It's Not How Much You Spent on Your Bike That's Important

Dear UTS,How do I avoid feeling self-conscious when people ask how much I spent on my bike?Campagnolo Bob

Dear Bob,Bob! Knowing what "high performance" means isn't a crime! When people don't share this knowledge, that's their problem, not yours. Replace that apologetic attitude with sympathy for these people. Sadly tell them, "It's a little different when your bike is your primary form of transportation," knowing they can't understand.Dear Uptight Seattleite,Bravo, Uptight, for standing up for small bookstores (A Sensitive Liberal's Guide to Life book excerpt, 3/3/10). Which is why I'm sure you'll be having your publisher contact Amazon, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and similar plastic, corporate greedheads and having them cancel their orders for your book so that it can only be sold in righteous independently owned stores. And speaking of damage to the environment, wouldn't it have been more environmentally conscious to only release your book online? A whole lot of trees are going to get chewed up to publish hard copies!"skimmer"

Dear "skimmer,"First of all, "skimmer," your use of a pseudonym makes it hard to establish the kind of neighborly bond between us that might help you learn something. Even so, I hope you'll consider the case of another book, The Story of Stuff, by a woman named Annie Leonard, who tells us not to buy so much stuff. Some people have wondered about this—doesn't her book also qualify as "stuff"? Well, not exactly, and here's where I wish I could bring that neighborly bond to bear by looking at you earnestly over the top of my glasses. You see, since people who buy the book are inspired to not buy other stuff, the overall effect is subtractive of stuff. The Story of Stuff is a piece of anti-stuff, a green hole sucking the excess out of the bloated American lifestyle. Just so, my book—though it may travel through mainstream distribution channels—carves out brand-new channels of its own. Channels of discourse. Does that make sense? If not, you might want to pick up the book.Dear Uptight Seattleite,Why do people leave so much broken crap in front of their houses with "Free" signs? When did this become an acceptable way to dispose of your junk?Boo to That

Dear Boo,This is the other side of stuff: simplification. If there are differently privileged people willing to haul away my old espresso maker, the one with a broken seal, that makes it simpler for me.Dear Uptight Seattleite,What's with people who open doors just barely wide enough for them to wedge their bodies through—sidewise—then let go without even looking to see if someone is behind them? Never mind men holding doors for women, that's just rude HUMAN behavior, and I've never seen it anywhere but Seattle.Tweedy Jacket Jane

Dear Jane,You're apparently unfamiliar with the Native American cosmos, in which nature isn't something to "own," but a harmony to participate in. Native Americans would step though the landscape on the lightest of feet, leaving as little trace as possible. And so it is with some of us as we shuffle though doors at the bank or library, expending as little energy as possible. Asking as little from the world as we give. What's the word? That's right, it's our friend "simplicity" again.Besides, I wonder if you'd really be satisfied with people holding the door for you, Jane. Before long, you'd probably also expect a little salute, and then you'd want doors removed from their hinges altogether and your path lined with razor-topped fences of the kind the white man used to choke the free-roaming Native spirit out of the continent. The ego will become an all-consuming monster if you let it, Jane.Dear Uptight Seattleite,When I went to use the men's room on the seventh floor of Macy's, it was being cleaned. Before I could discover this for myself, some guy brusquely announced, "It's closed!" What was the point of calling this out to me one second before I could read the sign for myself?Motorcycle Danny

Dear Danny,Um...Because of simplicity? No, that doesn't quite fit, does it? Hmmm, I think this is one where I'm gonna have to say that I just don't know. And, wow, you know what? It felt great to say that. I might have to think about saying it more often.Annie Leonard will talk about stuff at Town Hall on Wed., March 24 at 7:30 p.m.

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