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Schmich: The Impartial Adviser reporting for duty

Here's some advice, even if you didn't ask

Mary Schmich

October 23, 2013

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The Impartial Adviser is now on call.

Fashion? Interior decoration? Workout tips?

The Impartial Adviser is available to solve all manner of problems for people she has never met, without their request and when they least expect it.

The Impartial Adviser was born on the recent day that I saw a woman trying on a dress in a shop in my neighborhood. She was, as the French say, of a certain age and her dress, as tight as shrink-wrap and not much longer than a bib, was made for, shall we say, a person of a lesser age.

"What do you think?" she asked two friends as she surveyed herself in a mirror.

She shifted her hips one way, the other way. "Too tight?"

Her friends shot each other a glance. The clerk remained discreetly mute.

From a clothes rack away, I heard the call of duty.

"Too tight," I said.

The woman turned to find the source of the impertinence. I smiled.

"You look great," I said, "but an impartial opinion? That dress is too tight."

"You're right," she said, then disappeared into the dressing room.

On the gust of this victory, the Impartial Adviser sprang to action.

A few days later, the Impartial Adviser noticed a car with an Ohio license plate parking on a North Side street, the nose of the car poking past the tow zone sign.

Poor Ohioans. Didn't they know that in Chicago parking misdemeanors are punished like high crimes?

"Excuse me," the Impartial Adviser warned the people from Ohio as they stepped out, "but you might want to move your car."

She pointed to the sign. "The Chicago cops will ticket you in a nanosecond."

The people from Ohio assured her it wouldn't be a problem because the car was just a few inches into the tow zone. The Impartial Adviser sighed, and an hour later, passing by again, she noticed the orange ticket stuck to the car of the people from Ohio.

Oh well. If Ohioans want to help pay down Chicago's debt, peace be with them.

Occasionally since her victory in the clothes shop, the Impartial Adviser has felt empowered to provide counsel in the grocery store. She may see someone debating between two brands of coffee or two types of bread and she'll breeze past, point, quietly say, "That one's better," then move on.

Sometimes, however, the Impartial Adviser must advise herself to butt out. At the gym, for example.

"Um, you know," she wants to say to certain gymgoers, "you might get a better workout if you spent less time griping to your personal trainer about your co-workers and your boyfriend."

But the Impartial Adviser bites her tongue, because if some people are paying personal trainers to be their therapists, peace be with them too.

There are other realms in which the Impartial Adviser has realized she must practice restraint.

Like when she peeps into strangers' homes while out for an evening walk. From the dark street she can see straight into their brightly lit living rooms and rec rooms, and while she admires the taste of some occupants — even picks up some decorating ideas — there are others who could benefit from learning how to group their art instead of scattering things hither and thither on the walls. Or at least they could straighten the crooked frames.

Don't misunderstand. The Impartial Adviser is not so exacting in her own home, believe me. But that's the beauty of advice. You don't have to follow it in order to dispense it.

At the very least, the Impartial Adviser muses, shouldn't the occupants of these illuminated rooms know that the whole world can see them walking around in their underwear?

But, truly, the Impartial Adviser does not want to be a busybody or a nag, which is why she has been advising herself more often to keep these and other thoughts to herself.

As she reminds herself, give advice to others only as you would have them give advice to you, which is not much.

But a word to the wise: If you have to wonder if it's too tight, it is.

mschmich@tribune.com