Always Tip, Never Make Eye Contact!

Dear Uptight Seattleite, Why can't people in this city use their turn signals?Chicago Driver

Dear Chicago, Even as they flutter down like confetti at a hero's parade, I strive to ignore questions about Seattle driving habits. Mostly because we've covered this already. I know not everyone reads every week, and that's OK. But there are certain topics on which I've offered up everything I have, and driving is one of them. Besides, I'm guessing the real reason you wrote in is to complain. That sounded harsh, so let me explain. I know it's sometimes necessary to vent. Dubya would give me a brain aneurysm on a daily basis if I didn't commiserate with friends. But blow too much anger through your pipes and it could leave a black, tarry buildup. That's why I try to live in a more positive place (and also why I finally bought an herbal vaporizer). That reminds me: I appreciate all the kind words since the death of my best friend, Kunio. I still have bad days, but try to stay busy. Among other things, I've dug out my bass and started jamming again with my old band, the Cool Uncles. We cover the basics, stuff you can't go wrong with, like the Doobies, the Little River Band, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. See, Chicago, I discovered that reconnecting with music was what I was meant to do. And the mortality of a loved one, Chicago, was the only "signal" I needed. It's something you might want to consider yourself, Chicago. Oh, we also play some Chicago. Steve-O does the horn parts on his keyboard. Dear Uptight Seattleite, The other day when I threw the usual buck into my barista's tip jar, she happened to be looking the other way, so it looked like I hadn't tipped at all. Should there be some kind of notification system for tips, like a little bell or something?Rickety Tipper Timmy

Dear Rickety Tipper Timmy, You've probably heard the saying, "That and a dime will get you a cup of coffee." It dates from an age unburdened with real-time knowledge of the world's great cruelty. These days your laptop is a window into Darfur villages burning on Google Earth, and your latte is the beige bull's-eye of a series of concentric circles of shame. The outermost circle is composed of the misery of the people who pick the beans. The next circle, in this series that will eventually lap onto the shores of Caffe Ladro, is described by the trail of pollution left by the planes and trucks that deliver the beans. Even so, our faith in our own idealism is strong, bolstered by the higher prices we pay and the smiling black and brown faces in those fair-trade brochures. If this faith crumbles at its edges into sentimentality, isn't that still better than not giving a damn? As I put it in a poem that I recently submitted to Metro: A certain hope, disdained by the cynical, in the power of collective action burns yet on, burns yet on, in my throat now. But your question concerned the innermost circle of shame, your interaction with the stylish-and-yet-no-insurance-having worker who prepares your beverage. The only clear rule is that if they ever say "thanks," you've blown it. You want the tip to be noticed, but you don't want any acknowledgment of your superior financial position. Drop that dollar immediately after receiving your change while smiling blankly at a point six inches to the left of your barista's face. Good luck! Dear Uptight Seattleite, How can Seattle fully implement a ban on chain stores? San Francisco did it in Hayes Valley (see enclosed clipping from The New York Times Magazine). Also, do you like my stationery?Love,

Boutique Betty

Dear Betty, What a lovely name you have! Those are some mighty firm loops in that first letter. And, yes, your stationery from the 2004 Human Rights Film Festival is also lovely. I didn't make it that year, but have sipped many a plastic cup of chardonnay in past years, standing on one foot in the lobby between Bangkok prostitute testimonials and Hutu-Tutsi tribunals. And of course you're right about chain stores. Very bad. Hate those things. If you'd like to discuss this a little bit more, come down on New Year's Eve to Big Daddy's Place in Woodinville, where the other Uncles and I are going on at about 10. Hey, and that goes for everyone else, too. After our special tribute to Dan Fogelberg, I'm going to take the mike for "Saturday in the Park." When I sing, "Can you dig it?" Steve-O sings, "Yes, I can!" Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to

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