Dr. Petruso is justly renowned for his ability to express petty irritation in terms of high-sounding, moralistic scorn, in the venerable tradition of Westbrook Pegler. In response to countless requests from readers, here are some simple objurgations designed to help you do your part to improve Dr. Petruso's general demeanor and the overall quality of his life, and, in the process, make the world a better place for him, yourself and everyone else.

  • At the restaurant
  • In the grocery store
  • On the highways and byways of our great nation
  • On commercial airline flights
  • In the realm of telemarketing
  • Broadcasting NFL games
  • In the matter of the quality of television news
  • In the university

  • At the restaurant

  • If you are a restaurateur, please be aware that not all your patrons have a burning need to have their personal space invaded by a television—or insipid Muzak—every waking minute. Dining out alone is an opportunity to enjoy a meal, and perhaps to think and/or read, without having one's personal space invaded by talking furniture. Dining with friends, on the other hand, is an opportunity to talk—and listen—to them, preferably without competing signals. There are few enough public spaces left in America where Dr. Petruso can enjoy silence. Strive to augment their number.
  • If you are a restaurateur, Dr. Petruso respectfully suggests that you be circumspect when it comes to hiring employees who feature the more outré examples of facial piercings and skin art. Septum studs and sprawling, amateurish forearm tattoos (especially those containing misspelled words) do not inspire confidence that the food served in your establishment is of the highest quality and/or hygienic standards, and they do little to enhance a patron's appetite.
  • If you are a waitperson, Dr. Petruso does not particularly care to know you by your first name (or by any other name, for that matter). He does not anticipate entering into a long-term, mutually satisfying relationship with you. He desires only that you bring with accuracy and dispatch the dishes which he and his dining party order, and that you be attentive to him and his party throughout their meal.
  • If you are a waitperson, please be advised that Dr. Petruso and the party he is dining with do not care to be called "guys," as in the phrase, "How are you guys doing this evening?", or "Have you guys decided what you want yet?" This admonition is particularly relevant for those occasions when he dines with Mrs. Petruso and their two comely daughters, but it holds even when his dining party is 100% male.
  • If you are a waitperson, when you come to the table to collect payment, do not ask, "Would you like change?" This is presumptuous. If Dr. Petruso chooses, he will tell you unbidden, "This is all yours," or words to that effect. Should you be unable to stifle your urge to be chatty at this critical juncture in the formal financial transaction, it is quite acceptable to say, "I'll be right back with your change," which remark might well occasion the aforementioned appreciative response, not to mention a generous gratuity, from Dr. Petruso.
  • If you are a patron at an adjacent table, please be aware of a little-known fact about cell phones: They often cause their owners to speak so loudly that everyone in the ZIP Code can hear them. What's more, the audibility of the person speaking is inversely proportional to the ambient noise level in the restaurant. (They've done studies on this.) Many cell phone owners subconsciously seek to enhance their self-importance by their ostentatious use of this technology, which is by now—truth be told—rather common. In any event, Dr. Petruso does not particularly care to be a party to what is for you a work-related or intimate personal communication, and he suspects that very few other restaurant patrons do, either. The polite and sensitive thing to do is to turn the infernal device off while you dine (this will facilitate your digestion and that of nearby patrons as well). Should you be overcome with a need to reach out and touch someone, please do so from outside the establishment, where you can speak as loudly as you like.
  • As long as we're on the subject of cell phones in restaurants: Why do so many people insist on jabbering into the infernal devices while they are chewing their food? These persons are probably mostly from good families, and wouldn't think of talking on the phone while chewing when seated at their dinner tables at home. People who do this are only slightly less obtuse than the rather nattily-attired gentleman Dr. Petruso recently observed who was participating in a conference call while standing at a—how to put this delicately?—urinal, in an almost filled-to-capacity men's room at Reagan Airport in Washington. The gentleman's contribution to that doubtlessly important meeting was complemented by a the full spectrum of diagnostic men's room liquid-related sounds, both hydraulic and organic in origin, which surely added a certain frisson to the proceedings as well as (one can only hope) to the minutes of the meeting.


    In the grocery store

  • While you are in the checkout line having your groceries scanned, instead of trying to read the cover of the Weekly World News surreptitiously, why don't you consider starting to fill out your check even before the cashier has completed the scanning. Yes indeed! You can fill in the date and the name of the store and sign your name, in anticipation of entering the total when it has been provided to you. You might even consider having your driver's license at the ready to present to the cashier, who will immediately recognize that s/he is dealing with a sophisticated grocery shopper, and give you a knowing smile. Acting in this thoughtful manner will speed up the transaction, and Dr. Petruso and everyone else in the line behind you will appreciate how considerate and clever you are.
  • Paper, not plastic. It's environmentally less problematic, and provides the sackperson with an opportunity to show off his/her spatial acumen. (Incidentally, Dr. Petruso suggests that you keep the sackperson under close but not obvious scrutiny, to guard against the possibility that s/he will throw the pot roast in with the box of Tide.)
  • Oh—and, if it's not too much trouble, that is—at those busy times of day when all the baggers are out in the parking lot having a cigarette or joy-riding long caravans of selfishly abandoned grocery carts back to the store, denting customers' bumpers en route, Dr. Petruso suggests that you not just stand there with a blank expression on your ugly face waiting for the cashier to scan and bag your white bread, Cheetos, Red Bull, frozen chili dogs, Gummy Bears, and all the other toxic dreck you threw into your cart. Show a little leadership, for God's sake! Try bagging your own freaking groceries. It's really not all that humiliating. And the advantage is that not only will you be able to depart the depressing store sooner, but you will speed Dr. Petruso's departure as well. This will inevitably put a little cheer into his day and a little spring to his step, you moron.


    On the highways and byways of our great nation

  • You have probably noticed, while out motoring, the small lights on vehicles which blink rhythmically just before the driver makes a turn or changes a lane. These clever devices are called "turn signals," and they have been stock equipment on American automobiles since the 1930s. Chances are extremely good that the car or pickup you currently drive is equipped with a set of them. The lights are activated by means of a short lever projecting from the left side of your steering column. Dr. Petruso, who hates surprises while driving, strongly urges you to consult your automobile owner's manual and your state's DMV driver's manual on proper use of this ingenious technology, and to get into the habit of using it whenever you drive.
  • If you have gone deeply into debt to install in your vehicle an audio amplifier capable of cranking more than 200 watts, and a complementary kickin' subwoofer, be aware that by playing your system at peak volumes, you run the risk of causing kidney damage to Dr. Petruso and other motorists in nearby automobiles. By all means feel free to turn your own internal organs to aspic, but please do so with your windows tightly closed, particularly when you roll up to stoplights.
  • In the event that you, Dear Reader, are an employee of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Dr. Petruso has a humble suggestion, namely: WOULD YOU PLEASE SET A QUESTION ON THE TEXAS DRIVER'S WRITTEN EXAM ABOUT ELIGIBILITY TO USE THE FREAKING LEFT LANE?? Here is the concept: Drivers are not free to pick a lane randomly. The right lane is the one for morons, geezers and Sunday drivers who have neither a particular place to go nor a time by which they must arrive. If you find that this last sentence describes you, then GET YOUR ASS INTO THE FAR RIGHT LANE AND KEEP IT THERE.
           Dr. Petruso has spared no expense drafting the following question, which the DMV is welcome to use without charge. Indeed, he observes that it would be prudent to insert this question in the written exam of each and every applicant for a driver's license in Texas:

    The leftmost lane on a multi-lane thoroughfare is for use exclusively by

    (a)
       drivers whose IQs are in the mid-two digits.
    (b)
       drivers whose ages are in the high two digits.
    (c)
       drivers who have no particular destination in mind and are in no hurry to get there.
    (d)
       important persons such as Dr. Petruso who require an unobstructed view all the way to the horizon at all times.

    The correct answer is, of course, (d).

    Dr. Petruso recommends that any examinee who gets this question wrong be summarily failed and that s/he be obliged to wait six months before writing it again, during which time s/he would be urged to reflect on the importance of courtesy in motoring. If the question is missed on the retake, the examinee would be incarcerated in a minimum-security institution for a period not to exceed one year, to undergo mandatory driver indoctrination. Should the person miss the question a third time, s/he would be subject to immediate execution by firing squad.
  • Drive-through ATMs are wonderful inventions, are they not? Just think: they permit one to get one's hands on frog pelts at any hour of the day or night, like for instance 3 a.m., when one discovers that he is fresh out of blow and desperately needs to cop another piece. (Dr. Petruso has never yet met a dealer who takes checks. No, cash is definitely the preferred medium of tender for those fellows.) So: If you are a drive-through ATM user, as soon as you have made your deposit or withdrawal, checked your balance, or completed some other boring transaction, take a peek in your rearview mirror. If you happen to espy Dr. Petruso grinding his teeth, red-lining his engine, flashing his high beams and banging his clenched fists furiously on the top of his steering wheel, you are strongly urged not to sit there filing away your receipt, balancing your checkbook, applying your makeup, changing the CD, finishing your fries, or doing anything else that will further delay his access to the machine. Dr. Petruso's life will be much enhanced if you simply slam it into 'Drive' and get the hell out of the way. He thanks you in advance for this small courtesy.
  • On a related note: Dr. Petruso has long wondered why it is that so many of his colleagues seem to realize every morning when they get to work--as if for the very first time--that they must swipe their ID cards in the reader in order to raise the gate into the parking lot. Dear colleague, is your life such a series of fabulous daily awakenings that each morning you feel reborn, and must learn anew the wonders of modern living throughout the day? Or maybe you suspect that the university has decided overnight to revise its parking policies, giving all comers free entrance without flashing their bona fides, and you want to test this unlikely hypothesis before actually going to the trouble of digging your freaking ID card out of your wallet or purse. Now hear this, bozos and bozettes: IT WORKS THE SAME WAY IT DID YESTERDAY. AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT. AND THE DAY ... oh, never mind.
       As Dr. Petruso sits waiting patiently behind you, spewing more carbon monoxide into the atmosphere than necessary, he is composing in his head the day's lectures, eager as he is to get into the classroom (there being so much ignorance to be remedied in the world, after all). He urges you to get into the habit of anticipating that gate mechanism each morning, and to have your ID card at the ready even before reaching the lot entrance.


    On commercial airline flights

  • Children under the age of five should be heavily sedated for even the shortest flights (Thorazine™ is the medicament of choice; Dr. Petruso typically prescribes it in the proportion of 1 mg/10 kg of body weight). Be sure to administer the dosage no less than one hour before scheduled takeoff time. Experienced parents keep a hand towel at the ready to absorb their children's drool; that is a small inconvenience to bear when compared to the well-being of Dr. Petruso and your other fellow passengers who, in attempting to stave off the enervating effects of your screeching, obstreperous offspring, might be driven to consume strong waters, which would increase the already dehydrating effects of air travel on their persons (therapeutically this is not indicated). Please remember that your fellow passengers are, after all, unable to take their leave of you and your ill-behaved, uncontrollable progeny until the plane lands and they are safely inside the terminal; and dose accordingly.
  • Children should under no circumstances be allowed to fly with Nintendo Gameboys™ vel sim. unless the sound is disabled—not merely turned down, but completely disabled. The United States Supreme Court, in a little-known opinion, has recently upheld the legality of snatching electronic games and pulverizing them under one's heel on commercial flights (you can look it up).


    In the realm of telemarketing

    Please be advised that Dr. Petruso—contrary to popular opinion—is actually quite skilled in the use of the Yellow Pages, a volume of which he keeps at the ready in his home. Should he awake one morning and decide that he cannot abide life for another day without, let us say, aluminum siding, he will head directly for that useful tome, and flip right to the "S" section. Moreover, it has never happened that, upon receiving a dinnertime "courtesy call" from a long-distance provider, Dr. Petruso has had to exhibit his naïveté by replying, "Thank God you've called!! I was just telling Mrs. Petruso what a failure I was because I had no idea how to contact your company to sign up for your new, exciting plan!!" Yes, somehow Dr. Petruso has always been able to function in the world of consumer products and services quite nicely, thank you very much, without having his privacy invaded by telephone calls from ill-mannered and inarticulate salespersons. The fundamental principle here is a simple one: Dr. Petruso had a telephone installed in his house for his convenience, not yours. Please write down this fundamental principle someplace prominently on your call list where you can refer to it often, and read it before the urge overcomes you to sell him something.


    Broadcasting NFL games

    If you are a color commentator for National Football League broadcasts, you might take a moment to reflect on the phrase, "He's a very physical player," when describing the work ethic of a defensive lineman. "Very physical player," Dr. Petruso would humbly observe, is probably a pretty good epithet for just about every defensive lineman in professional football; hence it was long ago rendered meaningless by overuse. These large persons are not generally renowned for their intellectual or spiritual achievements on the gridiron. The reason they command six- or seven-figure salaries is that they hit their offensive counterparts physically, not theoretically or abstractly. And they do so with every snap of the ball from scrimmage. That is why they eat raw meat, weigh upwards of 400 pounds, and roar triumphantly, like the longbone-wielding killer hominid in 2001: A Space Odyssey, whenever they sack a quarterback. Please strive to develop a new and more imaginative descriptor for those relatively few defensive linemen who are significantly more aggressive than the NFL norm.


    In the matter of the quality of television news

    If you are a news producer for a local television station and want to know how you can contribute to Dr. Petruso's quality of life, here is your answer: Lose the man-in-the-street interviews. This gimmick might have been interesting and fun in the early days of television, when we were all grooving on the concept of McLuhan's global village and the notion that there were other regular guys and gals out there—people just like us, darn it—who shared our own hopes, dreams and political opinions. But then came the Kennedy assassination, Altamont, Viet Nam, Watergate, cable TV, niche-market magazines, the World Wide Web, The Jerry Springer Show, the excruciating 2000 presidential election, and the 2003 California gubernatorial recall. If ever there had been a scintilla of doubt, there can be none now: The man in the street is a blithering idiot, and his opinions reflect a collective ignorance that is intergalactic in both breadth and depth. In short, nobody gives a rat's ass what the man in the street thinks—that is, unless your reporter were to stick her mike in the face of, say, Richard Posner, John Leo, Lewis Lapham, Joe Queenan, Louis Menand, Donald Fagen, Hendrik Hertzberg, Mark Steyn, Hunter S. Thompson, or Russell Jacoby, who just happened to be sashaying down Main early enough to get a feed to the 6:00 news. But that would be a rare and totally random event, and one cannot count on it. Instead, Dr. Petruso recommends that you convert the MITS interview segment to something else—anything else—that would not diminish further the IQ level of your viewing audience. Even devoting that sixty seconds to another spot for denture cream, hemorrhoid ointment or geezer nutritional supplement would be an improvement, and it would increase your advertising revenue to boot.


    In the university

    If you are a university student, Dr. Petruso humbly recommends that you meditate on this mantra until it feels as if it is branded into the surface of your brain: "I am a student, not a customer."
           Customer is a role you play when you shop at KMart, where you fork over some money for a good. In so doing, you enter into a contract with the store: You participate in a transaction which affords you certain explicit legal and traditional rights that are part of the long and ever-evolving relationship between buyer and seller in America. (Dr. Petruso himself, although he declines to shop at KMart, assumes the role of customer whenever he patronizes merchants, and he is most pleased that consumers in this country have such rights.) If you are not satisfied with the good you have purchased, you can demand, and will typically receive, a refund, on the time-honored sales principle that the customer is always right.
           In a university, on the other hand, you fork over some money for a seat in a classroom. In so doing, you enter into a very different kind of contract: You commit yourself to a certain amount of future study of a subject, and to subsequent evaluation by your professor, who will determine how well you have mastered that subject. Perhaps, as a result of your efforts, you will in the fullness of time be judged worthy of a credential (grade, certificate, or degree), but then again, perhaps not. Keep in mind that YOU ARE NOT BUYING A GRADE, CERTIFICATE OR DEGREE; YOU ARE BUYING A SHOT AT A GRADE, CERTIFICATE OR DEGREE. The only thing KMart expects from you is your money. A university, however, expects a good deal more from you. One of Dr. Petruso's colleagues has pointed out the irony that professors who read student work carefully and grade critically, and who have high expectations of them, are seen by some students in fact to be impediments to their progress. Nothing could be further from the truth.
           Over the past generation or so, as some American institutions of higher education have chosen to emulate corporations throughout their structures, they have encouraged their students to act like customers and to assume—as do KMart shoppers—that they are always right. But they are not; and this can be one of the most important lessons a student learns in college. The relationship between consumer and vendor is not at all like that between student and university. The latter is a good deal more intimate, complex and demanding than the former, as well it should be. And the title "student" is a reputable and venerable one, with infinitely more cachet than the title "customer." Revel in it.