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EST. May 2000 (AD)




The Subtle Art of Hinting

By Pamela Miller

Getting what you want used to be simple. To catch the attention of a potential suitor, you dropped a handkerchief. To avoid cooking for a holiday dinner, you changed your nationality and/or religion. Rather than plead with the small child to stop running, you placed a foot in his path. In no mood to attend the opera: A sudden case of Dengue hemorrhagic fever was your ticket to a peaceful evening at home.

The rules changed as your desires became more exotic. Unfortunately, the people in your life are now keen to identify even the subtlest hint as overt subterfuge. Thanks to the proliferation of detective shows, everyone is an amateur sleuth, treating each sly glance, every lipstick-stained cocktail napkin, or the map of Antarctica sticking out of your pocketbook, as potential clues. One can't even hum a few bars of "Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet" without people rushing to the conclusion that you're angling for a trip to Oslo. (It didn't have to be Oslo; any city with a fjord would have been lovely.) These faux-investigators may be correct in their assumptions, but it's not their place to put the kibosh on your plans. What they were supposed to do was to fall into your trap, and this is why you need a well-planned scheme to get what you deserve.

Your "Hint Kit" is made up of simple items available at any pharmacy. Place these items in a makeup bag. They are small, common, and innocuous. You will need:

Hint #1

You want to go to Aruba. The goal is to have the concerned relative of your choice fund the trip for medical reasons. Prior to entering the room of the concerned relative, slowly suck on a cherry cough drop, but attempt to avoid your tongue. After it dissolves, place two cotton balls between your gum and cheek.

You: I just came back from the dentist. (Feign a pained expression.)

Relative: You look awful.

You: Yes, I have a rare gum disease. According to my dentist, the best thing for me is a special toothpaste only available in Aruba.

(Take the time here to show off your reddened gums. Then open the empty pill bottle, wince, and shake your head sadly as you "discover" that you've exhausted your supply.)

Relative: Why Aruba?

You: The toothpaste is made from native plants and is not exported off the island. (Sigh.)

When you return from Aruba, take the label off a tube of paint and replace it with one of your own design. Don't forget to identify the contents as "Toothpaste from Aruba-Not for Export."

Hint #2

You want to leave a family party. An early departure would be considered rude unless you were ill or despondent. Suck on a cherry cough drop, and then place the cotton swab in your mouth. Rub the reddened cotton swab underneath your eyes as if putting on eyeliner. Then dab a bit of Vaseline near the corner of your eyes. Congratulations! You look as though you're stricken with Pink Eye. Don't shake anyone's hand as you leave; you're supposed to be contagious.

Hint #3

You want to go to the Canary Islands. Rub the skin on the top of your dominant hand with an emery board, then badly wrap with an Ace Bandage. Take your mortar and pestle into an upscale coffee shop and pound on the Corn Nuts. It's best to wait until someone with overt signs of wealth enters the shop. Don't be fooled by fancy tiepins or a briefcase. The leisure class doesn't have to worry about business dress, and there's no need for a caffeine buzz when you don't have to work. You're looking for someone ordering decaffeinated green tea and sporting a captain's hat. When you spot the right person, place a few artificial teardrops in the corners of your eyes. Pound furiously as he approaches.

You: Stop hurting, hand.

Tea Drinker: How did you hurt yourself?

You: Sailing accident. I lost my boat off the coast of the Canary Islands.

(Sigh deeply.)

Tea Drinker: That's too bad. What are you doing with the mortar and pestle?

You: Pounding sweet corn. I'm making gofio flour, a main ingredient for many dishes from the Canary Islands. I would do this in my galley, but I lost everything when my boat sank.

Tea Drinker: Hey, I have a boat. Why don't we go to the Canary Islands?

You: Okay. (Nod your head and smile.)

Hint #4

Keep these hints to yourself.

Copyright © 2007 by Pamela Miller


Pamela Miller saves the world by day, writes by night, and wishes she could find a hotter place to live than Phoenix. The world is simply too cold.

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