Dear Uptight Seattleite,One of the moms in my moms group invited me and Aiden to Japanese storytelling hour at Third Place Books in Ravenna. We don't understand Japanese, so I'm a little bit confused as to why she thought we would enjoy this. What do you think?Marianne
Dear Marianne,Sugoi! That's Japanese for GREAT! And while I'm not a reproducer myself, great is what I think exposing your child to a foreign language is. It's fine if he doesn't know the language. It's actually better that way. Making your child listen to a story he can't understand is like baptizing him in a streaming fountain of pure, undifferentiated diversity. Comprehension isn't the point. Your child will get something far finer: Enrichment.You apparently think exposing your child to his minimum daily requirement of enrichment is some kind of dull chore. That it's nothing of the kind can be seen in the glow of joy parents have when they mention the ethnicity of their nanny. They know, as you apparently do not, that the benefits of having someone be Chinese or Mexican at their child (Chinese-American or New Mexican will do in a pinch) are ineffable. Magical beams of pure enrichment shoot from the eyes of these immigrants as they serve juice boxes to Anglo children.What I think the mom in your moms group was trying to say, in a nice way, is that even if you don't love your child enough to have the money to hire a nanny, you could at least take little Aiden to hear an incomprehensible story.Dear Wise One,I ride the bus to and from work. This time of year, my bus drivers often sport unbuttoned short-sleeved shirts (perhaps even rolled up to show bicep) and no hats, and they have the heat cranked up to equatorial levels. We passengers are dressed for the weather outside. Some drivers reprimand me forcefully when I try to open a window. Is there a polite way to suggest to them that the bus is for the convenience and comfort of passengers rather than drivers?Marcus
Dear Marcus,Bus-window openers: Heroes or dastards? That's not a word I use often, but I heard Jimmy Carter say that Joe ("You lie!") Wilson was "dastardly." It's hard to imagine now, but there was a real sense of optimism when Jimmy Carter took office. Seeing him in his cardigan in the Oval Office made you feel like the decent people were back in charge again. Of course, the country was soon tricked into seeing this cardigan-wearing decency as weakness. Jimmy Carter never let us down, though. We let him down. I don't want the same thing to happen to Obama, so I hope everyone will do something concrete to support him, such as sending him positive energy through the ether.Getting back to whether bus-window openers are heroes or dastards: They're actually both. And neither. It's like the Penny Paradox: The only way to keep from getting more pennies is always to have some in your pocket. Just so, letting fresh air into a steamy bus will both benefit your fellow commuters and make them resent you. They can't directly express disapproval, but neither can they thank you, because that would be a tacit admission that they also wanted the window open but were too timid to do it themselves.Apparently this silent complexity doesn't bother you, Marcus, but do you have an exit strategy if you're unable to get the window open? The people who otherwise avert their eyes will all be staring as you turn your back to wrestle with the latch. If you find the window doesn't open, you should step down quickly instead of extending your defeat with prolonged fiddling.Let's say you do successfully get past sticky latches and the stony silence of your fellow commuters. One thing you can never surmount is the opposition of drivers. Your notion that drivers are somehow subservient to us, and that there is some "polite" way to tell them this, is a bit shocking. The "thank you"s of exiting bus riders should tell you that it's actually the other way around: The bus is the driver's sovereign domain, which we are allowed to enter only as a special favor. If they choose to make this domain a greenhouse of infectious diseases, all you can do is cultivate acceptance.* * *A reader named B Free has the lowdown on a question that came up the other day: What happens to bugs that go up your nose and don't come out? He writes, "Bugs up the nose, called buggers, are coated with mucus and fly out with the next sneeze." Bless you, B Free.Questions? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.