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I try to get along with the people in my neighborhood, but sometimes it can be difficult. Take for example my neighbor "Mahmoud." Last weekend while I was seeding my lawn, he drove back and forth slowly in front of my house "flipping the bird" from his minivan, which is painted with pictures of bloody corpses and mushroom clouds and "welcome 12th Imam." Normally I wouldn't have given it a second thought (I get "fingered" by a lot of the neighbors), but lately I've noticed he has been working on some kind of secret project in his garage with really stinky chemicals. Also, I've been getting these constant annoying 3 AM phone calls threatening to kill my kids.
Frankly, I'm sort of worried about the situation, but even the neighbors I get along with tell me I shouldn't jump to conclusions, and not to make a big deal of it. I don't want to make waves, but I also don't want to end up like the Goldbergs who had their house burned down last week. Am I being too much of a "worry wart"? Please help!
Concerned in Northbrook
Misunderstanding and mistrust is a two-way street, and it's important to ask yourself: what did I do to create this situation? Without thinking, sometimes the things we do can understandably trigger homicidal rage in our friends and neighbors. Put the shoe on the other foot -- how would you like it if you had a neighbor who was always showing you up with his big gas-guzzling SUV and manicured hedges?
Before things escalate further, you should take the initiative and invite Mahmoud over for coffee and chit chat. No preconditions, and maybe you could bring a pie from Bakers Square. While he is enjoying a delicious slice of Boston Cream, let Mahmoud know that you understand his feelings, and you will do whatever it takes to repair your tattered reputation in the neighborhood. As a show of good faith, why not offer him a few bags of fertilizer and fuel for his lawn mower?
My girlfriend and I have been talking about "taking it to the next level" and moving in together. The trouble is that she doesn't know I live in a Satanist-only condo complex. To tell you the truth I'm not really into the whole Satanism thing, and moved into the complex mostly because they offered me a free 10-speed bike with a one year lease. I'm also a member of the condo board, which knocks an extra $100 off my monthly lease, but it also means I have to attend the weekly goat sacrifice rituals.
I'm pretty sure my girlfriend would be freaked out if she found out the truth, but it will be sort of hard to hide it if she moves in. So far I've been able to keep it on the downlow, but I think she's already suspicious because when she comes over she sees all the pentangles and goat entrails in the parking lot. What should I do? My lease runs through October.
Stymied in Schaumburg
You'd be surprised by how easy it is to keep uncomfortable information from messing up a good relationship. Explain the situation to your co-Satanists, and I'm sure they will be willing to temporarily reschedule the sacrifice ceremonies and what-not around your girlfriend's work schedule. Once your lease is up, though, I'd suggest moving to a less Satanist-oriented apartment complex; there are several around Palatine and Arlington Heights, with very good lease options and near Metra stations. That way you can still attend the weekly sacrifice, and your girlfriend is none the wiser. Just tell her it's your "bowling night."
I love my wife, but frankly sometimes "Michelle" doesn't have the greatest social graces. I am a VP at a large industrial corporation and in line for a major promotion, so last weekend I invited the CEO and his wife to our house for dinner and cocktails. I was worried that Michelle might cause a scene, so before hand I reminded her over and over again how important it was that she make a good impression. When they showed up at the house, right after introductions, my CEO said, "you must be very proud of your husband." So Michelle says, "and you must be very embarrassed it took you stupid assholes four years to offer us a promotion."
And that was just the first uncomfortable silence. When Maria (our housemaid) was serving the salad course, she accidentally dropped a plate and Michelle started screaming at her. Then she looked at my boss and said, "sorry, it's impossible to hire anybody but idiots on the lousy $400,000 salary you cheap bastards pay us." Throughout dinner Michelle continued hectoring my boss about how screwed up my company is, and too obsessed with profits, and how she and I were going to fix all that, and why everyone probably should all drop out of the corporate world and become artists. To top it all off, during dessert she brought out her black velvet paintings of Che Guevara.
Anyway, this week at work my CEO hasn't returned any of my emails or phone messages. What should I do to get back on the career ladder?
Mortified in Lake Forest
First off, you need to stop treating "Michelle" as a liability. In fact, thanks to a little thing called the Americans With Disabilities Act, she could be your "ace in the hole"! Fire off an email to your CEO announcing that "Michelle" is diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, and if you get passed over for the promotion he will be looking down the barrel of a fat federal civil rights lawsuit. After you move up to that corner office, you can say thanks to "Michelle" by appointing her head of the corporate diversity outreach department.