Dear Uptight Seattleite,I'd taken a day off from my job and was waiting in line at the coffee shop. A guy in front of me with his two young sons ordered something called a "steamer" for himself and hot chocolate for his kids, then was so indecisive about his muffin options that his order took at least five minutes. When they finally got it all, they proceeded to fan out, with each family member taking up a four-person table. Three people, 12 seats taken. I got my coffee but had nowhere to sit with my laptop. Should I have sat down with one of the little kids and pretended he wasn't there? Or just stood there broadcasting nonverbally at the totally oblivious dad?Mike the Sauna Builder
Dear Mike,Even if I could tell you what you should have done, this information won't do you any good—unless I give you a time machine along with it. I think you've already met your need here, in any case, which was to articulate a story involving yourself as a victim and the other man as the villain. And that's great! You've just performed a basic human function. Narratives are how we make sense of the world. Something to ask, though—and I'm just throwing this out there—is whether you're telling yourself a SUSTAINING story or a RESTRAINING story.Then again, I just saw a super-slow-motion video of a mosquito being killed by Nathan Myhrvold's special laser, so maybe a time machine isn't that far off. If you do manage to make your way back to the other day, I recommend focusing on the first on the list of infractions committed by this traveling family circus of discourtesy: the "steamer." I don't know what that is, but I don't think it exists. If it does, I strongly sense it doesn't belong here. Let the man know this, too. Hover over him with your laptop in your arms and ask, "Are you enjoying your steamer?" If he says yes, ask, "So it's a good steamer?" Then whatever else he says, reply: "Steamer." Enlist the other people inconvenienced by this family to start chanting "Steamer, steamer, steamer," softly at first, then louder and louder, stomping and pounding the tables in time.Also, don't forget to tell the barista that you're a visitor from the future so you don't end up paying for the same coffee twice.Dear Uptight Seattleite,Can you call dibs on a baby name? An acquaintance and I are both pregnant, and she recently sent me an e-mail that said "If we have a boy, we're naming him Aiden, which is a family name. So all the rest are up for grabs. ;)" Forty-five minutes later, she sent me this from her BlackBerry: "Sorry, Ryan corrected me. It's Adrian, not Aiden. :)" I'm pretty irritated. What's my move?Babs
Dear Babs,Not being a reproducer, I'm at a disadvantage when it comes to things baby. It seems to me, however, that this woman is trying to create a bubble, centered on her uterus and containing the uteruses of everyone she knows, within which she has the power to decree what baby names can and cannot be used. The most effective way to burst this bubble is to tell her that you were so confused by her two e-mails that you ended up naming your baby Aidendrian (pronounced ay-DIN-dree-an). If you want to continue to make your point, instruct your child to follow her child around for his entire life, and whenever he says "I'm Adrian," have your child say "And I'm Aidendrian!"Dear Uptight Seattleite,Just now I heard my wife yelling from the next room something like, "Huck! Huck! Hoo huckin az-ho!" I eventually gathered she was cursing me for drinking all the water in the Brita and not refilling it, leaving her with a pill in her mouth that she was unable to swallow. I was going to ask her why she didn't just use some tap water, but didn't want to risk further antagonizing her. Any communication tips for situations like this?Danny Ainge
Dear Danny,Just as I'm a stranger to babies, I'm also unmarried, so there's a limit to what I can tell you. But I'm not sure anyone can tell you anything. Married people sometimes ask third parties to render a judgment in some disagreement they're having—as if they're seeking some element of justice they feel is missing from the relationship. Maybe this is what you want, Danny. But as best as I can tell, each marriage is like a moving train car in one of Einstein's thought experiments, with its own measurements of matter, time, and justice. These things are unknowable to the people standing on the platform as the train goes by at its own particular fraction of the speed of light. So I'm really speaking as a double outsider when I say that there are times when cowering in abject submission is your only option.Questions? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.