Category Archives: Dr. Babooner

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Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner.

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Taking a cue from the government-funded activities of NASA, several years ago I purchased a powerful telescope and began looking around my immediate neighborhood for other homes that showed signs they could support life as comfortably as the home I live in now.

I’ve been studying the area very carefully and for the most part the places I see all have something terribly wrong – they’re way too big or far too small, they’re too close to a busy street or too far from the local park, they have aluminum or vinyl siding (which I hate), or smokers live there and the air inside the home is simply not breathable.

That last bit is something it took quite a while to learn, but now that I’ve had time to practice with the telescope I’ve become quite good at training it on windows and getting a clear sense of what goes on inside by measuring shadows as they pass in front of the interior lights.

Just the other day I found a house that is quite far from my own but it seems to have all the
elements I love about the place where I already live. The size and temperature are nearly perfect and I think there’s even liquid water inside. I’m pretty sure on that count because I saw someone taking a bath!

You can imagine how excited I was!

But just this afternoon the police came to my door and told me if I don’t start pointing my telescope at the sky rather than the other houses up and down the street, they will try to move me to a new home that is cold and desolate most of the time and has food water only at certain times which are not under my control.

Dr. Babooner, I thought scientific exploration was a pathway to a better life, but in this case it feels like all my work is taking me in the wrong direction. Should I stop, or keep pressing onward, hoping for a breakthrough?

Sincerely,
Curious K

I told “Curious K” that he (she?) should definitely stop peeping into other people’s homes and calling it research. The sad truth is that even if you found a place that could support your life as nicely as the place where you already live, the chances are slim that you could get there and even slimmer that you would be welcomed by the current inhabitants. It would be much better to take care of and learn to cherish the place you call home.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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Forlorn and Friendless

We are ALL Dr. Babooner
We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m kind of a big deal around this area where I live. I have the most money, anyway, which draws respect and disdain about equally.

People who know me say I can be aloof and disconnected. I have absolutely no idea what they mean by that. I would ask them to explain but then I’d have to listen to their answers, and I always seem to lose interest after the first few words!

Anyway, it turns out there is this bully in the neighborhood who thinks his yard is bigger than the boundary stakes indicate, so he has annexed a piece of the property next door.

That sounds crazy to me but I couldn’t care less who claims to own which flower bed around here. Mostly we all stay inside and watch TV anyhow, and almost nobody is out in their yard, ever. Still, the populace is in a tizzy over this and they’re looking to me to do something.

So now I’m supposed to make everything right. I’d say the chances are pretty slim that people will be happy with the outcome, but I’m still obliged to throw my weight around and act like some Master of the Universe, or something.

And here’s the hard part – I kind of AM a Master of the Universe and I can get my way on a lot of things. But this? I’d rather spend my time trying to solve world hunger than get in a tiff with the biggest jerk on the block over a tiny piece of land.

Everybody’s going to be watching me for the next few days to see what I do about this stupid situation and how I confront this turf grabber. So should I ratchet up my pretend outrage and bluster and fume get all up in his grill, or should I be myself and just play it cool?

Aloofly,
Forlorn and Friendless

P.S. – He has nuclear weapons and so do I, if that matters any.

I told F.A.F. that we often have to put on a show to get what we want, and bringing empty outrage to the table can occasionally make a difference in negotiations. So I was going to tell you to pull out all the stops and let your head explode over this one, just to see if you can get a few concessions in the process.

But your postscript gave me pause. Sometimes there are good reasons to keep the temperature as low as possible. I’d say in this case we don’t want any emotional scenes or misunderstandings. It sounds like you’re both capable of rash actions that would be hard to undo.
Since the neighborhood bully wants more land, maybe there’s part of your yard you could cede to him as a substitute for the one he took over – a harmless swap just to defuse the conflict. You wouldn’t have to give him anything important, just some weedy waterlogged area that is a pain to look after even under normal circumstances. Some place like the state of Florida, for example.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Spooked Shopper Stopped Short

Today’s post comes from my favorite advice column. We are ALL Dr. Babooner.

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Gleeful Goods, the supermarket I frequent, has made great customer engagement its #1 goal, and they’ve even given their business name a tagline – “The Gladdest Grocery on Earth.” Normally I would be in favor of this because I think every business should strive for excellence when it comes to making guests feel welcome.

But each time I go to Gleeful’s they are so overly pleased to see me it’s starting to feel creepy.

The people who re-stock the produce bins pat me on the back with their oniony-smelling hands, the butchers at the meat counter salute me with bloody knives, and one of the check-out girls shrieks with delight every time I approach her lane.

I find this unsettling.

Plus, I know that every member of the staff is required to be enthusiastic about making connections with the customer, and having held a job for over 40 years I know how non-managerial people can secretly rebel against administrative directions through over-compliance, so I’m starting to wonder if their eerily intense interest in me is actually ironic. Or worse!

I don’t want to disappoint them by not showing up, but just the thought of going there gives me a bit of a stomachache. Although experts say you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, so my odd reaction to Gleeful’s over-the-top customer engagement effort is probably saving me some money.

Emotionally, it’s just getting too complicated to shop for food.

Dr. Babooner, should I change supermarkets, or take an antacid and stick to my routine?

Unsetteledly,
Shopped Out Of Luck

I told Shopped that because she is simultaneously put off by the thought that her supermarket friends care both too much and too little, I suspect she is looking for a place that has achieved a distinctly Midwestern flavor of attentive indifference. Such a perfect balance may be impossible to find near her home, so if she doesn’t feel comfortable, she should try changing stores.

I also told her she should write back to tell me how it goes, though I won’t hold my breath waiting to hear. That should be about right.

But that’s only one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner
We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Last week, people at my office became very upset over figure skating.

My cubicle-mate started a petition demanding that the United Nations, NATO, Interpol, the Red Cross and the International Monetary Fund look into the judging of the Women’s Figure Skating final at the Olympics. I didn’t sign it because I could see how potentially dangerous all this talk might become.

On Friday morning I was proven right when the receptionist got into an argument with a visitor about technical versus artistic scoring protocols and she hurled a stapler at the guest. I don’t know all the details but a witness says the guy who made the unfortunate remark did three full rotations and a somersault while jumping out of the way, which impressed everyone even though he crashed into the water cooler, which cost some points.

After that, our office manager sent around a decree that figure skating talk is not safe for work. He warned that anyone caught violating this new policy would be dismissed.

I was relieved to hear it because I think figure skating on the Olympic level amounts to child abuse. Extremely young people are relentlessly driven to give up what we consider ordinary lives to strive for some unobtainable “perfect” ideal, and then are forced by stern coaches to perform under incredible stress for cheating judges in front of a voracious, unsympathetic media.

This, I argued, exposes young, still-developing brains to a level of pressure and instant judgment that goes well beyond the trials and tribulations of holding an adult job, which is something the 14 and 15 year-olds out there on the ice are not even allowed to do.

Of course my cube-mate told the office manager what I said and I was fired immediately for breaking the ice conversation rule even though I did get credit for the originality of my comments and the dress I was wearing that day, which had a few sequins and just the right number of ruffles to be expressive and flirty without crossing the line into trashiness.

Dr. Babooner, I’m not denying that I made a technical error – I knew the rules. I’m proud that I gave it everything I had and didn’t hold back. But I’m not sure I want to re-enter the job market again, knowing how arbitrary and heartbreaking it can be even when you are very nearly perfect in everything you do. Friends have suggested that I was mistreated and should sue for every penny I can get, but I’m hesitant.

Should I complain, or carry on?

Yours truly,
Harshly Judged

I told Harshly that people who complain about unfair dismissal are often justified and sometimes vindicated but they almost always get labeled as whiners. Rather than sue on an employment claim, I suggested that she return to the office as a visitor and while waiting, try saying something that will set off that unstable receptionist. It might sting a bit to let the stapler hit its mark, but an assault charge is more winnable than a job discrimination claim.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner

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We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale – a tale of a fateful trip! It started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, the skipper brave and sure, and everything that happened next is mostly conjecture.
We’re really not too sure!

The Skipper says a storm blew up. It swamped them more than once. They went off course and drifted for a year and several months. When I say “them” I really mean the Skipper, not the mate. The matey starved and perished on an unrecorded date.
He might have dressed a plate!

I say that ’cause the Skipper recently has come ashore. He says he lived on turtle’s blood. I think he needed more! He’s hairy and he’s tired but I’m really not impressed. If he has drifted sixteen months he’d look much more distressed.
A whole lot more distressed!

The media is hungry for some truth about this trip. It’s hard to say what happened and I don’t want to be flip. But if this is a hoax the Skipper’s name will soon be mud. And if the story’s true I’ll drink a pint of turtle’s blood.
I doubt it will taste good!

Dr. Babooner, is it wrong to make a bet with on the true outcome of a tragi-miracle like this?

Sincerely,
Mary Ann

I told Mary Ann it is in very poor taste to make light of a story like this one because a life was lost in the process and innocent newscasters everywhere may have been duped. But I wager that even the terribly poor taste of placing a bet on the true outcome of this story would not leave a flavor in your mouth that’s any worse than a pint of turtle’s blood. Yuk!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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Ask Dr. Babooner

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We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I work in a tiny collection booth in a parking lot near the university. I started as a student there about thirty years ago, but I never made it through the philosophy courses I needed and dropped out a few credits shy of graduation. So six days a week, fifty two weeks a year I climb into my little glass-and-plywood box to scan tickets and make change. It’s a pretty crummy job – kind of like sitting out in a open field all day except I get extra helpings of car exhaust. Now the weather forecast says a historic cold wave is coming on Sunday night and Monday morning, and everybody around me is in a panic over it. The Governor has closed all the schools in the state, but he doesn’t have the power to cancel my job so I’ll basically put every last piece of clothing I own, just like I do most every day in the month of January, and head in.

I’ve made a name for myself by being chatty and pleasant when drivers stop at the window to pay their fees. I joke with them and smile and wish them a pleasant day and I never complain about anything even though some people try to get me to do it, especially when the weather is extreme. Of course I’d like an air conditioner or a space heater, do you think I’m not human? But the customers will never hear me say it because I’m trying to project a more positive image. They’ve given me a cute nickname because I’m so upbeat, even though every now and then someone wonders how I handle the tedium of such a dead end job. I usually say “You’re the one who’s driving into a dead end and paying me for the privilege. So I’ll take my job over yours any day.” We both have a good laugh over that but what I’m really thinking is “My job wouldn’t be so tedious if you weren’t so boring.”

It’s important to know the difference in the way it feels to say something out loud as opposed to just saying it in your head. So far so good.

Anyway, on Monday I know a bunch of my customers will encourage me to gripe about the cold. I’m determined not to do it but I’m afraid hypothermia might make me slightly delusional and I could slip and start to get crabby about how they don’t insulate the booth and how bringing a space heater would short out the cheapskate power strip they put in and that would crash the computer and cause a back up in the exit lane which would lead to a lot of fist-shaking rage and refund demands not to mention the huge plume of exhaust that would collect around my work area, which would probably give me lung cancer and make me die, though not soon enough.

Obviously those are some pretty dark thoughts. I pretend to be upbeat but I might be a nihilist though I’m not sure. If I asked one of the professors to explain existential philosophy to me while I ran her Visa card, the cars would back up in the exit lane which would lead to a lot of fist-shaking rage and refund demands and so forth and so on and we would wind up in the same unhappy place. And now comes this weather, which really has me down.

Dr. Babooner, I don’t really have a question for you, I just wanted to say things to someone in a string of words that lasts for more than eight seconds. Thanks for hearing me out and have an awesome day!

Sincerely,
Cheerful Chuck

I told Cheerful Chuck to keep up the good work. Having a job that gives you lots of time to think and very little time to speak is much better than having a job with lots of time to speak and very little time to think, which is what you get when you’re a politician, a pundit or a disc jockey. But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner
We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I was traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday and found myself in the San Francisco airport suffering from an undue amount of stress because I had just been told by an unsympathetic gate agent that my baggage was headed to Cincinnati while I was returning home to Minnesota.

I have spent all my life suppressing feelings of rage and I was in the process of quashing these latest destructive urges as well when all of a sudden I found myself on the edge of a hysterical screaming fit. It was as if every bit of frustration I had  experienced for any reason at any time was going to come pouring out of me in the form of an extremely dramatic tantrum.

Just then, a volunteer approached with a dog that was wearing a “Pet Me” vest. I fell to my knees and hugged the animal as the savior that he was while his handler explained that several dogs had been dispatched throughout the airport as a stress-relief measure.

She explained that this particular dog, whose name was ‘Toby’, was exceptionally good-natured. “Toby has never done anything inappropriate,” she said. “He is a model canine citizen.”  She noted that Toby had already pulled several distressed travelers back from the brink of madness that very day.

As I petted Toby I felt years of built-up rage leave my body – not just the anger that had erupted over my lost baggage but anger tied to the emotional baggage I had started collecting the day I was born. I was elated to sense these poisonous feelings were leaving my body, but at the same time I noticed that Toby’s eyes got wide and his muscles tensed up.  The more I embraced him, the more relaxed I became and the more agitated he seemed.   

I told the volunteer how very grateful I was for the relief Toby had provided. As I watched them walk down the concourse, I watched Toby’s gait stiffen a bit, and when they were right in front of a crowded TCBY I was horrified to see Toby pause, glance over his shoulder at me, wink, and poop.

Now I’m concerned that I have poisoned Toby with my years of accumulated stress and may have turned him from a “model canine citizen” into a very naughty dog.

I’d like to find Toby again and take back some of my offloaded negativity so he can live a happy life. But I don’t know what sort of human-canine interaction would allow stress to flow the other way. Do you?

Sincerely,
Dogwrecker

I told D.W. I”m not aware of any way you can recover stress from a dog once petting that dog has removed it from you.   Canines are notorious for being possessive, so don’t even try.  As for the ‘evidence’ that  Toby’s emotional equilibrium was upset by D.W.’s rage transfer, a little bit of awkwardly placed poop is a small thing in the universe of potential dog mischief.  For me, the real question raised by this story is this:  How do you teach a dog to wink?

But that’s just one opinion.  What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?  

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I am appalled … APPALLED! … that more stores are making the decision to open on Thanksgiving Day.

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The sad fact is – a covetous frenzy has already swallowed the formerly peaceful time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now now comes this terrible news that the disease has spread into Thanksgiving Day – the last major holiday we had that offered any shred of solemnity or respite from commercialism. Thanksgiving is a family day and it’s supposed to be spent WITH family, not in the company of depressed store clerks who were forced to leave THEIR families so they could put in a few hours earning the miserable pittance their chain-store masters pay them. What a travesty!

Having said that, I have to admit that I’d really love to get out of the house as soon as the meal is done.

I always spend the several days preceding T-Day as well as early Thanksgiving morning working like a woman possessed to get everything ready for the feast. I plan the meal, I cook the meal and I serve the meal. When it’s time to do the dishes, my (male, mostly) relatives sit back in the living room and groan and grouse like they’ve done something difficult by merely eating, while I and a few other females are left to clean up.

Getting an early jump on Christmas shopping and scoring some amazing deals is just the excuse I need to leave those slugs with the dirty dishes. And I have to admit it – going to the mall is a form of relaxation for me.

Dr. Babooner, I hate it that Christmas has invaded Thanksgiving. Would it be wrong to shop anyway?

Conflictedly,
Buyer’s Remorse in Advance.

I told BRIA that since she does all the necessary work to get the Thanksgiving meal on the table, she does not need an “excuse” to skip doing the dishes. The decision by several major retailers to open for business on Thanksgiving Day has put her in a terrible position. I told Bria she Must Not Shop on Thanksgiving Day, no matter how alluring the deals. But if a bargain materializes that is too good to pass up, she can send one of the groaning lugs from her living room with a fistful of cash. The chances are good that he hates shopping, and his loutish presence at the bargain bin mosh pit may cause the corporate gun-jumpers to reconsider their strategy.

And as an alternative, he might volunteer to clean up instead!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

ann_landers-baboon-2-copy

My husband and I just put our house on the market and I have a real estate question for you.

He is a scientist who uses rats to do research on addiction. Last year, he decided to experiment at home with an idea he had at work – that rats might find Oreo cookies to be as addictive as cocaine.

This was the kind of experiment he couldn’t get government funding for at the institution where he works – that’s why the study was set up in our laundry room. I objected, of course, because even with the precautions he took with regular clean-up and freshening the cages and whatnot, all my skirts started to smell like a Rat Barracks after a few short weeks. In part this is because he had to keep all the windows shut and doors closed on account of the presence of the cocaine and the fact that we live next door to an Elementary School.

Like I said, he was doing it on the sly.

Anyway, he started to find out that the Oreos are just as addictive as the other stuff. And with Double Stuff, the Oreos are TWICE as compelling. They have more allure than morphine.

It was all very exciting.

In fact, it was so promising, my husband got some federal funding and moved his experiments back into the lab.

Meanwhile, a few of the rats escaped and now we have a problem with a worthless bunch of O-heads back at the house. I mean it – they got totally hooked on Oreos and now they don’t want to eat ANYTHING else. At all. And even though we stopped buying the cookies, we live next door to an elementary school (I know I said that already) and the children regularly bring contraband out into the schoolyard.

Now the emboldened rats are literally chasing children on the playground just to score some of that lunchbox gold. It’s a good thing the tykes aren’t armed, though I know the NRA wants them to be. I’m afraid the random, panicked shooting would perforate our house.

Anyway, I’ve sworn off Oreos and I’ve told my husband he can no longer bring his work home – our neighborhood is terrorized by red-eyed vermin with blackened teeth and milk keeps disappearing from the refrigerator for no apparent reason.

So, back to the real estate question – I’m afraid that if we’re able to move, the new owners will quickly discover the local rats are crazed and the structure will have to be abandoned and possibly burned. I tried to find a way to disclose this on the Truth In Housing form but I couldn’t find a blank space big enough.

Dr. Babooner, is it always best to tell everyone the complete truth?

Sincerely,
N. Festashun

I told “N” that telling everyone the complete truth all the time would be exhausting and probably impossible. But there are some things one shouldn’t gloss over, and selling someone a house possessed by demon, cookie-craving rats is probably one of those things. Unfortunately. The real moral of this story is that grown-ups should leave their work at work.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

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Recently I made a very public attempt to live out an ambitious dream by suspending myself under a whole bunch of big balloons with the announced intention of riding the wind across the Atlantic Ocean. My reasons for wanting to do this are not very sophisticated. I remember thinking as a child that with enough balloons, a strong piece of string and a tight grasp, a guy could travel just about anywhere.

When I grew up I gave it a try and discovered that with all three of those things a guy COULD travel just about anywhere. And I mean anywhere. Especially if the winds are changeable.

Upon lifting off with all my big balloons and setting a course towards London (I can’t really set a course, of course), I discovered that I was floating towards the North Pole instead. But then I remembered what Diana Nyad said about pursuing your goal single-mindedly and never, ever giving up. When she swam from Havana to Key West in shark-and-jellyfish-infested waters, she proved that a person with enough determination can, through perseverance, write her own story.

So I considered calling Diana Nyad to ask her if she could grab the rope in her teeth, jump in the water, and tow my balloon cluster at least 90 miles closer to England. But I decided that would be cheating.

Eventually I landed and gave up, even though I could probably have survived all my altitude and direction problems. I wanted to accomplish something that would give my life some meaning, only to realize that life is too short to waste a lot of time trying to manufacture meaning for a thing as ephemeral as life, especially if you need a lot of balloons to do it.

I mean, sure it was a dream. But not a dream that HAD to come true. It was just an interesting thing I thought of one night while trying to come up with a way to get out of school the next day because I hadn’t done my homework. I managed to get out of fourth grade anyway so I guess the need for a daring balloon escape isn’t quite so urgent. But I’d been telling people about for years, so I felt like I needed to follow through.

Now I’ll have to explain to my friends and family, who financed me and cheered me on in this wacky notion, why I’m not a big fat loser. Any suggestions?

Lightly,
Flo Tation

I told Flo there is no reason to explain anything to anybody. You tried to fly ACROSS AN OCEAN using A BUNCH OF BALLOONS. Even in your Fourth Grade Fantasies, this ended badly more than half the time (although in those cases you were usually eaten by dragons and sea monsters). Accept the attempt as a learning experience, a life lesson, and a story you’ll always be able to tell. And if it gets you a chance to meet Diana Nyad, I say you’ve come out ahead.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?