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September 21, 2016

Ask Hickey: Neighborly tact, workplace relationships, fashion and burner phones

Welcome to this week’s “Ask Hickey” column. Since last week’s launch, dozens of questions have rolled in. This is good news! We are working together to stare down the problems that face us all in this thing called life.

This week’s roundup features questions about neighborly relations, matters of love/sex impacting workplace relationships, fashion and technology.

Do you have something to ask? Well, send me your questions through Facebook, Twitter or email (with "Ask Hickey" in the subject line). Your anonymity is guaranteed, if that’s how you want it, so feel free to send them via private/direct message.

And now, this week’s questions:

Ashes to Ashes, Butts to Butts

Our neighbors work a weekend night shift and often unwind on the stoop for hours into the morning. I can overlook the noise — zero car break-ins on the block! — and they always clean up their beer cans. However, their cigarette butts are strewn all over the sidewalk and street until the rain or a neighbor sweeps them away. 

Given that I rarely see these neighbors in person, I figure my options are to leave a note in their mail slot or leave a butt receptacle with a bow on their stoop.

What's a nice way to say, "Thanks for keeping our block safe, but please stop littering"?

Befuddled Neighbor (via email)

This one hits pretty close to home, not because I have loud neighbors on my picturesque block in East Falls but, rather, because I was that loud-partying neighbor in my younger days.

No, I didn’t work the night shift. I just liked flying in the face of the "nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” propaganda. Hell, I probably still would if I wasn’t old and married with child.

But enough about me. This is about you, and how to make your life better.

A rational complaint about neighborly behavior? I don’t recognize this new Philadelphia spirit.

This is the city where cops co-opt Drake videos to prevent riots when people put porch furniture in their shoveled-out parking spots.

This is the city where people lose fingers to a machete and throw coffee at one another during disputes over neighborly vandalism.

This is the city where a community watch bro allegedly slashes a whole bunch of his neighbors’ tires and then gallops into town as the sheriff looking to save the day from those dastardly criminals.

Which is to say the predicament you face could easily go south, so you need to handle it with sensitive aplomb. This is not a relationship you want to damage.

In capitalistic America, we all work different schedules. Your ability to overlook their wee-hours noise is noble. They should, and assuredly will, appreciate that.

By the tone of your question, I discern the fact that you wouldn’t march up to them sporting a robe, rollers in your hair and spatula in hand while screaming, "It’s 3 a.m. For the love of Christ, we’re all trying to sleep. Please! Shut! Up!"

This is good, for that approach would inspire them to invite their late-working buddies over for a late-night rager (and they wouldn’t clean up their empties, either).

Here’s what I’d do: Forget about the note and the single gift-wrapped ashtray. You need to make a personal connection.

First, take a peek at their recycling next week to figure out their poison. Grab a case of it. Go with bottles over cans. They're classier.

Then, if you don't live near a bar supply store, go online and order a case of plastic ashtrays ( has them for as low as $12.48).

With those products in tow (ashtrays concealed in a bag) and a smile on your face, head on over next time they’re partying late and say, "Hi, fun neighbors! My name is [insert name here]." Then, rip that case open, open one for everybody — yourself included — and hang out for a while.

Small talk will wear thin quickly, so they’ll probably ask if they’re too loud at night. Laugh it off. Say something like, "Nah, awesome neighbors, you’re like the coolest people on the block. If I didn't have to get some sleep before work, I'd totally hang out with you more."

Appeal to their ego by lauding them for their community service (of chasing car thieves away). 

After a few minutes, casually mention the fact that you have another gift. Present the sleeve of ashtrays. It'll show them that you know their needs. They’ll understand, because it’s probably a know-not-what-they-do scenario. Don’t tell them that smoking kills. They already know that. You’re here to connect, not lecture or chastise.

Chances are, the wayward-butts hassle will remedy itself. 

If it doesn’t? Don’t buy more ashtrays or cases of beer. You've already dropped $50. Instead, slash their tires or wear an angry snarl and chop their cigarette butts to pieces with a machete before strolling back inside. 

You’ll have new neighbors by the end of the week. Just make sure everybody else on the block knows that they should always lock their car doors.

The Ex Factor

I went home from the bar with my co-worker's ex-boyfriend and now she's not talking to me. It's been almost two months and things are still awkward. What can I do besides get a new job? They'd been broken up probably at least a year and were together for only a short time.

S. (via email)

Oh, she sounds like a fun gal.

One-night stands in your younger days are part of a human being’s maturation process. Hope this one was carnally rewarding (and disease-free!).

Anyway, some dude I know via Twitter gets a lot of mileage out of retweeting “Walk of Shame” photos. You know what’s more shameful than walking around in the morning in your clothes from last night? Freezing a co-worker out because she went home from the bar with your erstwhile paramour one night.

Getting a new job is not an option. You are not in the wrong here. You’re just dealing with someone with the mentality of a college sophomore who saw a freshman-year ex heading into another dorm room for some fun.

You have three options:

1) Apologize for what you've done. Shield the fact that you think she's nuts for still being pissed off. Just suck it up so you can say you made a good-faith effort.

2) Write her off altogether. This isn’t a relationship worth salvaging unless it’s interfering with your work. And if it is hindering you professionally, bring human resources into the mix. Enough’s enough. You know her better than I do, though. If she doesn’t seem like someone with whom you could have a bridge-mending chat, don’t waste your time.

3) Get spiteful. Find out who her most recent ex-boyfriend was and find him on Tinder or Farmers Only or whatever it is you kids use to find love these days. Provided you and he are both single — because, c’mon, you don’t need another layer of drama in your life — lure him out for drinks with the expressed intent of shame walking in the morning (provided that’s still your thing). There will be no slut-shaming in this column. Not today. Not ever.

Should this happen, I'll get my Twitter buddy to post the picture (make sure it's framed in a manner that she'll know exactly who and where you are but will still protect your anonymity with a blurred face) and I’ll retweet it personally in an attempt for it to gain some Philly legs.

You think she was unhinged before? Well, the only thing you’ll have to worry about after that is whether to invite him to her going-away party in two weeks. (Don’t. You already made your point and hopefully in satisfying fashion.)

Payback’s a b---h, and your co-worker seems to be, too. At least have some fun in the gratuitous revenge effort.

It’s not the right thing to do — ethically or morally — but 2016 is such a strange year that rules of old have become malleable guidelines. Just roll with it before the pendulum swings back toward sanity.

Waving the White Flag 

How do you feel about white after Labor Day? I really want white jeans. 

Rad In Philly (via Twitter)

Rad, we work together. Have you ever noticed how I dress? Do you think I have the first lick of fashion sense whatsoever?

My bride buys my clothes for me.

I’d wear black dress pants with a brown belt if I had my druthers.

I’d sport a full Messi kit to interview Donald Trump on camera if we didn’t have something of a professional dress code hovering over my head like a journalistic guillotine.

Ironing is a chore, not a necessity.

To answer your question, though, I feel negatively about white after Labor Day because that’s how I’ve been told to feel. I’m sure you can find an “ermegawd lookit this savage wearing white pants the Tuesday after Labor Day; their parents failed” Hickey tweet in the archives.

However, I — in no way — possess the expertise to offer an educated answer on this matter, so I turned to a couple fashion experts on the white-after-Labor-Day conundrum. 

The takeaway of what you’re about to read? 

That rule is bogus. 

Wear white all year.

First up is Cheryl Ann Wadlington, style director for Evoluer Image Consultants right here in Philly. And Cheryl staunchly made the point that you can wear white after Labor Day.

She chalked that faulty rule up to "fashion dictators" as far back as the 1920s, "when women didn't wear pants and guys wore pantyhose." (Yes, I fully expect an incoming "Would you wear pantyhose, Brian?" question.)

"Slap it right in the face," she said of that rule. "It doesn't apply anymore. You most certainly can [wear white after Labor Day], and there are certain ways to wear it."

Her advice?

Pair them with darker colors i.e. a black cashmere crew-neck sweater, a navy blue cardigan rather than traditional pastels, top it off with a classic bomber jacket "depending on your style." 

Per Cheryl, "classic street style" goes well with white pants. Hoodies. Seasonally appropriate colors. Black bootie boots for ladies, high-top combat boots for fellas.

"A gray T-shirt with white jeans, paired with a black or navy blazer, that's a really cool look," she said. 

Also chiming in was fashion blogger Ariana Pierce. Here’s what she had to say via email:

This season is all about throwing the rules out the door and embracing your personal style uniqueness. When it comes to wearing white after Labor Day, you can mix and match white into your wardrobe however you like. Designers like Delpozo, are breaking all the rules and have added beautiful white coats and pieces to their collections.

When it comes to the “white rule” that you only can wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it was a trend that was started in the early 1900s for the very rich and fashionable. If you didn’t wear white between these times or you decided to wear white in the off-season, you were not considered the “in crew.” 

After the Depression, the country began to prosper and more and more people could afford to get the perfect white summer clothes, helping them get in the “in group.” 

Over time, that became the standard for being important and fashionable. Speed up to today, this rule no longer is the standard. Now if you are living in northern states with all four seasons, the winter may not be the best time to wear white, as you may have to walk through slush and sleet.

Overall though, embrace your style and strut your white all year long.

Burn Notice

Umm, why the burner phone? What are you hiding?

Mr. Poods (via Twitter)

Thom Carroll/Philly Voice

The burner phone in question sits below that red arrow.

The identity of the Toynbee Tiles artist, that’s what I’m hiding. 

And guess what: I was gonna share it — along with an oral history of what it’s been like to be a mystery artist for decades  publicly today. But now, I’m not going to.

You can thank the tone of your question for that, Poods.

If that bothers you, dear readers, direct all complaints to the question asker. This s--t is on him.

Also, that’s not my phone. If I had a second phone, my 6-year-old lad would've swiped it and turned it into his personal Pokemon Go playground by now. Besides, do I really seem like the type of person who has a plant on his desk, Poods? That's just silly talk. The whole pic was posed by a photographer. They love props.

And that’s all for this week in “Ask Hickey.” Check back next Wednesday for more! And remember: We’re here to help, so send a question in if you have one!