I have told you, haven't I, that there is a comment feature on the BW Web site? Yes I have, and yes there is. If you hate something you read in here, you can say so. Same if you like it. And once in a blue moon, I will reply, but only if it's a criticism. It would be unseemly of me to respond to a compliment. Consider ... "BelleFleur38" notifies me that she's been reading my stuff for years and without doubt (according to her) I am the most pithy writer and largest brain in the Western Hemisphere.
See? Makes me sound sort of full of myself, doesn't it? So I limit my responses to what critics say, and even that is rare. Only a couple of times in 12 years have I worked a column out of something someone said in the comment feature, and that's because 1) I don't care what they think, 2) I'd already had my say in whatever piece they were criticizing me for, and 3) they usually make themselves look bad enough in what they write that they don't need me piling on.
But recently, someone criticized me for not presenting enough answers to the world's problems. That all I do is bitch. The comment came from one "Lib.Redneck" (not his real name, I'm guessing) who confessed to reading this column for only a bit over a year. He accused me of being "all conflict; no solutions." He called me "Debbie Downer."
Further, Lib.Redneck suggested I create "another" alter ego who might offer less bitching and more answers. I have no idea where he got the idea I have alter egos, but he did suggest an alter ego name I found intriguing. Solution Sally. I like that ... Solution Sally. Don't you wish you knew someone named Solution Sally? It'd be better than living in a cul-de-sac with Doctor Phil, wouldn't it?
So what I did was, I googled "Sally"+"solutions," and guess what. Turns out there really is a Solution Sally, and she lives in Eagle. I'd have thought such a person would live in New York or Chicago. But nope ... Eagle, of all places.
I contacted her, of course. Who wouldn't contact someone who can solve all problems? Especially if it's a local call? I explained who I was and that I was troubled because Lib.Redneck said all I did was bitch. I asked if she had time to give me a hand with some new solutions, seeing as how I had used up all of mine years ago.
She jumped at the chance. "They don't call me 'Solution Sally' for nothing!" she gushed. It was her idea to interview me, if only to get a feeling for the material she had to work with. Following is a transcript of that interview.
Solution Sally: Mr. Cope ... may I call you "Bill?"... do you have anything specific you need a solution to? Or is this complaining you do part of a generalized condition which renders you incapable of visualizing anything but the more hopeless aspects of any given situation?
Me: Truth is, Solution Sally ... er, may I call you "Sally?"... as far as I'm concerned, I've passed on all the solutions we could ever need, and it's not my fault this Lib.Redneck person wasn't around at the time. What'm I supposed to do ... just repeat the same crud over and over?
S.S.: I'm not acquainted with your work, so why don't you start by telling me some of the solutions you've come up with, and maybe we can find a way you might present them more convincingly. Sometimes, a little re-packaging can work wonders, you know.
Me: Well, Sal, I'm the sort who believes no matter how many troubles we have, we only need three or four solutions to correct them. Take all the problems that essentially boil down to there being too many people on earth ... you know, things like global warming and energy usage and traffic congestion and endangered species and disappearing cultures and the Meridian school system and illegal immigration and just about everything else you can think of, really ... I've suggested over and over that humans stop having so many damn kids. Seems simple enough to me.
S.S.: Uh-hmm. Uh-hmm. Any more?
Me: OK ... leaders. When we have a bunch of crummy leaders ... like, who are corrupt and arrogant and keep doing the same dumbass things again and again and who can't solve any of the big problems because they piss away all their time on little problems ... then I say we get ourselves new leaders. That's as obvious a solution as I can come up with. So what's Lib.Redneck's beef?
S.S.: Possibly he doesn't believe you are addressing the intricacies of each and every unique problem, and that you are taking too broad an approach which, ultimately, resolves nothing because of the vaguely defined nature of your strategy. Perhaps I should ask what you would do about a very specific problem, such as Iraq.
Me: Hah, trick question! The thing is, Sal, not everything has a solution. That's probably hard for you to hear, given who you are and all. But the plain truth about Iraq is, there's no solution. The only answer would have been to not invade it in the first place, and before March of '03, that was my solution. Would o' worked, too. But now? You know, it's like ... what's the solution to spilled milk and train wrecks? What's the solution to a burned-down house? What's the solution to dead people? See what I mean? Once you go past a certain point on the road to ruin, there's nothing you can do to make things better. Just get your fanny as far away from it as possible and take your lumps, that's the only thing you can do.
S.S.: I'm afraid Mr. Lib.Redneck may be right about you, Bill. You really are a very negative person.
Me: No no no! I'm positive as hell about it. Some things just can't be fixed, so we might as well get on to whatever can be fixed. The real trick will be to get Americans to quit listening to those people who turn every problem into an excuse to pay them to pretend to solve it. Are you following me, Sal? By the way, what am I gonna owe you when we're done here?
S.S.: First consultations are free, and frankly, I see no point in meeting again. I don't believe there's anything I can do to help you, Mr. Cope. I'm afraid you're hopeless and I doubt you will ever change.
Me: Boy! You are good! We've only been here five minutes, and you already figured that out. You don't mind if I quote you? You know ... so's I can show Lib.Redneck I have an excuse?
Solution Sally did agree to let me add her number to my quick-dial. So in the future, should one of you think you just have to have a solution to whatever I'm bitching about, I'll put her on it. That way, both of you will feel like you're getting somewhere.