The Non-Expert

Credit: Jennifer Daniel for TMN


Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we assist a college student who’s swimming in dirty laundry and drowning in cough syrup.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: I am consulting you for much-needed assistance. I drank an entire bottle of Robitussin, mistaking it for a Jäger Bomb. Now I feel slightly nauseous, and worse, I’m fairly certain that there is a dragon hiding outside my dorm room and eating the small imps who have taken up residence there. I have at my disposal a fifth of vodka, a cellular phone, several weeks’ worth of dirty laundry, copious amounts of hairstyling products, and a stick of chewing gum. I await your response eagerly. —Brian B.

Answer: What do I look like, a direct descendant of Jerry Garcia, Beowulf, and MacGyver?

Very astute of you, Brian. I am, in fact, a direct descendant of Jerry Garcia, Beowulf, and MacGyver. Who better to help you through a long, strange trip surrounded by menacing monsters and disparate but unassumingly useful objects? If you wish to partake of my tutelage, you must unquestioningly do exactly as I command. Heed my instructions, and you shall succeed at something. This will be difficult, as you are certainly ill-equipped. Though I must say thank heavens for copious hairstyling products! You must be rooming with Vidal Sassoon. That seems to me the most logical explanation.

Wow. Sorry to hear that. I imagine he’s kind of a bitch to room with. Probably why you were self-medicating in the first place, am I right? My first college roommate once drank an entire 12 pack of my Snapple iced teas when I was away for the weekend, and I was so distraught that I went on a five-day peyote binge/hunger strike (great way to shed some pounds, by the way!). I know it can be hard adjusting to life with a stranger, especially a metrosexual octogenarian British one. But you need to slow down, take a deep breath, and read product labels before you binge-consume common dorm liquids. Next time you might mistake bong water for a dirty martini—or worse, Budweiser for something potable.

Now, let’s get you out of your current predicament. First, open the window shades and front door. I realize you are afraid of the dragon and probably annoyed by the imps, but you must confront your fears. Think of the dragon as your friend. He is eating the imps, after all. If you are nervous, carry an aerosol can of hairspray to be used like mace. Transparency is important to the process so that your fellow dorm mates and passersby are able to see inside your abode in case anything goes amiss with the dragon.

Next, fill a large plastic cup with vodka, leaving at least an inch’s worth of room below the brim. Submerge your phone in the cup (sorry if it is the new iPhone). Blindfold yourself with a thick hair extension and then clamber toward the nearest wall that does not contain a door or window. Feel along the wall until you find the switch. Flip the switch several times (it can be imaginary). Grab a round brush, go to the doorway, and lie down. Count to 700 as quickly and loudly as you possibly can while combing your hair with the round brush and singing “The Trees” by Rush.

Once you have made something happen by flipping the switch (I may not have mentioned this before, but something has to “happen” before you can proceed to the doorway) and counted the numbers while combing your hair, assemble all of your laundry into one long rope by tying it all together like you would with bed sheets. Why can’t you just use the bed sheets from your and your roommate’s beds? Don’t ask stupid questions. Don’t ask any questions. Use the clothes. Trust me.

Take a shot of hair dye, vodka chaser only if absolutely necessary (lightweight).

Now you must build a battle helmet. (If you are currently applying any highlights, please remove all foil sheets.) Break open the empty Robitussin bottle and do your best to flatten the plastic into a sheet on a hard surface such as your desk. Use the bottle of vodka like a rolling pin if it is helpful. Work the newly formed plastic sheet into your hair as snugly as possible, reinforcing it with a few hair curlers here and there, then apply your most effective hair sculpting product—probably a mega sculpting gel or extra-hold styling liquid. Let this sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Next comes deep breathing while submerging your left hand in a tub of gel. After that, do a little shallow breathing while submerging your right hand in a tub of gel. Then hold your breath as long as possible with both hands completely submerged in tubs of gel.

After the breathing exercises, you’re free to listen to your headphones, watch crappy daytime television, or read a fashion magazine for 15 minutes.

Download “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush and edit the track so that it consists of only Neil Peart’s wicked mid-track drum fills. You must be getting hungry. Chew the gum, but for no longer than 10 minutes, as we need it to remain gummy. After 10 minutes, take the gum out of your mouth and put it in your hair. You may experience trouble getting the gum to stick in your hair. If you do, you have successfully constructed the battle helmet. Congratulations. If the gum has made a sticky mess of your locks, this means your helmet is ineffective. Go back to the helmet-building exercise and repeat all steps from that point until you get it right. (Hint: I recommend using a product with the words “max” and/or “maximum” in the name.)

I almost forgot: the phone. Remove the vodka-soaked hunk of plastic and throw it in the garbage. The device is ruined, dead in vain. It was a cruel-hearted, Luddite-inspired request on my part, but I had to make sure you were serious about the plan. Also, I didn’t want you cheating on the battle-helmet-building portion of the test—there are walkthroughs for that sort thing all over the internet.

Almost done! Claim your dorm room in the name of Denmark and down a celebratory swig of phone-flavored vodka. Skål! Construct a toga with the bed sheets and put it on over your clothes. (See? There are reasons behind the movements of the universe, Brian.) Download “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush and edit the track so that it consists of only Neil Peart’s wicked mid-track drum fills. Play these on repeat while air drumming with a comb in each hand until the sun comes up or until you pass out.

You may be wondering how all this is helpful, Brian, so here: Vidal Sassoon will no longer be your roommate this year and has likely filed a restraining order in light of your unorthodox behavior. That’s right: Coveted single occupancy is yours! No waiting lists, no extra dough to fork over, and only a minor social stigma to nurse, all thanks to over-the-counter drugs and a little improvisation.

You’re so getting laid now!

Though probably not by anyone in your dorm.