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Style Invitational Week 1501: Try a little ‘kindness’

Tell us ways to be ‘helpful’ that, well, wouldn’t be. Plus the winners of our what-if contest.

“Whenever I see a car with a ticket I chuck it in the bin so the driver doesn’t have to pay.” (Bob Staake/For The Washington Post)

Click here to skip down to the "what-if" winners

This week’s contest comes from recent First Offender Al Lubran, who’d come across, indirectly, an entertaining exchange on Reddit’s CasualUK forum: Someone named GraharG posed this question: “Whenever I see a car with a ticket I chuck it in the bin so the driver doesn’t have to pay,” GraharG announced, then put it to their fellow Brits: “What act of kindness do you do for strangers?”

The Redditors immediately picked up the joke:

“When my neighbours put their bin out in the evening I take them straight back in for them before morning, so they don’t get stolen in the night,” confided Mirrorshade5.

“Whenever there’s a meeting on a Friday afternoon, I like to ask lots of questions at the end so no one else feels embarrassed about the stony silence,” FlibV1 chimed in.

You get it. This week: Tell about an “act of kindness” that you or someone else does that, well, won’t be appreciated, as in the examples above. (We’ll be speaking American, though.) They should be expressed as if you think the act is actually a good thing.

Submit up to 25 entries at wapo.st/enter-invite-1501 (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Aug. 22; results appear, urp, Sept. 11 in print, Sept. 8 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a pair of high-quality men’s socks imprinted with rows of tiny cartoon houses and the label “Head of the Household” — with the word “butt” added above it, so you get “Butt Head of the Household.” Ha ha! Presumably intended as a gag Father’s Day gift. Donated by Loser Dave Prevar, whose feet have not touched them.

Other runners-up win their choice of our “For Best Results, Pour Into Top End” Loser Mug or our “Whole Fools” Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, “A Small Jester of Appreciation” or “Close, but Ceci N’est Pas un Cigare.” First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at wapo.st/inviteFAQ. The headline “Wit-Ifs” is by Chris Doyle; Jesse Frankovich wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at on.fb.me/invdev; “like” the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at bit.ly/inkofday; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.

The Style Conversational: The Empress’s weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week’s at wapo.st/conv1501.

Wit-ifs: Winning wondering from Week 1497

Our Week 1497 contest was as wide open as you could get. It was simply “What if” something had happened that hadn’t, or were happening that hadn’t been, or might (but probably not) happen in the future.

4th place:

If polygamy were still the prevailing family structure, insults would have to be much more specific: “Yo Third Mama, the one with the red hair who doesn’t wear glasses, is so fat that, uh, I forget where I was going with this …” (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

3rd place:

What if the cellphone had never been invented? I guess we’d all just be staring at our hands a lot. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

2nd place

and the winner of the ridiculously small men’s swimsuit:

What if no one had invented the question mark. (Frank Mann, Washington)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:

What if I had married my high school sweetheart? Well, by now, I’d probably be charged with bigamy. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

The if-raff: Honorable mentions

What if all peppercorns were white? My beard would be described as “salt-with-black-hairs-in-it.” (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

What if Mark Meadows had hired a young man to be his White House aide? For one, there’d still be ketchup on the wall. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

If a Greek messenger had run 26.2 miles after the Battle of Salamis, people today would be holding walkalamis, telelamis, readalamis … (Duncan Stevens)

If discount retailers adopted cryptocurrency, would there be a .00004457 Bitcoin Tree? (David Kleinbard, Mamaroneck, N.Y.)

What if sharks could vocalize like whales? They would go ahead and do that “Jaws” music themselves. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

Fifty years after the Revolutionary War, what if Americans still loyal to the crown erected statues of British Redcoat generals in their town squares? Nothing would have happened until another hundred years after that, when someone would say, “Um, weren’t they the tyrants?” and then a new war would start over whether to remove the statues. (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

If Earth had two moons, men would have twice as many reasons to blame women for everything. (Sarah Walsh)

If humans regulated body temperature by panting like dogs, Winston Churchill would have had nothing to offer but “blood, toil, tears and drool.” (Duncan Stevens)

If John Cage had been fond of Chopin, he would have sat at the piano and not played the “Minute” Waltz 4½ times. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

If Marco Polo had never traveled the Silk Road, kids at the pool would be yelling the names of other explorers, like “Andrew! Longjumeau!” or “Albert! Von le Coq!” (Duncan Stevens)

If Moses hadn’t led the people of Israel through the Red Sea, Marjorie Taylor Greene would be concerned about Hittite space lasers. (Duncan Stevens)

If O.J. had behaved himself, we never would have met the Kardashians. (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

If the Lord had found another five or six righteous residents, Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared, and Lot’s wife would not have spent the next few millennia on the rim of a margarita glass. (John McCooey, Rehoboth Beach, Del.)

If the selfie had never been invented, people would have to find some other reason to walk backward over cliffs. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

What if a cabal of politicians who are cannibalistic, Satan-worshiping pedophiles were running a global child sex-trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizzeria? Madison Cawthorn would claim he’d been invited to join. (Drew Bennett, Rogers, Ark.)

What if all cars came with turn signals? Wait — they all do? Then where’s yours? (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

What if all the brokenhearted people living in the world agreed? They’d let it be. (Dave Airozo, Silver Spring, Md.)

What if alternating-current inventor Nikola Tesla came forward in time and discovered that the cars named for him run on direct current? He’d be the first person to unfollow Elon Musk for nothing he said. (Michie March, Ellicott City, Md.)

What if before every airing of Tucker Carlson there was a warning: “This is complete BS”? Well, people still smoke cigarettes with the warning “Smoking causes cancer,” so I guess nothing would change. (Drew Bennett)

What if covid spread by flatulence instead of from breathing? Republicans would demand the right to eat in restaurants with no pants and would call underwear a government conspiracy. (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

What if Disney films had retained the gruesome violence of the original fairy tale plots? Boys would love princess movies: “It’s my turn to be the stepsister and chop off my toes! You can be the bird and peck out my eyes. Then, I’ll be Snow White and you be the queen and I’ll torture you with burning red-hot iron shoes!” (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

What if Donald Trump had been born into a family that wasn’t rich? Donald who? (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

What if everyone in the world were offered $440 million to work for 15 years from March through October? Not a single person would reject that offer unless the person played for the Washington Nationals. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

What if George Washington had really stood up in that boat crossing the Delaware River and he fell in and drowned? This contest would be in The Cornwallis Post. (Melissa Yorks, Gaithersburg, Md.)

What if Google didn’t exist? People would return to less invasive methods of investigating prospective romantic partners, like sifting through their trash. (Karen Lambert)

What if helium were heavier than air? An amorous guy could pop a balloon, inhale, and sound like Barry White. (Sarah Walsh)

What if humans could hear the same frequencies as dogs? Then we’d need to say things like “Rubio’s tweet about the ‘Soros backed prosecutors’ was clearly an anti-Semitic mousewhistle.” (Duncan Stevens)

What if kids came with an instruction manual? My luck, it would be from Ikea. (Aaron Olszewski, Silver Spring, Md.)

What if Thanos hadn’t snapped his fingers in “Avengers: Infinity War”? Then we’d really have a shortage of baby formula. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

What if Lord Voldemort ran for president? Not a single Republican would ask to see his birth certificate. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

What if Michael Jordan ran an airline? It’d also be called Air Jordan, and the cheapest ticket would cost $10,000. (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

What if Mike Pence runs for president in 2024? You’d definitely want to buy stock in a magnetometer company. (Steve Smith)

What if Neil Young’s band were all Jewish? It would be called Meshuggeneh Horse. (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.)

What if other businesses gave out samples like grocery stores? We’d all line up for them at banks and casinos but not so much in STD clinics. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

What if people had bark for skin? Couples could keep the fire in their relationship just by rubbing together. (Jon Gearhart)

What if pigs could fly? The carwash and umbrella industries would boom! (Dave Airozo; Robyn Carlson, Keyser, W.Va.)

What if Stephen King had written “A Visit From St. Nicholas”? It would have opened, “'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house/Not a creature was stirring, 'cept an ax-murdering spouse …” (Jeff Contompasis)

What if the NRA ran a dental office? They’d teach kids that candy doesn’t cause cavities — kids cause cavities. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

What if climate change forces us all to move to the moon? Democracy will live on. Well, at least on the near side. (Steve Smith)

If Jeff Bezos had not purchased The Washington Post, then every day it would run disclaimers saying, “Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon, has no interest in The Washington Post.” (Allan Grady, Fredericksburg, Va.)

And Last: What if I had a time machine? I would fast-forward a couple of weeks to see what the winner is in this contest, and send it as my own entry. So, yeah, I guess I really don’t deserve a time machine. (Tom Witte, who’s entered virtually every Style Invitational contest since Week 7)

Still running — deadline Monday night, Aug. 15: Our contest for new words whose letters add to 15 Scrabble points. See wapo.st/invite1500.

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InvisibleInk! Idea:(Al Lubran) Examples:() Title:(Chris Doyle) Subhead:(Jesse Frankovich) Prize:(Dave Prevar) VisibleInk!

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