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Monday, March 1, 2010

Dear Abby and Flatulence: A Can't-Miss Combination

The newspaper industry is struggling, but don't count me among those bloggers who seem to almost look forward to the death of dailies.

I got into reading and writing because of a love for newspapers. That led to a 30-year career in journalism, and I want to see the "old gray ladies" stick around.

I've been reading newspapers cover to cover for years. But I originally was drawn to them by two factors--the sports section and the advice column. A recent item in Dear Abby reminded me why I remain enthralled by advice columns, to this day. It's a dandy that bears repeating here at Legal Schnauzer.

My infatuation with newspapers goes way back. When I was about eight years old, my older sister and I would hide at either corner of our house and wait for the afternoon Springfield News-Leader to plop in the front yard. We would race to get it and then fight over who got to read which section first. (There wasn't much to do in our town back then.)

I already was a regular listener to St. Louis Cardinals baseball broadcasts, featuring the Hall of Fame team of Harry Caray and Jack Buck, so the sports page was a natural. But I got into advice columns from listening to my mom talk about this woman named Ann Landers, who seemingly could solve any problem in a few column inches of newspaper space.

I was instantly hooked and became even more entranced when I learned that Ann had a twin sister named Dear Abby who wrote advice columns for newspapers in other, far-off cities. How could two sisters know so much, I wondered?

Ann has gone on to the great free-advice booth in the sky, and Abby retired after the onset of Alzheimer's disease. But Abby's daughter, Jeanne Phillips, is carrying on the family tradition. And she ran a recent item that made me laugh until tears ran down my cheeks. Here it is:

Dear Abby: My wife is constantly passing gas. She does not care where she is or who is around. I have worked in the trucking industry for almost 30 years and never ran across anyone as flatulent as she is. She is young and attractive, but there is nothing less appealing than feeling “frisky,” getting into bed and hearing the trumpet sounds. I have recommended she see a doctor, but she laughs it off and says, “Everyone does it.” I can’t believe I’m the only one with this problem.

—Blown Away in Alliance, Ohio

Abby managed to produce this reply, seemingly with a straight face:

Dear Blown Away: Everyone may do “it,” but perhaps not to the extent that your wife does. There are over-the-counter products that can lessen the problem, which may be related to her diet. However, if her flatulence persists, then I’m recommending you not let your wife “laugh off” the idea of consulting a physician, because her problem could be a symptom of something that needs to be checked out—and that’s no joke.

Abby obviously understands the first rule of comedy: You can never go wrong with a fart joke.

You also have to admire the husband's way with words in the letter. First, he provides some inside scoop about the energy that drives the trucking industry. Then, on the home front, he wants to get "frisky" but gets turned off when his wife turns on the "trumpet sounds." I can't wait to read more letters from this guy.

Finally, we can't help but appreciate the irony that is present in the husband's missive. My understanding is that it's usually the wife who has to put up with a "tooty" partner. (I have no firsthand knowledge about this, of course; I'm just going on anecdotal evidence.) But having the complaining party be a dude turns this into a Dear Abby column for the ages.

And I speak with a certain authority, having been an advice-column aficionado for roughly 45 years now.

No matter what might happen with health-care reform, with our hemorrhaging economy, with Afghanistan . . . it's somehow comforting to know that Dear Abby's still got it.

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