Once a month, I write this column, in which readers can write in with whatever questions they want, and I try to answer them to the best of my ability while also being as noncommittal to my answers as possible, in case of lawsuits.
This week, I’m asking the questions for a change.
Why don’t more people send in questions?
As you know, I’ve been writing this column for almost 3 years now, dispensing free advice. Sure, the advice isn’t any good, but it’s free. According to my editor, my article comes out on the second Friday of every month, which is weird, because The Jewish Press comes out on Wednesdays.
And yes, people occasionally do write in with questions, or they hit me up on Facebook, or they call me during dinnertime. And no offense to them, but it’s always the same people. I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of people reading this column who aren’t writing in. I know you’re out there. I can hear you breathing.
I don’t understand. People write in to, say, Dr. Yael, all the time:
“Dear Dr. Yael,
Are you on my insurance?”
Well, I’m on your insurance. It’s not great insurance, but it covers me.
Okay, so the difference is that I’m not an expert. I kind of just make up the answers. In fact, sometimes, if we really need to make a deadline, I make up the questions.
Yes, I’m not a professional. I’m more like a friend who won’t get offended if you don’t take his advice. In fact, asking me is better than asking a friend, because I’m not going to follow up next time I see you. I don’t care if you’ve followed my advice. I’ve already forgotten that I gave you advice.
Your friends, meanwhile, are always going to follow up, especially if you don’t want them to:
“Hey, whatever happened with that job interview that you were talking about nonstop for several weeks and then suddenly just stopped mentioning?”
Also, a lot of people think that since this is a humor column, you’re not supposed to write in. I’m supposed to make up the questions.
Thanks. I have to do everything around here? Why would I write questions and then also answer them, in a public forum? How messed up am I that I’m just talking to myself here, once a month, on a specific publication schedule with deadlines?
Is it that you’re afraid I’ll make fun of your question? I don’t use your name anyway. I make up names, like “Confused from Flatbush.” Do you think your friends will say, “Hey, I know Confused from Flatbush! He davens in my shul! Backwards! He sits right in front of me.”
It doesn’t really matter what the questions are. It could be something you were already discussing with your friends, and you just want a second opinion, but in a funny voice. You’re basically asking me to make jokes on a specific topic. People do that all the time. People come up to me on the street, and after we both establish that I’m actually Mordechai Schmutter, there’s a tremendous awkward silence, in which they’re waiting for me to be spontaneously funny, and I’m waiting for them to give me something to be spontaneously funny about.
Sure, sometimes they say, “I have a topic for you.” And then they say a common noun:
“Chairs. Chairs are funny, right?”
Maybe. Maybe the chairs you’re thinking of. But it’s a pretty broad word, and the chairs I’m thinking of at the moment aren’t that funny. They’re just sad. But if you narrow it down in the form of a question, like “I just collapsed a chair on the dais at my own wedding, what should I do?” then that’s a topic I could start thinking of jokes about, usually sometime after you walk away. Hence this column.
And no, I don’t expect you to stay there on the floor of the dais until the Wednesday preceding the second Friday of the month, waiting for me to get back to you about what you should do. But my answer is like when you have an argument with someone, and then the next week, in the shower, you suddenly think of ten things you should have said.
That’s me. I make jokes to help you get over the disaster.
But you don’t have to wait for disaster to strike. You can also ask me about basic facts, or even random observations that you’ve had, like, “How come when my wife asks me to remind her of something and we both forget, it’s my fault, but when I ask her to remind me of something and we both forget, it’s also my fault?”
There’s no answer to that question, but that’s my problem, not yours.
And speaking of writing in,
What should I call my upcoming book?
So I’ve just been informed by my publisher that my next book is coming out this fall, Jewish Time, and the deadline for it is June. So I’d better start working on it.
Luckily, it’s mostly going to be a collection of articles that have appeared here, or in Hamodia, or on Aish.com. It will also include some additional material, provided I can think of any.
The question is, what should the book be called? I can’t just call it, “Another (Expletive) Collection of Mordechai Schmutter Articles,” can I? Also, what should we put on the cover?
So in the past, I’ve reached out to my readers, asking them to think of a title, with a free book going to whoever sent in the one I’d eventually use. And I got an enormous number of responses, probably because I offered a prize.
But this time, it happens to be that I already have a working title that I might go with. Someone sent it in for the last book (Cholent Mix) after I’d already settled on a title (Cholent Mix, pay attention). The title that she sent was “Jewish Time,” named after the time period in which most of my articles are submitted, all of my books come out, and most of our simchas begin.
But even if I go with this title, I need people to help me come up with a title for my next book, so that it could maybe come out when I first announce that it will, because to have the book after Jewish Time comes out in Jewish time will just be confusing to everyone.
And of course, anyone who sends in a title that I end up using gets a free copy of… Well, we don’t have a name yet. That’s kind of the point.
And in the meantime, I’m also looking for some other ideas for Jewish Time. An idea for the cover picture, for example. What would be a good cover for a book called Jewish Time that would convey the idea of the title, but also show that it’s a book of humorous articles and not a book about fitting Mincha into your workday?
“Okay, conference call is over. It’s Jewish Time!”
I’m also looking to put in some Jewish-time related bonus material. Do you have any funny stories involving instances of Jewish time that I can make fun of, possibly not using your real name, especially if it involves your wife? Or husband.
Everyone who writes in with an idea that I use will be entered into a raffle to win a free copy of Jewish Time, assuming we call it Jewish Time. I’m still waiting for the publisher to approve that title.
Got a question for “You’re Asking Me?” Oh, thank goodness.
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