What's your problem?
INDISPENSABLE ADVICE FROM REAL LIFE'S AGONY AUNT AND UNCLE
Sunday 18 October 1998
I feel I should give a personal opinion to your answers to the lady complaining about male thigh room in trains a few weeks ago. Most males find it uncomfortable to sit with their legs together, as the lady requested, and underground train-seats give the absolute minimum of space. She obviously hasn't thought about male physiology: we are not male rats or women with our reproductive organs within our abdomens. We males, like females, are not uniformly endowed, but whereas females have their bra sizes, which require no seatroom, the designers of male underwear have obviously found no answer to deal adequately with male physiology: waist sizes don't take account of the configurations of the area of the Second Chakra. Some men simply need a little more leg-room. It must be emphasised, of course, that a 90-degree span isn't really necessary.
Is that really true about male rats? That's the most fascinating fact I've heard all week.
Oh, come on. I can't believe that so many men are so well-endowed that they need to take up a double seat-quota. And if that were really the reason, we would all be applauding and giving up our seats voluntarily. If sitting down is so uncomfortable for all you poor souls, why don't you make a habit of standing and leaving the seats to the more neatly- designed female of the species? Also, persuasive and attractive as your theory is, it doesn't explain men's other spready propensities: grabbing both arm rests and unfurling their newspapers for yards around.
IT'S A DAD'S LIFE
I was interested to read Keith from Dover's problem last week, about not appearing too enthusiastic about fatherhood in front of his colleagues, and found your replies rather useful from a work-related point of view. I am in a similar position to Keith and I wonder if you have any further insights to add that are more related to one's social life? I have always enjoyed going to the pub after work with my friends, but lately I have found it a very empty experience. Sitting there in a companionable fug of fag smoke (of course I've given up myself) with a brimming pint in front of me, all I can think about is how much I want to be at home with my wife and baby. But I don't want to look like a wimp who can't hack it with the lads any more.
You must not allow the fact that you have become a father to completely obliterate your masculine personality. It is very unlikely that this desire not to go to the pub will last the 18 years until your baby can go with you, so do not risk alienating your drinking companions. By all means cut back on the number of your visits, but when you do go, force yourself to sit it out and have a good time - you'll soon get back into the swing of it!
I'm afraid that your whingeing about whether or not you actually enjoy the pub cuts absolutely no ice with me. Where is your wife while you are sitting there agonising about wanting to be at home? Presumably stuck at home and quite possibly wishing she was in the pub. Worrying about being in the pub but not having a good time is something that many mothers would see as an unimaginable luxury.
NOT SO HOT
I work in an office where there is a core of permanent staff and a number of freelance and casual people who come in at various times. These non- permanent bods have to use the desks of the permanent staff when they are available, and recently I have been getting increasingly annoyed with their behaviour. It started with small things: all my Biros would disappear. Then I would notice that someone had eaten all my Polo mints and devoured an entire pound of grapes that I had left out over the weekend. The final straw was when a book that I needed to refer to simply disappeared, and someone reconfigured my computer screen and dumped all my icons. Could you suggest some rules of etiquette for "hot-desking" that I could photocopy very large and pin up prominently in the office?
Vaughan, London SW1
I'm afraid that this boils down to more than you losing the odd packet of Polos. It is all about territory. Human beings are very territorial animals in their way, and desks are very personal places. This is a very fundamental conflict of interests: you see your desk as your own personal space and wish to keep it that way, while their natural instinct is to customise it to their own standards and obliterate your traces, in much the same way as some animals scent-mark their territories to warn others off. It is a contest that neither of you can realistically win, given your company's policy of desk-sharing.
With a bit of give and take, you can sort this out. Hot-deskers have the right to expect a reasonable amount of working space to be left for them, even if it's not possible to have entirely clear desk, so do start off on the right footing by leaving your desk tidy. Now, down to the nitty gritty. It's fine to change your computer settings as long as they change them back afterwards. It's fine to read your book as long as it is left in situ. It's fine to eat your Polos and grapes if you leave them out in full view, as long as they replace like with like, and it's certainly fine to use the company ballpoints if they are working for the company (it is not, however, fine to ferret through your desk drawers in search of edibles or equipment). Their basic tenet should be to leave everything exactly as they find it.
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