Sound Advice

The Way We Do It in West Cornwall

For some time I have been collecting, mostly from my neighbors in West Cornwall, small strategies for getting through life. It may well be of some use to the outside world to learn how we do things here; judging from the television and the papers, you people could use some help. What follows is a sampling from my accumulation.

De-skunking the dog:

Karen from Cornwall suggests this method rather than the familiar tomato juice one, which she claims will leave you with a dog that smells of rotten tomatoes instead of good, clean skunk. Fill large bucket with warm water. Add three cups of hydrogen peroxide, one cup of baking soda and a squirt of baby or dog shampoo. Tie dog. Rub solution in thoroughly, including undercoat. Let dog soak for fifteen minutes and rinse with warm water.

Buttering the cat:

Emily Miller proposes, mysteriously: “For preventing a cat from running away after moving to a new place, butter its paws. Real butter only.” Why does this work? What goes through kitty’s head? What’s wrong with Oleo? Next time anyone moves to a new place, buy a cat if necessary. But try this out and share your findings with the group.

Less is more:

Emily again: “For wearing jewelry -- get dressed with all the jewelry you think you’ll want to wear. Then take off one piece.” This one I was able to test-drive. Personally I thought I looked perfect, not too gaudy, not too plain. But the Missus made me put my wedding ring back on.

Hand Wiping:

At a high class social function, you discover something nasty on your hand. Normally you would wipe it surreptitiously onto your jeans, but this time you are wearing light-colored slacks. Nor can you use your handkerchief because, as a person under the age of 50, you don’t carry one. Stymied? Don’t be. Simply smear the stuff on the inside of your pants pocket.

Road spill:

Thanks to Seth H., of Duxbury, MA, for the following: Ever get caught short on a busy highway? Just pull over, open the hood and pretend to look at the engine while letting fly to the port side of the starboard front tire. The hood hides your business from following traffic; only your back is exposed to oncoming voyeurs. This tip is useless to 51 percent of the micturating population, of course. Tough luck again, ladies.

Saving Kleenex:

This comes from Heather in Chicago, who says of her ex-husband: “He slept in his shorts and when he took them off to shower he blew his nose in them and dropped them on the bathroom floor where they stayed until ‘someone’ picked them up.” We pass this along not as sound advice, but for the same reason software installers include an uninstall feature: to get useless crap out of your system in case you’re a loser like Heather’s ex. Probably you’re not, though. They must have trouble reproducing.

Proper clipboard use:

Clamp the unbound edge of the pad under the clip so that the bound edge is at the bottom of the clipboard. Now the corners of the top sheets will no longer curl up on you the way they always did before. What’s that you say? You can’t write with the paper upside down? Of course you can’t, dummy. Turn the clipboard upside down.

Getting out of a Car Correctly:

I already know how to do that, you will say. No, you don’t. A very young, very supple person can exit a low-slung car without actual pain, but although you may be such a person, you won’t be for long. Already you look awkward getting out of cars and there is worse to come. So pay attention. Put both feet out the door. Now, and this is the important part, swing your feet as far as you can toward the rear of the car and place them, close together, on the ground. Then bend the upper body forward and stand up. Don’t argue. Just do it.

Untangling phone cords:

Unclip the cord from the handset, let it straighten itself out, and reinsert. No doubt you’ve been doing that all along, but independent research labs have determined that millions of other people still dangle the receiver from the cord and let it spin.

Swallowing pills:

Some of those babies are huge, aren’t they? And what with the steroids, the anti-depressants, the Ritalin, the vitamins, and those big ugly purple jobbies, it makes such a handful that something is always getting stuck crosswise. And then you’ve got the whole messy business of clearing the logjam. Obviously taking those pills one or two at a time like a reasonable person is out of the question, so try washing them down with milk instead of water. Who knows why, but it works.

And this just in from Pam Johnston: “For gel caps or other ‘light’ pills, tip your head down before swallowing (the pill rises up). For heavier pills, drink a swallow first, then place the pill as far back as possible in the throat, then swallow tipping the head back.”

Keeping bread fresh:

Sliced bread from the supermarket never goes stale, as it is treated with nutritious chemicals to prevent that very thing. It will still be soft when you throw it out, which you should. Next time buy or bake real bread. Slice only what you plan to eat immediately, and stand the loaf up on a flat surface, cut side down.

The Way They Do It in the Golden Triangle:

The next several items come from Mr. Edwin in Chiang Rai, Thailand, who writes as follows: “Greetings from the land of the total body massage. Your excellent advice in ‘The Way We Do It In West Cornwall’ brings to mind a few labor saving tips I’ve run across up here in the Golden Triangle.”

Don’t Count Laps in the Pool:

Check the clock instead. You only have to time yourself once to see how long it takes to swim your laps, and you won’t be off by more than a couple laps if you simply swim for 20 minutes, or 45 minutes or whatever the time turns out to be. Each person has a natural pace in the water and it’s surprisingly constant.

A Little Dab’ll Do You:

Wet the first wad of toilet paper and pat the anus gently. Use less and less moisture on subsequent wads. Better yet, install a Thai-style spray nozzle.

Prevent Lower Back Problems:

Place your heels first when walking down stairs to prevent lower back problems. This awkward down-step stretches the lower back tendons and strengthens the upper legs. The step is harder than it sounds because you have to bend your knees and pay attention to your balance. But it provides almost immediate improvement if you don’t mind looking like Bruce Lee sneaking downstairs.

Apply KY Jelly: the inside tip of the condom before roll-on. Would you rub your glans with a pencil eraser? Nor should you rub it with harsh latex. Incidentally, don’t use petroleum jelly (Vaseline), which oxidizes latex.

As To That Pencil Eraser:

Use it to clean electrical contacts prone to corrosion in Southeast Asia, e.g., recharger contacts for phones or batteries, and for SIM cards in cell phones, flashlights, portable gadgets, batteries, etc.

Cure Motion Sickness:

Use elastic wrist straps with a plastic bead to apply pressure to Nei Guan (PC 6), the acupressure point on the inner wrist. Also works for morning sickness and other nausea. See airline shops and in-flight magazines to order.

Don’t Smoke Grass:

Saute it in oil, or bake it for 10 minutes at 200 degrees, to change the latent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol into the active form, and use it in baked goods, omelets, soups, etc. Freeze the leftovers. Use one level teaspoon per person/portion. Allow 1-3 hours for effect. FYI, the correct term is now Anandamide, the name given by biochemists to the substance produced by the body during meditative states. Anandamide activates the same receptor sites as THC, which is why 670,000 Americans in the pursuit of happiness go to jail each year instead of Nirvana.

A Tip for Hunters:

The best cleaning wads to use on shotgun barrels are tampons--juniors for .410, regular size for 16 gauge, and extra-absorbent for 12 gauge open bore. Gun shops don’t carry them.

Why Stand When You Can Sit?

Keep the toilet seat clean by sitting down to urinate, men. This contemplative posture will also help keep clean the bowl rim, the throw rug, the floor, the environs and, most importantly, the upper leg.

This Concludes...

...our message from Mr. Edwin, in the Golden Triangle. Although busy, bustling Chiang Rai is halfway around the world from sleepy West Cornwall, it will be plain that we have many concerns in common.

To fight yeast infections:

This comes from a Maryland correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous: “My gynecologist told me in no uncertain terms to flush before using any public toilet, and to sit all the way down on the seat. Both measures are meant to deter a phenomenon called ‘urine splashback.’ I have followed her recommendations, and have never had to worry about a yeast infection since.”

How to Shave in the Shower:

Buy a shower mirror guaranteed not to mist up. Discover that after a week or so it mists up anyway. Do not spit on the mirror, even though this works on diving masks. Instead touch wet fingers lightly to soap, and spread mixture over wet mirror. Shave. Rinse mirror. (More soap is not better; you want the solution weak enough so that there are few or no bubbles on the surface.)

How to Keep Your Shoe Laces from Coming Untied:

This depends on the insight that a bow is basically either a granny knot or a square knot with the ends tucked back into the knot. And it’s usually a granny knot, a name which comes down to us from ancient sexist times when grannies were believed incapable of tying proper knots. For most jobs, real men of course used square knots that held. But unfortunately real women caught real men young and taught them to use the ineffective granny knot when tying their shoes.

The right way, brought to you by Doc Simont of Pierce Lane:

“Most people use the same motion (i.e., right over left, then pull through) for both halves of the process. The trick is to retrain yourself to tie the first (and simplest) half the other way (i.e., left over right), then finish the ‘bow’ part as usual. You will find that your laces stay put all day long!”

And so they will. The technique also works on gym shorts and sweat pants.

How Not to Ruin the Stew...

...or soup or hot chocolate or scrambled eggs, by stupidly dumping half a container of pepper or cinnamon or whatever into the damned stuff by mistake:

Pour or shake the seasoning into your hand first.

Tired of those little invisible gritty grains of sugar all over the counter?

The essential concept is to hold the sugar bowl between the spoon and the target receptacle. Now load the spoon and move the bowl out of the way, subsequently allowing sugar to fall cleanly and safely to its destination. Usually this will be a cup but most anything will do. Use your imagination. How about Baby’s ear?

How to Back Up More or Less Safely out of a Parking Space:

Don’t, if you can avoid it. Go past the parking space, checking it for absence of broken bottles, shopping carts or small children, and then back in instead. If you do have to back out, though, refrain from doing so with flair, exuberance, or casual skill. Cut your wheels, edge out, and stop the instant you think you can clear the neighboring car. Now that you can see where you’re going, crank the wheel hard to the left or right, depending.

Getting into a Vest or a Jacket That’s Too Small:

Actually it probably fits just fine. The trouble is you’ve got bursitis from pitching all those no-hitters in college. Anyway, here’s what you do:

Get out from under any chandeliers or low-hanging branches. With your hands in the arm holes, hold the garment in front of you like a bullfighter’s cape. It must be facing away from you, and your hands must be in the armholes. Okay? Now swing the garment vigorously up into the air and let it settle down over your raised arms.

Eating Kiwi fruit

Professor Lenny Cassuto of Fordham University writes: “To eat a Kiwi without having to peel it (a disagreeable task), simply slice it in half the short way and use a teaspoon to eat it like a soft-boiled egg.”

Peeling bananas:

Previous advice tentatively offered here on this point is withdrawn in favor of the following from Jason Shure of New York City: “Take a tip from monkeys. They don’t worry about the stem. Much gentler pressure on the bottom (butt?) of the banana yields the requisite easy split of the peel. There is that creepy little hard dealie down there that one must extract, but then you have perfect access, and the stem serves as a handle.”

This works perfectly, and is a brilliant example of thinking outside the box. Mr. Shure suggests that in lieu of sending flowers, well-wishers might wish to buy a handbag from Paint the Lily , the company he runs with his wife, Nicole.

Buying apples:

The first rule is that any variety with the word “delicious” in its name, isn’t. The only acceptable native apple generally available in supermarkets is the Empire.

Finding stuff:

John Hamilton advises: “Quit looking for it and it should turn up in a day or two. If not, buy a new one and the old one will turn up shortly thereafter.”

(Editor’s note: Of course this is the way most of you already find stuff. Mr. Hamilton’s contribution is to render legitimate and perfectly rational that which you had formerly considered to be further evidence of your failing faculties. Moreover, you will now be able to skip the futile “looking for it” step.)

Buttoning shirts evenly:

Starting from the top helps some, but still leaves you with the underlying problem in all crooked buttoning. This is that you can’t see what you’re buttoning without a mirror. So start at the bottom.

Ducking telemarketers I:

Hang up immediately if no one answers when you say hello. Your number has been dialed automatically, and it takes the pest a moment to notice that someone has answered. If you hang up in that moment, the machine assumes the call is over and dials the next sucker.

Ducking telemarketers II:

As of January 1, 2000, Connecticut residents may have their names placed on a “No Call” list which prohibits phone solicitations to that number. To be on the list, call the Department of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-842-2649, or sign up online at:

If you don’t live in Connecticut, lobby your legislators the way we did.

Dietary Tip:

Never eat food that isn’t spelled right. Corn Flakes and Shredded Wheat are okay. CheezIts and Froot Loops aren’t.

Taking off wet undershirts:

I once knew a method but can no longer remember it, and so this is a solicitation rather than an offering. Email all solutions to the address at the bottom of this page. God will love you and I will, too, although in the more restrained way of the Connecticut WASP. I will be terribly fond of you.

(As I am now of Mary from Washington, who sends this: Being a woman, I don’t usually wear undershirts per se; however, I do wear t-shirts. Assuming you don’t want to wear it until it dries, I simply grab it by each hip with crossed arms and pull up over my head. I usually wash my shirts inside out anyway, so this leaves the shirt inside out and ready for washing!)

Paper Cuts:

Use Krazy Glue or Super Glue as a bandage for the painful little slits made by paper or very sharp knives. Blot up any blood, use a styptic pencil if necessary, then spread a drop of the glue over the area. The glue will wear off in a few days, and by then the cut should be healed. Our Chiang Rai correspondent adds, “Keep Super Glue in the refrigerator to prevent it from solidifying after opening.”

Missed belt loops:

Put belt on pants prior to putting pants on person.

Cleaning copper pans:

Buy Copper Glo, or some similar cleaning powder with copper in the name. Buy one of those little round kitchen brushes made to fit in your palm, the kind that has a reservoir for detergent. Install detergent in receptacle (A). Invert pan. Dump cleaning powder on copper bottom. Run brush under faucet and commence revolving it on copper surface. Do not bear down. Mysterious chemicals do the job, not friction. In a short time, with much less effort than you’re used to, the copper will shine. Wash and rinse, so as to prevent the slight bloom of tarnish that will otherwise form practially immediately. Dry with equal expedition, so as to avoid water spots. Sell pan at garage sale and buy one with a stainless steel bottom.

To remove ink stains from shirt pocket:

Put glycerin (available in drug stores) on them. Then dip in rubbing alcohol, and wring out in cold water. Repeat the alcohol and cold water treatment, over and over, until the stain is almost all gone. Then smear with Spray’n’Gel stain remover. Let sit a while. Soap and cold water will get the rest out. (A close relative tells me that rubbing alcohol melts linen. Maybe so. I’ve only used it on cotton.)

To avoid those ink stains in the first place:

Leave the top off the pen when writing. When you try to clip the pen onto your pocket, you will become aware that something is about to go terribly wrong.

To protect against biting gnats:

Move hand hopelessly from side to side in front of face, like a windshield wiper in a hurricane. This is known locally as the “Cornwall Wave.”

To keep gnats out of your ears:

The way gnats commit suicide is by plunging headfirst into giant pits of ear wax. There they buzz until you go mad or they die, whichever comes first. Admit it, this has happened to you. And you’re still not putting cotton in your ears when you work outside, are you?

To eat hard-frozen ice cream from the carton:

Use a fork, not a spoon. The fork should be of solid construction, or did you already guess that?

(Tim and Colleen of Oakdale, Minnesota, write to suggest that whether you use a fork or spoon, you should not begin the attack by opening those rectangular half-gallon containers from the end. You will get your hands and cuffs all sticky once you get down in there. Open the top instead, dummy.)

Removing apple stems:

Instead of twisting the stem, hold it with one hand and twist the apple with the other. Alternatively, get a life. Leave the stem on.

Removing ticks:

First kill the tick, which is almost impossible by normal methods. Lighter fluid (naphtha) will do it in a minute or two, however. Then the tick will let go its grip (as, in death, must we all) and should come free easily with tweezers. If not, more naphtha.

Removing stickum:

Naphtha again. This is a book collector’s trick to get price tags off book jackets without leaving a trace. Squirt lighter fluid on the sticky residue, and wipe off. Repeat till clean. This also works perfectly on Scotch Tape or bandage residue and most other types of stickum. Also restores virginity in males. Just kidding. Nothing does that, so just say no.

Removing slug slime:

Scrape off with a knife under running water.


Only buy fresh tomatoes from July to September. Don’t buy them even then if they’re all exactly the same color.

Another solicitation:

I’d welcome additions to the list, and hope you would email them to Bad Attitudes. There are major shortcomings in my collection so far in the fields of sex, work, marriage, health, personal finance, and no doubt many others. Do not feel limited in the nature of your contributions. Even in West Cornwall, we need all the help we can get. The mail link is below.

Copyright © 2004 by Jerome Doolittle