Dear Audrey

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I'm going to be in the Big Apple shooting a spot soon. I'll be walking around a lot, so I'm sure I'll encounter several homeless people. Since I haven't been there in about 10 years, what is the appropriate amount to give these days?

Altruistic in Albuquerque

Dear "Al":

There's not one set amount for giving to the homeless these days. But since we live in prosperous times and you will most likely be on an expense account, here's what I recommend as a proper tipping guide for the homeless in the new millennium. Standing around with a hand out: 0-25 cents. Wishing you well ("God bless you." "Have a nice day."): 15-40 cents. Having a shtick ("Can I have $100 for beer, please?"): 25-50 cents. Providing a service you don't need (e.g., opening the ATM door): 25-50 cents. Singing a song: 50 cents-$1 (on key); 25-50 cents (off key). Missing a limb: 75 cents-$1.50 Missing two limbs: Anything above $1. Missing more than two limbs: Cash out your IRA. Any combination of the above (e.g., missing a limb and singing a song): add up the two amounts to get your total. Always deduct 25 cents for rude, demanding behavior, offensive odors or being overweight. P.S.: While you're here, please don't refer to it as the Big Apple. Nobody likes it, not even the homeless.

We're thinking of using O.J. as a spokesperson. We know it's kind of controversial, but that's what we like about it. What do you think?

Juiced about O.J.

Dear You Must Have Been O.J. Jurors:

What's happening in this country? You get accused of one little double homicide and your career gets killed as well. By all means, give the guy a break. After all, it's been quite a while since the unfortunate coincidence that put him at the scene of the crime at the exact same time the murders took place, verified by only flimsy DNA evidence, eye and ear witnesses, and a break-for-the-border chase immediately following the incident. And it's not like he hasn't been living the life of a (New Orleans) Saint since then. (O.K, so he broke into an ex-girlfriend's apartment. But she was asking for it.) While you're at it, you might want to send him a condolence card. I believe Hallmark has a new line for the ever-growing segment of the American population who are the Bereaved As Well As The Murderer. (You could also cross-reference him in the Good Luck With Your New Website And Finding the Killer section.) And if he's not available, you might want to contact the Ramseys.

My partner and I are having trouble aligning our schedules. He's a morning person who loves to start work at 9:30 sharp. I can't even focus until 11 and my peak period is after lunch. What should we do? Hopefully you're not a morning person so you'll share my pain.

Not a Morning Person

Dear Mourning Person:

I don't know if I'm a morning person. I've never been up early enough to find out. But what I do know is that advertising creatives should not start working until after lunch. The morning is meant for e-mail and idle chitchat or coming in late, if you'd rather skip those inconsequentials. Then it's lunchtime. Time for gossiping about who's getting unjustly fired, unfairly promoted or undeservedly producing spots you would've done better. Then it's time to work, from, say, 2 to 6. If it takes you longer than four hours a day to get your work done (except at Deutsch, where they don't start working until 7 p.m.) you should be doing something else. Like being an account executive.

Recently, I worked on a political campaign, and although I've been in advertising for many years, I never felt the same rush I got on election night. I almost feel like I want to get out of advertising and go into politics. It just feels more noble and purposeful. What do you think?

Proud to be an American

Dear I Hope it Wasn't the Bush Campaign:

At ease, soldier. I can understand why you might prefer politics over advertising. After all, politics is less political. But as a veteran of the Cola Wars, I can't imagine a more noble pursuit than fighting in the trenches, hurling taglines like "Coke is it!" or "Nothing else is a Pepsi" as if they were hand grenades. Sure, you can get a badly bruised ego, and late nights at the editor's can cause some major indigestion. But when the smoke of battle clears, you can't help but walk a little taller knowing you've helped Americans everywhere choose between a Diet Pepsi and a Diet Coke. Advertising. Love it or leave it.

Audrey De Vries is a freelance copywriter in New York.

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