DEAR AMY: We would like your insight into a moral dilemma that we recently faced. We are a progressive, Democratic household. Being in need of the services of a contractor, we called to obtain advice and to get an estimate from a contractor that we have been doing business with for years (he is locally regarded as the best and most knowledgeable in his field). When he arrived for his consultation the other day, we noticed that his work truck had a bumper sticker in support of the current president. We did not say anything, but were disappointed to learn of his political affiliation. We spent the next few days trying to decide if we should use the contractor’s services or take our business elsewhere (there are few, if any, alternatives in the area). We ultimately decided to use his services, but we held our nose while signing the contract. Is it wrong to apply a political litmus test? We thoroughly support an individual’s right to follow his or her political heart, but shouldn’t a business owner be apolitical in the work environment? In discussing this issue with friends, we received advice ranging from, “You are hiring him for his expertise, not his political leanings” to, “I wouldn’t let him on my property.” Your thoughts?
Caught in the Middle
DEAR CAUGHT: You say that you support an individual’s right to follow his or her political heart, but that a contractor shouldn’t have a political bumper sticker on his truck. I wonder, however, if you would have had a problem if the bumper sticker reflected support for a president you also support.
If you choose to apply a political litmus test for businesses you frequent and financially support, then you should make sure that the plumber, the dry cleaner, and the dentist all adhere to your standard. And while you’re at it, you could canvass your kids’ teachers and the person who owns the corner store for their political views.
You demand that your contractor be apolitical in the business environment, but would you apply that same standard to yourself? Shouldn’t you also be apolitical in a business context?
I agree that business owners could avoid being judged by their customers if they chose to keep their politics private. Your contractor’s bumper sticker was announcing a willingness to communicate his political leaning (or maybe he was borrowing someone else’s truck). You could have discussed this with him (if you were able to do so respectfully). I believe that’s the truly progressive thing to do.
DEAR AMY: I am a 70-year-old woman, retired after 20 years in the United States Army and still successfully running a web development business. I have an active social life and spend a lot of time volunteering in my community. Do you have any suggestions on how to respond to young men, especially waiters, who call me “Miss” or “Young lady?” I have tried ignoring it as an obvious ploy for a tip, but it is really starting to bother me. I am tempted to say “Thank you, Little Boy.” Should I take the time to explain that the way to get a tip is to look me straight in the eye and get my order right instead of patronizing me?
Wrinkled but not Stupid
DEAR WRINKLED: I agree that this sort of patronizing behavior is annoying. However, you assume that this elder-denying attitude is a bid to get a tip.
I assume that people who do this — and all sorts of people patronize older people — are really just trying to be nice. They think it’s flattering to create a pretense that older people aren’t older, as if being young (or fake-mistaken for young) is a delightful concept.
It’s probably best not to be sarcastic, and to simply respond: “It’s been a while since I’ve been a young lady. You can call me ‘ma’am’ ” (or “colonel,” if that applies).
DEAR AMY: “Want to be my Own Magic Wand” was looking for ways to treat her “laziness” and inertia at home. I love tips for how to be more productive at home, but I learned the hard way that sometimes this feeling of inertia can mean that you’re depressed. I suggest that this person should use the time at home to relax and recharge, and not to worry too much about her productivity.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I agree. Although this reader was looking for tips for how to battle inertia, sometimes the answer is to give yourself a giant break.