Professor Nutbottom:

I truly have a terribly vexing problem that
persists in bothering me horribly. I hope you can help me. The other
day I needed to talk, so I invited my very best friend to lunch. In
earnest I started to tell her my highly unusual situation, but before I
got even a smidgen of my strangely complex story out on the table, she
completely turned things around to talk about herself. Before I knew
it, we were having a surfacy chit-chat about the incredibly minute
issues going on between her boyfriend and her parents. This happens
absolutely all the time with her. Whenever we talk, she always steers
the conversation fully and totally to her "stuff." What should I do?

Dear Paula:

Prof. Nutbottom

ironically and completely coincidentally I had something very similar
happen just last week. You won't believe what happened to me.

years ago I got involved in this unusual land deal. I had only been a
professor here at Ivy Leaf University for a little over a month, when I
met a land speculator named Wally. We met while standing in line to
register for a collectible bottle cap convention. Wally was a
well-dressed, very likeable fellow.

While we chatted about our
favorite bottle caps (mine is the 1947 Coke special edition and his is
the Burma "shaving cream in a bottle" classic), Wally mentioned some
property he had recently purchased in Florida for practically nothing.

I said, "Oh, let me guess. It's swampland. And you've got some you could sell me."

Wally looked me in the eye and said, "How did you know?"

I'll tell you, I let Wally know in no uncertain terms that I had no
interest in such flim-flam. While alligators and snakes and humidity
and mud probably appeal to some folks, these things hold no fascination
for me.

That's when Wally let me in on a little secret. His
swampland was no longer swampland. It was beautiful dry ground on which
he had built a gorgeous house. He showed me pictures to prove it.

BeforeAnd a secret invention by some Wisconsin scientists had made this all possible.

couldn't give me a lot of details, because he was sworn to secrecy, but
the scientists had developed a special machine that somehow could alter
the kinetic potential of the quantum mechanics of virtual matter and
make swampland into "Land From Eden." I still remember how Wally's eyes
sparkled when he said "Land From Eden."

Well, I'm no one's fool.
There was no way I was going to make the mistake of a lifetime. I said
to Wally, "This is unbelievable. How do I get in on the action?"

Imagine someone like me falling into this kind of luck.


couple days later I had a $25,000 loan and a certified check out to
Wally. Within a week I received the land title to my soon-to-be prime
piece of Everglade dreamland.


Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that when my luck took a trip south.

the land-converting machine developed a malfunction, and the only
company that could provide a replacement part -- a phase-inducing,
anti-matter, electron stereoscope -- was in Iraq. There were none in
stock, and it would take a few months to manufacture one.

Wally and his scientist friends were indicted for some type of
questionable business dealings. Wally assured me that the legal issues
had nothing to do with the land deal but that the scientists were
fighting to protect their rights to their secret technology. The
ensuing court case has kept those guys distracted for quite some time.
Fortunately, Wally keeps assuring me that he and his scientist friends
haven't forgotten me. And I guess the $15,000 loan I gave them six
months ago has really helped them with their legal battles.

I found out that the laws concerning the Everglades dramatically
restrict one's ability to build structures on land there. When I asked
Wally about this, he assured me that his scientist friends were very
close to inventing a new device that turns bureaucratic red tape into
fertilizer (though he used a less flattering description).

I had
been dealing emotionally with all this bad luck pretty well, until last
week. Then, something snapped for me. I'm not really sure why.

it was getting my eighth annual property tax bill from the state of
Florida for $37.42. That's a slap in the face, let me tell you.

it was the realization that I'm getting older and I'm still waiting to
build my dream vacation home in Eden. There's no way to recover those
lost years.

Maybe it was the letter from Wally saying that his
latest hearing hadn't gone so well and he had been denied parole. Did I
forget to mention that Wally and his friends ended up in jail?

I needed to talk. So I wandered into the office of one of my colleagues
and just started baring my soul. I only had related a small part of my
story, when my colleague, who is normally a very quiet, reserved
person, started convulsing uncontrollably with laughter. It caused
quite a disruption in the department, and soon his office was full of
people trying to calm him down.

So what I had hoped would be my
chance to work through some of my emotional distress somehow got all
turned around into something about him.


Do you know how I felt? I'll tell you what. It was a really bad feeling. You probably can't even begin to imagine it.

I must say, I'm really glad you raised this issue. I'm feeling much
better now that I've been able to address your question. I hope it has
been as helpful to you as it has been for me.

And one last
thing. Try to be patient with your friend and tell her this for me: I
hope things get resolved between her boyfriend and her parents real


Professor Nutbottom is a Senior Fellow
Professor of American Culture at Ivy Leaf University in Urnotserse, PA.
He enjoys reading, skiing, and sorting antique bottle caps. You can
learn more about his creator by visiting

The Cheers, (c) Rob Favero, All rights reserved.

Photos copyright (c) 2004 Rob Favero and his licensors. All rights reserved.