Tough Times (11/01/06)

Dearest Zelda,

There's a woman in my office who is nothing short of a "Bulldozer."  She's rude without being provoked, and she's not my boss. Unfortunately I have to deal with her on an hourly basis. I like my job, but really dislike her. Do I get tough, or just waffle like the Cowardly Lion?

Oz or Bust

Dear Oz or Bust,

Unfortunately, clicking your heels three times won't get you out of this situation (and you'll have to polish away the scuff marks...not so glamorous without the ruby slippers). What this wicked witch needs is a good dose of "whatever."

There are those people (like your bulldozer) who feed off the insecurities of others. They bask in the glory of watching those they consider to be their "inferiors" hopelessly try to cater to their wishes and seek their fleeting approval. We've all worked, lived, or gone to school with these folks, and for our own health, we occasionally need to stand up for ourselves and put them in their place. At the same time, you DO have to maintain a working relationship with this person, and if you really do see her on an hourly basis, an outright confrontation could make for a very long work-day, -week, and -year. So what do I say when I can't tell someone what they really deserve to hear?


It's that universal word that lets people know you acknowledge them, you tolerate them, but you don't necessarily want anything more to do with them than you absolutely have to. It's a word that's so overused it practically passes under our radar, but in the right situation, whether roared or whispered, it can be deafening.

By all means, if you really feel abused or bullied by your co-worker, stand up for yourself, brave lion. But if you'd like to assert your independence without creating an environment of open warfare, slip in a "whatever" every now and then with a carefree tip of the head and slight crack of a smile that says "I hear you and I acknowledge you...sort of."  There's nothing wrong with slinging a little attitude now and then, especially when it can disarm and dismantle a big ol' overbearing, bull-dozing coworker.

If all else fails, check and see if this wicked witch melts when she's splashed with a healthy dose of cool liquid from the water cooler!


Dear Zelda,

It may not sound like a "tough time," but for me it is. I'm at a turning point in my life and I'd like some suggestions from you. I've been a flight attendant for the last 30 years and now, at age 50, I'd like to do something else. But who is going to hire a 50-year-old flight attendant who's never held another job? I am a people person, and would like to find employment where I could be around people. My husband wants me home, but I love working and I don't know where to turn. Any advice?

Just Plane Tired

Dear Just Plane Tired,

Congrats on the big 5-0! For starters, I wouldn't be so quick to belittle your current employment status... holding the same job for thirty years, particularly in the demanding and often difficult world of customer service, is a true testament to your qualities as a strong, depend-a-bull, and truly a successful team player.

So...what to do? Well, for starters you should probably be sure that this new milestone you've celebrated hasn't played tricks with your self-esteem. During our birthdays, particularly milestones like yours, it's not uncommon to encounter some turbulence, and before opening any emergency exits, I'd suggest buckling your seatbelt, bringing your seatback into the full upright and locked position, and giving yourself some time to think things through. However, if the birthday has come and gone, the associated emotions have subsided a bit, and the feeling remains, then by all means, "just do it!" You have a solid background of holding a steady job, so I don't think it will be a problem for you to find other employment. The big question isn't WHETHER you can do it, it's WHAT you'd like to do, and HOW you can go about making it happen.

A good flight plan is always the best place to start. Decide what it is you'd like to do, or make a list of options by looking in local classified ads, on local bulletin board services like, or on big job sites like In addition to finding something you feel passionate about (the most important thing!), you may also want to consider factors like your current and future financial needs, your family obligations, how much risk you are willing to take (for example in starting your own business), the length of time (years) you'd like to do it, as well as the amount of time (hours per week) you're willing to dedicate to it. Once you've narrowed this down, find out what it takes to actually do the job. Talk to people who have done something similar, and find out if there are volunteer opportunities for you to learn about your new field. Finally, find something that draws on your existing skills and qualities, which it sounds like you've already considered. Doing something that you enjoy, and knowing that you do it well, is a wonderful feeling, and worth working for.

The sky's the limit... it's your time to soar!


Dear Zelda,

I think I'm in one of the toughest times I'll ever be in. My two labs, Salt and Pepper are 14 1/2 years old and not doing so well. They both are having a terrible time walking and getting around, even to go to the bathroom. They've been together since they were puppies. Salt is worse off than Pepper and my vet (who I've had for the same amount of time) says he'll have to be put down fairly soon (within the next week). Since they both have such problems walking and they've been together so long, he suggested that they both be put down at the same time. He says that Pepper won't go much longer once Salt is gone and he'd probably be better off going with her, happier than dying with a broken heart. I know it's for the best, but I'm devastated.

Do all dogs really go to heaven?

Friend in Need

Dear Friend in Need,

I'm so sorry to hear about Salt and Pepper. It sounds like they've both had long and wonderful lives with you, and with each other, and a dog can't ask for much more than that. The average dog only lives to be about thirteen, so Salt and Pepper have definitely beaten the odds (and then some). That's due in no small part to the love and care they must have felt from you all their lives.

As for whether or not all dogs go to heaven... I sometimes try and imagine what heaven would be like for us dogs; exploring a park with miles of lush green lawn and fire hydrants behind every corner, or finding a huge bone to settle down and chew on, or being curled up by the fire with our dog friends and our family surrounding us. That's when I realize that we dogs DO get to go to heaven, because if we're lucky and we end up in families like yours, we actually get to experience it every day. We have simple pleasures, and hopefully you will rest a little easier knowing that Salt and Pepper have truly been in heaven all their lives with you. It's sad to say goodbye to us, and it's sad for us to say goodbye too, but in this world there is no improving on a life well lived among friends and family.

Now it sounds like it's time to let them go. I think your veterinarian is right that it's only fair to let them share their whole lives together, including the end. Our thoughts are with you as you go through this difficult time, this inevitable part of life. All parents dream that their children will grow up to live full and happy lives, and at fourteen and a half, Salt and Pepper can rest together peacefully now, their lives full of love from each other and from you.

Heartfelt wishes from all of us here,