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Paul Turner: Want to be an advice columnist? Spokane’s got its own issues.

July 30, 2018

If you work at newspapers long enough, you eventually hear from readers who think they ought to write an advice column.

I have no doubt some of those who have volunteered their services over the years would do an excellent job. I just have one question. Would they be able to tailor their advice for the Spokane market?

As you know, Spokane isn’t just any old place. Sure, some matters might be dealt with in a satisfactory way by offering generic counsel. But certain topics cry out for an informed Inland Northwest perspective.

So if you are one of those who aspires to be an S-R advice columnist, let’s see how you might respond to the following hypothetical requests for guidance. If you want to go ahead and send me your answers, I can, uh, keep them on file. You never know when we might have an opening.

OK, suppose you got an email from the upset wife of a huckleberries picker who keeps getting in fights with bears. She says he won’t listen to her when she tells him he is pushing his luck. How would you advise her?

Or what if you heard from the overheated spouse of a guy who derisively snorts at any suggestion that they buy an air-conditioner? He maintains that you simply don’t need it in Spokane. And she argues that, for at least a few days every summer, Spokane feels like the surface of the planet Mercury. Where would you come down?

Suppose you were contacted by the common law husband of a woman who wants to start a B&B and adorn the place with a sign saying “Lewis and Clark Slept Here.” He wants your permission to tell her she is out of her mind. What would you offer?

Let’s say another reader is the girlfriend of a man who is a virulent anti-Catholic. That’s bad enough. But another problem, she explains, is that he is also a rabid Zags basketball fan. His conflicting feelings are driving him crazy, she reports. She wants to know what she should do. How would you advise her?

Or what if you heard from a woman whose boyfriend is still losing sleep over a shot he missed during a Hoopfest game. She’s thinking of leaving him because it is all he can think about and he refuses to move on. What would you tell her?

Really, there’s no end to the sort of things that might come up.

Say a reader wrote and talked about her in-laws having loud sex in their tent during family camping trips. What should she tell her young children?

Or what if someone wanted to know where they can move in our area that has fluoridated water. Or what to do about the perpetual yard sale next door.

OK, some things can be Googled. But other queries might require a feel for the reality of life in and around Spokane.

Imagine, for instance, that a reader is married to a man who wants to have a pickup truck. She said she had pointed out on numerous occasions that they do not need a truck and it would be a bad fit. Yet he persisted. How would you advise her?

Suppose you got an email that started this way.

“My daughter-in-law is from Seattle and she never misses an opportunity to mock Spokane. I’ve told my son I find this less than charming. He has done nothing. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with this woman but I am about ready to tell her to go to blazes. Any advice?”

What would you suggest to that emailer?

Of course, not all issues would be quite that serious.

Some requests for counsel might involve coping with a four-napkins father who slathers tartar sauce on everything. Or what sort of swimsuit to wear to a workplace outing at Priest Lake. Or how to deal with your daughter’s boyfriend who won’t stop talking about skiing once winter arrives.

Some people just want to be listened to. Still, I think it helps if they believe you know where they’re coming from.

It’s just a hunch. But I have a feeling a local advice columnist might not last long if readers had the same reaction over and over to his or her recommendations.

You’re not from around here, are you?

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