Dear Ann Cannon • I work on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and have to deal with politics all day long. When I get home, people want to talk shop with me. I just want to play Xbox. How do I make it clear that I DON’T WANT TO TALK POLITICS?
—The Less Said, the Better
Dear Less Said • I once knew a football coach who didn’t want to talk football away from the playing field, although I don’t think he wanted to play Xbox, either, because he was technology-challenged. It took him half a day, for example, to text the word “yes.” The problem is he had a job that people were curious about, and in this day of hyperpartisan politics, you do, too. Not only that, but people are likely to assume that you must be dying to talk about politics because (after all) you choose to work in D.C.
So, OK. Here are a few ideas: You can tell people pointblank that you do NOT want to talk politics. Or you can say that you’d love to talk politics with them, but that you aren’t allowed to because of your high security clearance, which could give you an added air of mystery. BONUS!
Maybe the best idea is this: Because people tend to ask the same general questions, have a few pat answers and then change the subject. Distracting and diverting is a time-honored D.C. strategy, right?
Dear Ann Cannon • I walk my dog every morning, and he is terrified of off-leash dogs if they approach him. Legally, dogs are supposed to be leashed in the city, but the usual comment of people with unleashed dogs is, “Oh, don’t worry! He’s really nice.” My dog has been attacked twice by dogs whose owners said exactly that, and as a result he becomes agitated every time he sees a loose dog approaching. Any ideas about how to deal with this? A snappy comment to people who think the rules don’t apply to them or their “nice” dogs? Or should I just call animal control and report them?
— Agitated Dog Owner
Dear Agitated • True confession time: I sometimes walk our Cavalier King Charles spaniel off-leash in our city neighborhood even though I know it’s against the rules. Why? Because he’s small and sweet and also because I can’t find his leash.
I will say that I don’t walk him off-leash as much as I used to after getting chewed out by a vocal Avenues resident. It was a mildly humiliating experience, but the woman was well within her rights to call me out. Now I mostly use a leash. And when I don’t, I avoid walking by her house. Obv.
My point is this: Saying something in the moment (and you can say it more diplomatically than it was said to me) may cause offenders to rethink their behavior. Or not. But it’s worth a try. Your leashed pet absolutely should not have to be at the mercy of unleashed dogs.
Dear Ann Cannon • I am relatively new to the area and am wondering: Is a bottle of wine a rude gift to take to a hostess who is also a Mormon? I’ve taken wine to a host who’s a nondrinker before. Even nondrinkers may want to offer wine to guests or keep a bottle in the pantry. Or should I stick to flowers and chocolates? Not sure what the guideline is.
— Not From Here
Dear Not From Here • When we first moved to New York, our family was invited to a “pool party.” I assumed that swimming was involved, so we all showed up in our swimming suits. Imagine my surprise when everybody else was dressed in Brooks Brothers blazers and Laura Ashley jumpers. I later told our hostess that she needed to spell things out for me because we obviously spoke different languages. Utah’s Mormon culture can be as confusing to newcomers here as the phrase “pool party” was to me.
I can’t speak for all Mormons, of course, but the ones I know would view a bottle of wine from a newcomer as a generous but innocently misguided gift. The proscription against alcohol (except for Nyquil!) is strong. Most active Mormons don’t drink.
Chocolates and flowers, on the other hand, are always a good call.
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