Tips for 'Citizen Bill'

Dear Mr. Clinton: You are now settling back into the role of private citizen. I suspect many years of living in the rarefied atmosphere of high elected office have created some gaps in your knowledge of everyday life here at street level. So I would like to bring you up to speed on a few important details.

First of all, have your phone number listed as H. Rodham. This will be a big help when telemarketers start calling, just as you sit down to dinner.

When the voice on the other end says, "Is this Mr. Rodham?" you should reply, "Which Mr. Rodham are you referring to?" When the caller starts hemming and hawing, you can be sure it's someone trying to sign you up for a new credit card or a free carpet-cleaning demonstration. Your final answer should be something like, "Oh, I'm just the house sitter. Mr. Rodham is trekking in Mongolia right now." And don't bother telling them not to call again. They always do.

If you have curbside recycling, make sure to separate all the items (paper, tin cans, glass, etc.) exactly as specified by your local service. Nothing is more embarrassing than having the hauler refuse to pick up your personal segment of the waste stream because of sloppy preparation.

The real world of dirty laundry will surprise you. Most powder detergents are now concentrated, so the boxes weigh more than you remember from your last visit to the grocery store. They also include a plastic scoop for convenience. Never use more than half a scoop, even for big loads. Unless you get a part-time job in the grease pit at Jiffy Lube, your clothes will simply not be grimy enough to warrant a full scoop. (I'm like a Beltway insider when it comes to the wash cycle.)

If your appliances go on the fritz, it's OK to call Sears or the other major-brand people, but they may have a backlog of appointments. My repair guy calls himself the Appliance Doctor, and drives around with a wireless phone scheduling each job moment by moment. When our dishwasher stopped working last year, he had it running again the same afternoon. Such people are the real points of light in modern America.

The express lines in supermarkets do not necessarily move faster than regular checkout lines. Although customers in express lines have fewer items, they often slow down the process by paying with checks, searching for exact change, or asking the clerk to replace leaking milk cartons. You once said it's hard to know what the meaning of "is" really is. Ditto for "express."

Last, when you get online and have an e-mail address, many of your friends will start forwarding the names of goofy websites to check out. But lots of Web humor these days isn't very amusing. Much of it consists of political cheap shots directed at whoever happens to be sitting in the oval office. But I have a feeling you already know that.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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