The ultimate clip-and-save guide to surviving some of life’s biggest hassles. Penthouse has consulted with leading experts to help you out. By Steven Shawn
Illustrations by Chris Philpot
1 SURVIVE A TAX AUDIT
There’s death, as they say, and there’s taxes. Both reliable. Both terrifying. (Although taxes arguably more so, since they come around annually.) The tax audit is one of the top anxiety-producers for men, right up there with public speaking, the dentist’s drill, and trying to find the clitoris. To get through with your nerves (and bank account) intact:
Stay calm. First of all, until you get the envelope, you shouldn’t fear an audit. Fewer than one in 100 tax returns are challenged for people earning below $100,000, according to the IRS’s own statistics.
Respond. If you’re notified of an audit, read it carefully and follow the instructions. Typically, you’ll have 30 days to answer. If you ignore the notice, the IRS can bill you for what they think you owe, notes Roy Lewis, coauthor of four Motley Fool tax guides.
Get prepped. If any of the requested documents are missing, find them or get copies, writes Lewis. Don’t just show up, dump a load of papers on the auditor’s desk, and say, “Well, that’s all I’ve got.”
Shut the fuck up. Audits are usually about specific aspects of your tax return, not your whole sad or grandiose financial story. In fact, anything you happen to mention in what you think is casual conversation could lead to a widening of the audit, notes Lewis. Avoid small talk. Resist the urge to ask whether Jet Skis are deductible. As much as possible, answer with a simple yes or no.
Send for the cavalry. An audit is like a minor trial. Fine to go it alone if the audit is to request copies of a few specific expenses you’ve deducted. But if it’s anything complicated, it’s best to be represented by an experienced tax pro—the tax world’s equivalent of a lawyer.
2 GET LIPSTICK OFF YOUR COLLAR
Strictly speaking, this can only happen to guys who wear shirts with collars—so a good number of us are exempted. There is, of course, the broader issue of the recalcitrance of lipstick with regard to any clothing onto which it has been smeared, such as T-shirts and even the placket covering the fly of your shorts. But, of course, location of stain is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lipstick jeopardy. The salient question is, Whose lipstick is it?
Wife or girlfriend’s lipstick? Get her to clean it! Skip the rest of this item and move along to hassle No. 3. Not your partner’s lipstick? Then you’re going to have to clean up your own mess. Here’s what you need to do, according to that most helpful-hint franchise, Heloise:
Do some reading. Check the garment’s label. If it says “dry clean only,” take it to a cleaner. If it doesn’t …
Blot, don’t rub. Take two hand towels. Place the clothing with the lipstick stain facedown on one towel, suggests Heloise. Dip the other towel in isopropyl rubbing alcohol and gently blot the back of the stain. Repeat until stain is gone.
Blast away residue. Use a spray stain remover such as Shout to remove final traces. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so, then throw the garment in the wash.
3 FIX A FLAT BIKE TIRE (WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE A SPARE)
The cyclist’s code is never walk if you can ride. If you still have a pump, you can:
Spend some cash. Got a dollar bill handy? If there’s a rip in the tire only, and the tube is still good, deflate the tire and wedge the bill inside the gash, according to a report on AllSands.com.
Crimp the tube. If you have a fast leak in the tube, you can either remount the tire with the bad spot poking slightly outside the rim, or you can fold the tube back on itself inside the rim. In both cases, when you inflate the tube, the pressure will cut off, or slow, the leaking air enough for you to ride home, notes AllSands.com.
No pump handy? Then you can: Get packing. Gather any soft material you can find, such as grass and leaves. Pack these into the tire and remount it, according to Mark Riedy on Bicycling.com. It’s not going to be a comfy ride, but you’ll get home. To see a video demonstration, go to Howcast.com and look under bike repair.
4 POLISH SHOES WHEN THERE’S NO POLISH AVAILABLE
It’s a wedding/funeral/fancy-dress ball. You got the suit, but forgot to check your shoes. They’re badly scuffed. You need to simply: Monkey with them. Get a banana. Remove the peel. Eat or dispose of said banana. Rub slimy side of peel on shoes, say the experts at VideoJug.com.
Toss a salad, counters Erin Huffstetler, the resident expert in frugal living at About.com. Stir together olive oil and lemon juice. Rub on shoes.
5 PLEA-BARGAIN A TRAFFIC TICKET
You were speeding; you got caught. Now what? You can often plea bargain a ticket to eliminate the points on your license, reduce the fine, or both. You do this in much the same way a lawyer does with a prosecutor for more serious offenses. Except you’re the lawyer and the arresting officer usually functions as prosecutor. Your success will depend on your driving history (if you have multiple tickets and are close to losing your license, forget it), the seriousness of the offense (DUI? ditto), and your ability to stay calm and follow a few basic rules, according to Damon Dallah, who writes e-books on the subject.
Plead not guilty. You need to do this to get the court to set a date for a hearing. This doesn’t mean you’re not guilty. It’s your legal right to request a hearing, and, by doing so, you put the burden on the court to prove your guilt.
Have an exit strategy. At the courthouse, if the arresting officer doesn’t show, you can ask for a dismissal right then and there.
Start a conversation. If the officer is present, be respectful. Say words to the effect of, “I have a defense planned, but if a deal is possible, I’d be willing to negotiate,” writes Dallah.
Set a goal. The most important issue is not the fine, but your driving record. Gladly take any offer that will reduce or eliminate points or reduce the charge from speeding to some other nonmoving violation.
6 PREVENT FOOT ODOR
How bad are your feet? Real stinkers? Foot odor is caused by bacteria that find a lovely, comfortable home in the warm, moist environment provided by feet. Particularly feet trapped in socks and shoes. To fight that bacteriologic buildup, the editors of Consumer Guide recommend:
Wash your feet often. You need to wash enough to get rid of the bacteria, but not enough so that you wash away the foot’s natural oils. A few times a day, at first, if the odor’s really bad.
Use saline solution. Add half a cup of kosher (large crystal) salt to a quart of water and soak your feet.
Powder them. Try some cornstarch in your socks.
Deodorize. You can use the same stuff you spray on your underarms.
Sock it to ’em. Buy a few pairs of socks that advertise “wicking” action. You can usually find these in a sporting-goods store.
Do your laundry. Wash socks after every use, even if you’ve worn them for just for a few hours. Many canvas shoes or sneakers can go straight in the wash. Let them air dry.
7 DEFEND AGAINST A SHARK ATTACK
Sharks are big, lazy, and brutal. They’ll opt for the sneak attack, chomping down with a force of approximately 300 pounds, says Alley, an ocean studies major at Yahoo! Answers. To defend yourself:
Dry off. “Exit the water as quickly as possible,” advises Scott Conger, a shark expert and owner of Tarpon Springs Aquarium. Hmmm, you probably didn’t need us to tell you that. So, if you can’t flee …
Don’t act like dinner. Sharks don’t really like to eat people. The chance of being attacked by a shark is one in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File. If you’re aware of a shark’s presence, stay vertical in the water and don’t splash around. If you’re horizontal and splashing, you’ll resemble a seal, says Alley. And sharks love seal.
Fight back. Grab anything you can—a rock, a diver’s knife (assuming you’re a diver)—and pound on the approaching fish. Aim for the eyes, gills, or snout, which are the shark’s most sensitive places. Don’t use your bare hands if possible, since shark skin is extremely abrasive.
Retreat. If you can, back up against a rock formation. It’ll keep the shark on one side of you, and make its attack more difficult, according to eHow.com.
8 REMOVE A BEE STINGER
It’s no picnic getting stung by a bee—particularly at a picnic. It’s important to remember: The bee did not attack you. It was simply defending itself—or thought it was. You sat on it, bit it when it landed on your sandwich, or otherwise violated its hive space. Before you apply the ointment or balm, you have to remove the stinger, which has a little barb on it that hooks under your skin. The stinger contains venom, and if you leave it in, it will continue to seep venom. Into you, that is. (Also, there’s a risk of infection.) Fortunately, it’s quite easy to remove a bee stinger.
Charge it. Locate a plain old credit card. Visa, MasterCard, Amex—the bee doesn’t care which, or about your credit rating. Identify the stinger: It should be protruding slightly from your skin. Then scrape horizontally across the surface with the card. This should remove the stinger, according to Jennifer Pointon, writing on eHow.com. No card? A fingernail will often do the trick.
Soothe it. Now that the stinger is out, apply a cold compress to the site of the sting.
Paste it. After icing the spot, apply a paste made of baking soda and water. If you don’t have baking soda on hand, sprinkle some meat tenderizer or honey on the sore spot.
9 FALL ASLEEP QUICKLY WITHOUT PILLS
The first and most important principle of getting a good night’s sleep is to set up the conditions that lead to a good snooze, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic. Their advice is to eat lightly before bedtime, skip naps, and use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom extra dark. Other basics from the Mayo Clinic include:
Do something habit-forming. Go to sleep at the same time every night of the week. This includes weekends. The human body clock likes to be on a schedule. Don’t fuck with it.
Bore yourself. Don’t: watch TV, surf the internet, or play videogames. (TV exception: Some insomniacs report great success watching C-SPAN.) Do: Read a book about Eastern European architecture.
Stay calm. Avoid getting into confrontations within an hour of bedtime.
Don’t exercise. Exercise in the daytime = good. Exercise within a few hours of sleep time = bad. That’s
because exertion raises your core temperature, and increases brain activity and alertness.
Still not getting any shut-eye? Try some of these lesser-known and counterintuitive tactics: Scare yourself. “Think of something that is deeply disturbing, or recall an incident you’d really rather forget,” says Frayda Kafka, a certified hypnotherapist based in New York’s Hudson Valley. “Your mind can’t deal with it, and you’ll fall asleep.”
Trick yourself. Tell yourself you want to stay awake. You absolutely positively do not wish to fall asleep. That’s the advice of Yan Muckle, a Quebecbased writer and former insomniac. If you doubt this works, think of how excruciatingly difficult it is to stay awake in a long afternoon meeting, when you’re trying your damnedest to look alert.
Have a drink. “Drink half a glass of water, then put a pinch of salt on your tongue,” advises fitness trainer Brooke Bennis, D.O. “The combination alters the electrical charge to the brain to sleep mode.”
10 SURVIVE A BAR FIGHT
Guy walks into a bar. Another guy says, “What’re you lookin’ at?”
No, this isn’t the start of one of those jokes your daddy used to tell you, involving an organ grinder’s monkey, a midget, and a baseball glove. It’s about trouble.
Trouble tends to congregate in bars, even in cheerful bars where, like, everybody knows your name. Bar fights build slowly but turn ugly fast. If you’re paying attention, you can often see them coming a mile away, like those lumbering monsters in black-and-white horror flicks. Similar to slow-mo monsters in the movies, fights are hard to avoid. Remember, you’re dealing with drunks, which is like dealing with infants—if infants weighed 200 pounds and were spoiling for trouble.
Try some patience. “Anger is as contagious as any germ,” Roland D. Maiuro, Ph.D., clinical director of the Seattle Anger Management, Domestic Violence, and Workplace Conflict Programs, told The Seattle Times. Don’t let the germ spread. Let’s say you accidentally knock over a guy’s beer. Act normal. Apologize. Offer to buy the guy another beer. Don’t allow it to become a big deal.
Act whacked. If things start to escalate, you can often defuse a fight by reacting disproportionately, according to a former spy who goes by the moniker “Burn Notice” and posts video tips on WonderHowTo.com. Take a step toward your opponent and scream menacingly at the top of your lungs. This action should scare him and also make you look insane, which should scare him further. If that doesn’t work … Scram. Split. Take a hike. Get the hell outta Dodge. Exit stage right. Head for the hills, says Burn Notice. Sometimes hoofing it is your best course of action.
11 KILL TOOTH PAIN
When your tooth aches, it’s different from having a sore elbow or a hang nail or any other pain in your body. It’s Grand Central pain, not something you can identify as separate from your being. Some solutions, according to den tists at the Atlanta Dental Group PC:
Chill it. Either hold an ice cube against the sore spot or sip ice-cold water.
Oil it. If you’ve lost a filling, dip a cotton ball in clove oil and apply it to the cavity.
Ultimately, fix it. Neither of the above will cure the underlying problem. Get to a dentist as quickly as possible.
12 MAKE A MESSY APARTMENT APPEAR NEAT IN MINUTES
An old girlfriend or your parents have just dropped in from out of town. You get a call with a pretty broad hint about stopping by. No, they don’t just want to go to a restaurant. Slight problem: Your place is a pigsty. There’s no time for deep cleaning. Here’s what to do, according to Sarah Aguirre, reporting for About.com (note: If a guy is dropping in, you can skip all these tips. Just go out and buy a six-pack):
Point of odor. Spray air freshener around. Not too much!
Declutter. Find an empty box or laundry bin—anything!—and start tossing in loose clothes, candy wrappers, pizza boxes, damp bathroom towels, dirty dishes, and the like. Fill it up and stick it in the back of the closet. Target the most important areas. Where are you going to be hanging out? Living room? Bedroom? Hit up these areas first. Throw everything in a closet.
Wipe. Grab a rag, a towel, or an old T-shirt. Spray with cleaning solution (409 or Fantastik if you have it; diluted dish soap if you don’t). Wipe down kitchen surfaces first, then bathroom, and finally the dining room table.
Give yourself a once-over. Aguirre points out that your visitors are not coming to see your house, really, are they? Look in the bathroom mirror. Shave. Brush hair. Check clothes…consider changing into something you haven’t been wearing for four days.
Distract. If you have anything colorful—a plant or a bouquet of flowers or a beautiful coffee-table book—use it to distract your guests, says hypnotherapist Kafka. “I throw a brightly colored dish towel over my dishes. Someone looks in my kitchen, they see the red thing and they don’t notice anything else.”
Dim the lights. Another way to distract, according to Kafka: Light some candles, if you have any. Nothing hides imperfections better than low lighting.
Finally, don’t apologize. “Don’t call attention to its imperfections,” says Kafka. Just man up and act like you’re proud of the dump.