For reasons too boring to get into, I am often asked for advice. Usually by people who don’t know me, since people who do wouldn’t make that mistake. Here’s a recent selection from my in-box:
Q: What is the rule on sharing the armrest in movie theatres and on flights? Should I insist on my space? Please rush your answer. The movie is about to start.
A: This involves a judgement call. If you think you can get away with grabbing the entire area with a well-laid out elbow and adjoining body parts, go right ahead. There’s nothing more irritating than having someone who could do it but doesn’t because of timidity or pusillanimity, sometimes both. This is the attitude that ensures that neither you nor your neighbour gets a significant portion of the space available. As my nanny used to say, waste not want not. There is something to be said for the ‘first-come-first-grab’ technique, so make sure you arrive at your seat a good hour before the movie starts. On flights you might have to carry an artfully concealed pin to make the other fellow imagine there is something wrong with the armrest with an artfully employed poke. If nothing works, a good scream usually does. Irrationality moves mountains.
Q: I spilled black coffee on my laptop. What should I do?
A: Get another cup. If you are – like some funny people – more worried about the machine than the coffee, here are a number of steps you could follow, either singly or in combination:
a) Quickly pour some milk into the laptop in case the person employed to suck out the coffee prefers it with milk.
b) Walk around the rest of the month with the laptop held open and hope gravity does the rest. You might not de-coffee it completely, but you could develop strong calves and shoulders.
c) Pour coffee into the laptop of the person working next to you and see how he handles it. Then do exactly as he does.
d) Detach the detachable battery. If your machine doesn’t have a detachable one, detach anyway.
e) Cover the keypad with coffee-slurping bacteria – nobody knows yet if these exist, so you could be the first to discover them.
Q: My friend tells me that if you stand beside someone playing golf and shout “boo” just as he is about to address the ball, he is likely to get angry. Is this true?
A: Your question is ambiguous. When you say “he is likely to get angry”, do you mean your friend or the man addressing the ball? And what is the proper form of address anyway? Your Dimpleness?