important factor is the toss: Whatever distance you can throw an egg, that egg can be caught. I think it funny that a small percentage of you thought 230 feet was a possibility. We here at chat humor doubt that Eli Manning could throw an egg 230 feet.

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UPDATED 12.3.09

Gene Weingarten: Even though we fully expect a last-minute price war on this car, with much sniping and proxy bidding as late as Sunday afternoon, we must report that as of this morning the price remains at an even grand offered by the mysterious (and somehow sexy) bidder "wintercamptr."

Today we add more goodies.

Believe it or not, the winner of this car also gets this handsome velour steering wheel cover .

But that's not all. We would hardly bother you with so small an inducement.

The winner of this car also gets THIS oversized Mr. Hankey doll to hang from the rear-view mirror. It will be hand-knitted by Rachel Manteuffel, well known to the denizens of this chat. As you can see last night Rachel purchased the VERY LAST EXISTING PATTERN for this doll, increasing its value a hundredfold or more.

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Updates: What do you mean you'll be doing updates all week? What happened to the updates every Tuesday? I need my chat fix each week, not 4 times in one week.

Gene Weingarten: It's for this week only, on account of the car. Next month, I'll go back to every Tuesday. Unless the car remains at $1,000, in which case we may have to end updates forever, because I will be too disillusioned to continue them.

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Washington, D.C.: As of 2:28 p.m., with 701 votes recorded on your insta poll about flashers, it's official: 47.48 percent of your chatters are ugly.

Gene Weingarten: That may be the single most objectionable, tasteless and insupportable post ever to appear in Chatological Humor. I am laughing.

Note: The flasher poll was (like this comment) from last month's chat.

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Boston, Mass.: Hi Gene,

I was reading your comments on the pundit Q&A, and the bit about Charles Krauthammer struck a chord with me.

I disagree with him on just about everything, and could not understand for the life of me why I keep reading his columns. Now I understand why: he makes me mad, and it's glorious. Thank you for the enlightenment, I feel foolish for not realizing it sooner.

I think this is also why I will only watch "This Week" when George Will is on the panel.

Gene Weingarten: To be fair, it's not JUST that he gets me angry; the question is WHY he gets me angry, whereas a guy like Gerson just makes me feel contemptuous. So much of the time, Gerson is just totally off the deep end; a fuddy old religious-nut reactionary. The thing is, Krauthammer manipulates facts to build annoyingly arguable cases. Krauthammer is GOOD. He makes me reluctantly reassess things, then snap out of it, then get mad at him for being so good.

I respect him.

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Amazon Product "reviews": I thought you might enjoy this actual product on Amazon, and the spontaneous "reviews," even without an "invitation."

Gene Weingarten: This is brilliant; I'm not sure which is better -- the deadpan description of the product or the deadpan reviews.

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Ice in soda: You don't like any ice and I always ask for extra ice.

Gene Weingarten: I've gotten a dozen responses like this. They don't really surprise me. We are a fast-food and American-beer society; why not a watered Coke that keeps watering itself even more?

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Ten funniest words:I can't open the link at work, is moist on the list?

Gene Weingarten: No. This is a specious list. For a word to be truly funny, it must abstractly sound funny, like "moist"; it cannot merely contain within it a conceptually funny word, as does "titmouse" or sound like a specifically funny word, as does "fard." This must involve the subtlety of art. The only truly funny word on this list is "pumpernickel."

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Gene Weingarten: And finally for today, a story about the biggest douchebag in American journalism.

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UPDATED 12.4.09

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the price of the car has crept up all of $25 to $1,025, with a bid by one melissaroy68, who, like the previous high bidder is also an eBay mystery with no history. We are excited for her.

But are we happy? Hardly. Today we make our final effort to boost the price for that final, frantic stratospheric bidding war we anticipate on Sunday. Today's freebies are special, so listen up.

We begin by throwing in this new, purchased-but-never-used Revolver $450 four-unit, swing-away bike rack with the patented No-Sway Cage, magnanimously donated to this sale by Chatwoman. Yes, you are reading this correctly. The purchaser of this car gets, absolutely free, a bike rack THAT IS ARGUABLY WORTH MORE THAN THE CAR. No, it doesn't attach to THIS car -- it attaches to a GOOD, SOLID car that could actually HOLD four bikes without tipping up in the front.

Is that all?

No, that is not all.

The sad fact is that I just realized have been offering this car for sale without an essential accessory: Though the radio works, its LCD has been shot for some time, meaning that this car does not have a functioning dashboard clock.

Fortunately, this is a rectifiable situation since I am a qualified expert in the repair of antique clocks. And I happen to have this one, newly repaired. It is a genuine antique walnut 1925 Seth Thomas 10-day, time-only, two-key clock with not only a second hand but also a balance wheel escapement, meaning it works without a pendulum, independent of gravity, and its timekeeping is unaffected by jostling. Thus it is completely suitable and absolutely perfect for use as a dashboard clock in my Mazda, as is clear from this photograph taken this morning.

This clock would sell independently for $250, meaning the total value of today's freebies is $700. We wish to emphasize the significance of this. If the current high bidder wins this car, she is in effect stealing it for $325. It would be, in effect, A FELONIOUS TRANSACTION AT THE EXPENSE OF AN INCREDIBLY WORTHY CHARITY.

Bidders, let your conscience be your guide.

To recap on this final day of freebie-adding: This car now comes with a book on toilets of the world, a faux leopardskin steering-wheel cover, a promise to juggle eggs, a foot-high, hand-knitted Mr. Hankie the Christmas Poo rear-view-mirror ornament, a $450 bike rack, and a $250 antique dashboard clock.

See you all on Sunday afternoon.

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(Examples: Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Mich.; London, U.K.): Gene Weingarten: The best part of this car is how many times I've been able to park legally between two cars parked at a meter.

How is it legal for you to park between two other cars at meters who are having to pay to park on a street? D.C. doesn't give tickets for this? Really?

Besides, you're taking up space that would allow everyone else to get in and out without scraping bumpers. And restricting the size of the vehicles that can now be parked at the meters.

Gene Weingarten: I have never encountered ritualistic public adherence to laws the way I have encountered it in Washington, D.C. No one jaywalks. You people are so, so ... goody two shoes.

Is there no THRILL in your mind at the idea of sticking it to the man with the ticketbook by wedging between two paying customer sheep? And their standing there WANTING to ticket you, but not really having a leg to stand on? Don't you GET it?

Gene Weingarten: Subversion is good. Off the pig.

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Rockville, Md.: "No. I don't stop in any situation like that ..."

We are a nation of scofflaws.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

See previous.

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New York, N.Y.: As I white person, I hate to bring this up, because this is one of those things that immediately raises racial discussions that probably quickly veer off track. Yet, this is something that happened and, if needed, I can send a photostat of my Playbill to indicate (OK, I can't prove it) it happened as it is signed by three people.

I went to the Broadway show, "Race", which was excellent by the way. Afterwards, I stood where the four actors--two African American and two Caucasians---exited the theatre and signed autographs. Three of the four stood there and signed everyone's Playbills, took photos, etc. One of the African Americans, though, came out, passed by a group of white people, signed for Black people mostly, then stopped signing when there were only white people left at the end of the line, and went to the other side (there are two sides to an area where people wait) and started signing where there were Blacks and then left. I know there is no obligation for any entertainer to sign anything, but I found this behavior extremely unusual, especially when he is in a play about---race.

I don't know if he did it deliberatly, subconsciously, was in a hurry, or what. I have no idea of the motivation or if it was intentional, yet that is how it appeared, especially to those of us whites who were slighted. I know this is probably something more for Liz, but, I thought, maybe you might find it interesting and it will probably launch a bunch of interesting replies, as race does that.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. I wasn't there, didn't see what you saw, am not qualified to judge. But I know actors a little bit. I am thinking this man was continuing his performance. And it sounds interesting. Sure got you thinking, didn't it?

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East Orange, N.J.: Re: Foreclosure Story

The woman in the story was manipulated while making horrible decisions. But what is the excuse for this guy?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is the story I wished ours had been; I can follow how this all happened to this guy -- he's a like a junkie having just a little bit more every day, thinking he can stop whenever he wants. This I get. And it's chilling to read. A great, honest, humiliating story.

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Columbia, Md.: Looking for a POS, Gene? Look no further. I got a 1996 Honda Civic, 206K miles, ORIGINAL clutch that I'd be willing to part with. Runs great, never had any work done, but not enough room for my growing family. I'd like to give it to someone I know, just to see how long it runs. Let me know.

Gene Weingarten: 206K miles and still on the original clutch? Sounds perfect. Please write to me at weingarten(at)washpost.com.

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I have people I'd like to say certain things to: This isn't a criticism, and may sound a bit twee, but I haven't ever really understood this. Of course, I'm also assuming they're nice things. But why wait? Why wait till you're dying to let people know what they've meant to you?

Gene Weingarten: Because, like most humans, I am at some level a coward. Because, sometimes, things mean far more when presented against the backdrop of impending death. Because some things are inutterable when both people must go on living, but become acceptable as a means of closure.

Sure, there is a book in this.

Gene Weingarten: Here, let's take an example. What would you say to me on Sunday if you fail to bid on the car and it sells at the ridiculously low price of $1,025?

Nothing, right? Of course not. You don't owe me or anyone else an explanation for your cupidity. But what if (I'm not saying I know anything about the future or anything) three years later, I lay dying? You might, at that point, feel you wanted to say something to me about this. And I would listen, and probably forgive you, because I'd be dying and in a magnanimous mood.

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UPDATED: Sunday, 12.6.09

Gene Weingarten: As I write this, we've got an hour to go in the car sale and Majakaro is the high bidder at $1,900. She's been ahead for a full day and has been begging people on Twitter to take her off the hook and save her marriage. Apparently, this was a hot-blooded impulse buy, and totally in character: Majakaro, as I deduce, is a talented, pseudonymous author of smutty romance novels!

I pity her plight, but love her pluck. And if she wins, she gets the car.

Her high bid is $2,000. Anyone out there going to come to her rescue?

I'll be watching this live on Twitter from 3:15 through the close of bidding, around 3:35. See you there.

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Submit to the next chat: Jan. 5

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