Everything you need to know

Dear Joe,

My roommate has a computer that is worth a fortune. He’s somewhat of a jerk, and makes sure to remind me every day not to touch it. So of course I make sure to play on it all the time. The problem is that I recently spilled a bottle of water on the keyboard (one of those unreasonably expensive ones). When he came back, I blamed it on the weird kid down the hall. I feel guilty, and need some solace.

—Ruined in Resnik

Dear Ruined,

You need solace? What about that poor soul who’s taking all the heat? He already has to deal with sanitizing his Pog collection and reading the Goosebumps series for the 18th time, and now he has to deal with this? Shame on you, Ruined. You should know better. It can be a pain when someone declares their stuff as hands-off. Most of us strive toward a world where we can roam in desk cabinets and refrigerators without fear.

But we must face the facts: all of us have things that we’d rather not have people touch. Personally, I cringe every time someone lays their filthy hands on my golf clubs. Those things cost me an arm and a leg, yet somehow over half of all humans have an inexplicable need to whack the club head off the ground when testing them out. Getting back, though, you faulted big time, and now it’s time to own up to what you did. It’s not going to be easy. Your roommate may not talk to you for a long time, if ever. Frankly, if someone broke my driver, they’d be dead to me. What you did, however, isn’t just wrong. It’s a crime to not admit your fault. Pick a day (in the near future) when you’re feeling confident, and just let it out. And afterward, apologize to the weird kid for not taking the blame. To do so, however, you may need to learn a few words in Klingon.

’Fess up,

Dear Joe,

I was waiting for lunch at the UC when I heard one of my friends saying some bad things about me. How do I respond to her trash talk?

—Scrutinized at Sequoia

Dear Scrutinized,

Given the setting of the situation, you should consider what your friend was going through before you take any action. Lunch at the UC is usually a stressful process. Shouted food numbers, cut lines, and ornery employees can make even that little old lady with the Scottie dog seem nasty. Maybe your friend was just venting over getting unwanted cheese on her burger. Also, look into what she said. Honestly, if she griped about something like “She can be so aggravating sometimes,” then I would let it pass. There isn’t a single person who’s never annoyed one of their friends. If, however, your friend is talking smack, then maybe it’s time for a confrontation.

A truly hurtful comment overheard from a friend probably means that other people are hearing the same news (or slander). If you don’t want your reputation to be smeared beyond repair, sometimes you have to do some cleaning. That means going right up to her and asking what’s wrong. You don’t have to turn it into a Jerry Springer episode. Avoid waving fingers and retaliatory insults. Also, don’t set up traps. By this, I mean driving her into suggesting that she didn’t say things about you, and declaring that she’s lying. One issue is enough. Just get to the point, state that you heard her, and ask why she would say such things. If she apologizes or explains why her comment was reasonable, then try to move on. In the other scenario, I again suggest the same thing. Move on. Just without her. The lesson from all this: if someone is driving you up a wall, call them out on it immediately.

Talk it out,