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Dear readers: With this installment of Queries – just the third – I’m enjoying my role of advice columnist at least as much as I anticipated. I teach interview, so I better like questions. And those who know me know that I’m prone to giving advice, with hopes – of course – that it may be of some value at least now and again. So let’s get right to the questions.


Dear Queries,

I was sitting outside at a café in my typical small college town when some bruiser-looking guy walked up yammering into his phone as he sat down at the table next to mine. Okay, I’ve become accustomed to hearing people talk into their phones anyplace and everyplace. Who isn’t these days? But this guy at the café wasn’t just sharing his side of the conversation with the rest of us. He punched up the incoming line on the phone’s loudspeaker. And a loud speaker it was. We were all captive audience to their chat. I nodded to him and in a polite but firm voice requested, “May I ask you to shut off the speaker, please?” He scowled at me and complained, “I’ll just leave.” Which he did. 

Here’s my question. Was I possibly in the wrong? Did I intrude on his right to talk? Would I have asked him to pipe down if he and his buddy both were sitting next to me and were talking in loud voices?

Signed, Annoyed Off Campus

Dear Annoyed,

Mobile phones are both our nemesis and those invasive tools we can’t seem to do without. Of course you did the right thing. Loudmouth had no business infusing the café with his noisy chatter. But the issue is not whether you would have asked him to shut up if he were he sitting next to you. More than likely he and his buddy would not have been yelling were they both in the café in person. Social niceties would have kept them muzzled. Probably. I fear that in today’s world you asked Queries the wrong question. The more germane: Should you have been worried about retribution for interfering with his world. Should you have worried that your, “May I ask you to shut off the speaker, please?” could have easily resulted in you being on the receiving end of a punch in the mouth and a stolen phone? I fear, Gentle Reader (to quote Miss Manners, one of my heroes), that the answer these days is a guarded, “Yes.”

Unnecessary noise seems a theme this week.


Dear Queries,

The other day a Dodge Charger screamed down the street here in San Francisco and screeched to a stop at the red light at the end of the block. The light turned green and the Charger charged off with earsplitting sound accompanying its speed. Is this just another price I must pay to live in The City?

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Signed, Puzzled in The City

Dear Puzzled,

Baghdad-by-the-Bay (to quote another favorite columnist, Herb Caen) has no monopoly on jerks. That Charger could have been making its awesome noise, of course, wherever silly cars are driven. According to test drives by Car and Driver, if you buy the model with the available 485 horsepower engine, you can race down the block from zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds. Imagine the gas bill... At least the Charger wasn’t a Coal Roller, spewing black smoke along with the noise and burning rubber. Welcome to our California dystopia!


Finally for this week, this daunting, simple, and to-the-point query from one of my graduating journalism students.


Dear Queries,

What should I do in my twenties?”

Signed, A Pandemic Graduate

Dear Pandemic,

Since I am just back from Paris it’s easy to answer: Sell all your stuff, quit your job, and move to Paris! And that might not be bad advice. Or sell all your stuff, quit your job, and move someplace as romantic as Paris where the cost of living won’t send you scurrying home to America in a few months. Hard to imagine seeking adventure is necessarily bad advice – especially if you can figure out how to enjoy that adventure while practicing whatever you studied that you enjoyed. And since you studied journalism, the first post-grad assignment I’ll give you is to watch “The French Dispatch.” If that movie won’t encourage you sell all your stuff and move to Paris, nothing will.

But this is a serious question with a myriad of appropriate answers. So let’s call on the Queries readership even this early in the column’s life (who knows how many are out there?) and solicit further advice.

Gentle Readers, what should Pandemic Graduate do during her precious twenties?