I’ve decided to stop handing out free advice; people just don’t appreciate it. For example I know someone who likes to travel; her home and office are infested with souvenir snow globes she picks up wherever she goes. I suggested she just find out what factory in China makes them all and buy a box filled with ones named after places she wants to visit over the next thirty years. That way she could get her beloved globes without the expense and hassle of actually leaving home.
Was she grateful for this excellent suggestion? Au contraire—her response was frosty, to say the least.
I foolishly made a comment about an acquaintence's new boyfriend. "That skull with the bleeding eye sockets on his bicep’s pretty good for prison ink," I mused. "But he should probably wear a long-sleeved shirt when he applies for that dishwashing job at Denny’s." She fixed me with an icy glare. "Your problem," she said, "is that you’re just a bitter, cynical troglodyte with no idea of what it means to be in love."
Well! I suppose she told me. But I hold no grudges; when she gets home from work some day to find a bare spot on the floor with a few loose wires and dust bunnies where her TV and stereo used to live, nary an "I told you so" shall pass my lips.
The group least receptive to neighborly advice seems to be parents whose children are acting up in public. One time on a city bus a young boy kept kicking the back of my seat, so I turned around and mentioned it to the man he was traveling with. Without looking up from his magazine, the gentleman muttered, "Stop kickin’ the seat." The little darling stopped but after a minute resumed kicking. I turned around again. "Traveling with a young child can be difficult," I said with a friendly smile. "Have you considered freeze drying him? You could store him in a Zip-Loc bag and when you reach your destination just slip him into a warm bathtub. Voila! Instant Tyke. "
He just frowned. "What are you, some kinda (expletive deleted) wise guy? Why don’t you just turn the (expletive deleted) around and mind your own (expletive deleted) business.” Having thus resolved the matter, he returned his attention to Busty Milkmaids Quarterly while his spawn continued thumping the back of my seat.
More good advice wasted. So take it from me; next time someone tells you, "I’m cashing in my pension to buy a ferret ranch in Tierra del Fuego, " or "I think a few drops of cod liver oil would really perk up these Margaritas," just nod and smile. Because nobody wants to hear what you really think.
Of course, that’s just my opinion…
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. A short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. He has been selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.”