Dear Uptight Seattleite,Can we talk about the word "underwhelmed"? It sums up everything I hate about this town of prigs who aren't impressed, can't dance, and can't hold a conversation to save their lives. Especially with someone who doesn't already agree with them about absolutely everything. Oh, you're all "underwhelmed" are you? Why don't you uncross your arms, get off your ass, and do something?Ed From Ohio
Dear Ed,Mahatma Gandhi! I think you just singed me whiskers! Sorry, just doing a little of my Yosemite Sam there. Do you have a favorite cartoon character you like to imitate, Ed? Or some other funny voice you sometimes do? Try it in the mirror sometime! Call yourself a scoundrel in a goofy pirate voice. It might be just what you need first thing in the morning. It certainly helps me nurture a healthy frame of mind. To keep the waves from washing into my boat. Which, now that I think of it, is what "underwhelmed" literally means.Dear Uptight Seattleite,If we allow grocery-store workers to help us carry our bags to the car, are we exploiting them or merely taking advantage of a service that we've already paid for with our hefty grocery bill? And are there circumstances that make it more OK, like being disabled or having small children?Grocery Shoppin' Jeannette
Dear Jeannette,It's actually OK under any circumstances. So long as you do the following two to-dos. Your letter shows you've completed to-do number one, which is to reflect on your privileged position. Number two to-do is to transcend this position. In other words, you may have arrived in the land of Good for You!, but this is only a weigh station on your journey to What Was the Issue Again? Translation: You must learn to converse in a natural manner with the worker carrying your groceries. To show you're as comfortable with them as you are with people in your own income bracket.But what to talk about? Chances are the young man helping you is a sports fan. But don't worry! Even if you don't follow sports (I sure don't!), you can always make a joke about those dumb Oklahomans who stole our "b-ball" team. Maybe even take it as an opportunity to help open his mind to women's sports. "Hey, at least we still have the Storm," you can say with a hearty laugh. Another gambit is to show you know what it's like to be a working stiff. A good line for this is, "Hope you get off in time to enjoy some of this sunshine!" But—and this is very important—make sure this doesn't sound like some kind of inappropriate invitation. You might want to practice beforehand until you've achieved just the right tone of casualness. Good luck!Dear Uptight Seattleite,I was cruising down 23rd on my bike toward the U-District the other day, hitting 35 or 40 on the fat part of the incline, right where it feels like Capitol Hill is giving you a parting gift of momentum with a sassy bump of its ass. Then, bam! Everyone stopped. Traffic was frozen by the University Bridge, which had been raised for a couple of yachts on their way back to Port Madison or something. I found this to be an extreme indignity. Why do the boating rich have the right to freeze us in our tracks like peasants cowering before a queen?Free Wheelin' Sid
Dear Sid,A bridge goes up. It's a red light times 10. A full stop, a whole rest. Why fight it? Turn off the ignition, pull up the emergency brake, and recline the seat. Or in your case, Sid, join in the spontaneous camaraderie of your fellow cyclists at the gate as they kid each other about who's going to jump the bridge while it's going up, like in that scene from Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Be sure to notice how everyone gets quiet right before the bridge reaches its highest point, as if called into contemplation of the heavens it silently indicates.On the other hand, Sid, your point is well taken. It does seem unfair that boaters can cause gridlock at will. So what is this situation—an imposition or a gift? Both ways of looking at it have their merits. I think I'll have to call this one a draw. Hahaha! Get it? Just as an FYI though, the University Bridge is not actually a drawbridge. It's a double-leaf bascule bridge. Feel free to make a note of that.Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.