Martha's big adventure - Survey says! - Martha Randolph Carr

There's nothing like taking a survey of others to squash a good mood.

We're all tempted to do it at least once in awhile. I love to ask around when I'm not sure I should be doing the very thing I want to do anyway.

Really, I'm just looking for a majority of agreement to justify my actions and mollify any angst. However, sometimes I have a bit of trouble drumming up enough support, which leads to an increase in the circle of respondents.

Or if I sense that's not going to work, I give up, throw up my hands and tell myself that no one really understands. It's all ridiculous.

Imagine worrying you can't make a good decision and then assuming that the next few humans with less information and no way to truly understand your point of view will somehow magically give a better answer.

And when I say better answer, I mean the one we hope is guaranteed to get us the results that we are so sure we have to have. Not a lot of trust going on there.

Take for example, my neighbor, Bob, whose name and paint color have been changed to maintain good feelings between neighbors. At first, Bob liked the new coat of Williamsburg Blue. The house looked really good, in fact. Bob liked it so much he was asking people to stop and admire the work, and at the time, he genuinely meant, just admire the work.

But Bob was dealing with random human beings who often feel obligated to critique something in order to show off a few skills that frankly, Bob didn't care about in the first place. It never pays to shoot from the hip when asked to stand back and admire something.

Most people complimented the house and moved on with their life. Only a few people offered a few tips of advice on how it could come that much closer to perfection, as if that was the desired result or even possible.

These are the people who hear someone talking and their mind is already trying to figure out what they could add to make it better. Nothing is ever good enough to leave alone. These are the people to avoid, or if you're in a more vengeful mood, offer a couple of self-help books on building a life for themselves.

Just those few naysayers, though, were enough to let a little bit of doubt creep into Bob's good mood. I could see it in his eyes. Maybe, he was so bad at all of this that he shouldn't trust his own judgment on the house where he pays the mortgage. Trust the passersby, Bob, but first insist on a credit check and references from the people who live with them. That might put their advice in a different light.

Suddenly, I was cornered by Bob and pressed for an opinion. I put the question back on Bob and asked what he thought of it. By now, he was reluctant to tell me for fear of looking stupid, but he started to let it slip that he still liked it. He thought his house looked good. I added an enthusiastic agreement and recommended Bob go inside for awhile, or at least move away from the exterior of the house.

Sure, there are times when an opinion is actually the kinder response like when the cashier finally told my friend her dress was tucked in her pantyhose. To her credit, she had firmly believed that everyone was taking a second glance because she was really looking hot that day.

Or, if someone is smiling broadly, having a great time, tell them there's a big piece of lettuce spread out across their front teeth. As for the rest, let go of the need to show off your brainy side and just admire the new car they already bought without reciting Consumer Reports.

That'll contribute to better neighbor relations as well. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.