D. None of the above

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Hello, ladies,” the gentleman at the front door said. The blushing and grinning reminded me of middle school, where the athletic star walks into a room and the girls swooned.

Except that, in this case, it wasn’t a group of middle school girls, it was their middle-aged mothers.

“Hey, bub,” I wanted to shout, “back here, behind the considerably taller women sits a man.”

Of course, I didn’t say that, because I didn’t want to stand out, or even up, for that matter. I had a good seat and was waiting for a key moment to contribute something or to clear out.

I was at a do-gooders gathering. That’s not the name of it, because people don’t generally come up with such generic sounding names for a collection of people who want to make a change, to help people, to make a difference in the world. But, really, that’s what they were.

Why were they there? Who knows? I didn’t ask them. I suppose it could have been that they all felt a strong calling to contribute. It could have also been that they had friends who would be there that night and they wanted to do their part, alongside their close friends, to effect change. Or maybe it was because they were required to be there, because their daughters played on a sports team and the parents of the team captains had the responsibility to make sure everyone, and they meant everyone, as email after email said, attended and contributed.

After all, for this effort to be successful, they needed 100 percent participation. Lovely, lovely, lovely. But wait; I seem to recall reading this book called The Chocolate War, which kept springing to mind as I was furiously typing details of this meeting to my wife.

For instance, I told her that I’d never smelled such a powerful combination of floral scents. The host of this gathering had gone deep into the well of potpourri for a scent that, I’m guessing, carried over the river and through the woods all the way to grandma’s house. I also told her that I was the only man in the room and that there was a plate of cookies in the center of the island that no one touched.

Anyway, in The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, Jerry Renault, on an assignment from a group of unofficial student leaders, is told not to sell chocolates as part of a fundraising campaign. When the assignment ends and he’s supposed to decide to accept the chocolates, he continues to refuse. Ultimately, he suffers serious consequences from rebelling against the school and the Vigils, the student thugs who effectively run the school.

I’m not suggesting that these delightful women, with their floral-scented kitchens and earnest, sincere, and heartfelt grins and plans are anything like the Vigils. They are working toward a great cause and are encouraging complete participation. But, something feels wrong about the compulsory nature of a good act.

Instead of everyone working for one, particular effort, perhaps this group could encourage full participation in a charity, good cause or effort of each player, or a family-choice activity. I get it, of course. The complete effort of the players and all their families could easily be greater than the sum of the parts of small efforts from each person.

Maybe it was because I was the only man in the room, or maybe it was because I am such a fan of The Chocolate War, but I couldn’t help wondering if there was a coercive undercurrent to all this cheerleading.

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Former President Jimmy Carter’s announcement last week that he had four spots of cancer on his brain made me think of Wallace Hartley. Engaged to Maria Robinson, Hartley spent a week with his fiancée in Yorkshire, England before he brought his violin to lead the orchestra on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912.

The 33-year-old violinist played music as the enormous ship floundered and disappeared with more than 1,500 other people into the frozen waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

After Hartley’s body was recovered, 40,000 people reportedly lined the route of his procession, while more than 1,000 people attended his funeral.

What is it about Hartley that captured the imagination of the people in England? Is it that he offered something resembling normalcy and decency in the face of certain death? Is it that he didn’t panic, dive overboard or do whatever he could to save himself? Maybe.

Or perhaps it’s that his swan song was so beautiful that it might have offered something remarkable, memorable and peaceful that night to two groups of people: those safely at a distance in lifeboats and the ones confronting the final moments of their mortality.

Last week, Carter, who is 90 years old, offered a picture of calm as he grinned, answered questions and remained positive throughout a public discussion of his health.

I’ve often heard people imagine what it is that makes humans different from other animals. At one point, a discussion centered around our use of tools. Chimpanzees, however, remove leaves and branches, jamming sticks — or in this case their own version of tools — into a termite mound and eating the insects attached to those branches.

Maybe we’re different, some have argued, because we use language. Given the extensive sounds of songbirds on Long Island, the range of noises dogs make when we return home after our bosses bark incessantly at us, or the calls of whales over hundreds of miles of ocean to each other, it’s hard to believe we hold an exclusive on language.

Among other things, maybe we’re different because we can see through time. We can imagine the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, we can picture the age of the dinosaurs and we can work toward a 5-, 10- or even 20-year plan in our lives.

We can also salute the life of someone we knew. Long ago, when my son was 4, we passed a chipmunk roadkill. He asked whether the members of that chipmunk’s family missed him.

Despite the familiarity of routine in our lives, we recognize the uncertainty of each day, whether we have the good fortune to live as long as Carter or the misfortune to see a sudden end, the way Hartley did. In those final moments, if we get them, we might have an opportunity to offer a memorable swan song, tipping our caps to others who are still here, grinning the way Carter did, at a life well lived, at friends, at family and at memories that will outlive us.

More than 100 years later, Hartley’s name is immortalized at his grave and through the Internet, a tool for communicating developed long after he played his last note and offered what legend has it were among his final words: “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.”

Carter has no idea how many notes he still has left to play with his diplomacy and his efforts to construct homes. In this press conference, however, he shared a broad smile and a reassuring tone, ready perhaps for the moment — whenever it comes — to bid us all a peaceful farewell.

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We’ve all “had to go” at one point or another when the timing or location weren’t ideal. Maybe we were defending our dissertation, facing a pitcher in a big game, getting instructions about our first assignment at a new job, or sitting in the window seat of an airplane with two sleeping passengers between us and an aisle already crowded with people waiting to use the restroom.

A friend recently shared a “have to go” story that continues to give a chuckle to my kids, who suddenly tuned in because they sensed a real-life bathroom joke coming.

So, there he was, hiking with a group of his buddies. He was on a 6-mile trail when he noticed the familiar, unsettling rumbling in his stomach. Ignore it, he figured, because, as we all know, that always works so well. Well, no, not at all, actually.

Less than a mile later, the extreme effort to avoid soiling himself kept him from taking another step along the trail. He asked if anyone had toilet paper. Nope, they assured him, no luck. This was one of the many disadvantages of hiking with a group of men.

Once separated from the apparent toilet-paperless pack, my first thought would have been to avoid poison ivy and bears — or bears covered in poison ivy. However, he didn’t have the luxury of time for those kinds of concerns. As soon as he got his shorts down around his hiking boots, he had an instant explosion. Fortunately, he wasn’t trekking in the winter and there wasn’t loose snow overhead.

Disgusted by the stench from the first toxic release, he crab walked his way as far as he could to start round two. And so it went, for five rounds, until he left a connect-the-dots, “Hansel and Gretel” trail in the woods. When the contents of his digestive system were finally out, he faced the toilet paper dilemma.

He looked at the evergreen pine needles around him. Nature didn’t offer a solution.

He considered his underwear. He decided to rip it off and “go commando” the rest of the hike. Despite his best efforts, the underwear wouldn’t rip; it would only stretch, rendering it useless on two levels.

Taking off his shirt would work, but he was surrounded by mosquitoes. The only other option, he realized, was his hat. Fortunately, he said, the hat wasn’t as abrasive and uncomfortable as he imagined.

We’ve all been there. OK, well, we haven’t all exactly been on a trail without any toilet paper after our stomachs erupted. But we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve absolutely had to go at the wrong place, wrong time, or both.

In “Two Weeks Notice,” Sandra Bullock as Lucy Kelson is stuck on a stopped highway with her boss, millionaire George Wade played by Hugh Grant. Recognizing the urgency, Grant brings Bullock to a nearby camper and agrees to give the owners $1,000 to let her use the bathroom.

Until I figured out that I was lactose intolerant, I had numerous memorable urgent trips to the nearest restroom, including once in the middle of a baseball game and once in Philadelphia after my very first — and last — cheese steak.

The only upside to these agonizing moments — and it’s a small consolation — is that they can make for amusing and relatable anecdotes.

Oh, and to top off my friend’s hiking story, if you will, when he returned from the woods without his hat, one of his buddies realized his mistake. As it turned out, he did have a handful of tissues.

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A friend of mine recently shopped for a dishwasher with son, age 8. He checked out all the specifications from one to the next, examining the price, checking out the Energy Star rating and comparing the colors to the other appliances in his kitchen.

The salesman gave the father and son team an overview of all the features. When my friend asked about the energy efficiency, the salesman suggested he could get one with a particular rating, but it was not that big of a deal.

My friend’s son insisted, “Hey, it protects the environment. You need to tell people that when they’re buying it.”

My friend does energy research, where he tries to find the most efficient way to produce energy, although not for dishwashers necessarily. He spends his days designing, developing and refining plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while keeping down the cost of supplying the energy.

When he told me this story, he said he realized that his son, who didn’t always seem to pay attention to what his father said, was listening.

When our kids were young, my wife and I used to say, “The recorder is on.” That was a reminder that we might be venturing into conversational areas that weren’t appropriate for our children or that we might want to avoid saltier language.

Did treading lightly around difficult subjects and avoiding curses help our children at all? Well, we’d like to think so, at least back then. Still, the way we speak to, about or in front of our children matters.

That brings me to the recent Republican presidential debate at the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was a candidate, Donald Trump, who made some pejorative comments about a moderator for the debate, Megyn Kelly of Fox News. He continued to go on the attack, even suggesting that Kelly should apologize to him for her tough questions.

Even in the moment, when challenged by a woman about his perspective on women, he insisted, with some effective humor, that he didn’t have time for political correctness and that he wasn’t referring to all women, only one, with whom he has an ongoing public feud.

But wait, a politician, who wants to be the leader of our country and of the free world, doesn’t have time for political correctness? Yeah, I get it, he’s barnstorming around the country, full of bluster and self-importance, blending entertainment and outrage in one big, hairy ball.

What happened to the notion of nuanced negotiations? Shouldn’t our leaders demonstrate the kind of statesmanship that enables them to discuss important matters with the leaders of other nations, without running the risk of alienating them and damaging our negotiating position?

Maybe Trump, the latest guy running for president, has a corollary to President Theodore Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick” ideology. Perhaps he believes he’ll be more effective if he speaks loudly and brashly and carries a big stick.

Whatever his philosophy, it seems like the manner in which he delivers his messages isn’t exactly what we might like from a role model for our country and for the world.

Does attacking the moderator of a debate in which he’s trying to demonstrate his leadership skills underscore his effectiveness as a leader?

Perhaps Trump, and we, might want to consider the lessons we teach. If he was in a store buying a dishwasher with a younger relative, would he really want the next generation to insult the salesman and then demand an apology?

Whatever, Cleveland was rocking and the rest of the United States watched in record numbers.

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President Obama (D) announced this past Monday the final version of the Clean Power Plan, which is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 to combat climate change compared with 2005 levels.

Environmental experts hailed it as an important step, giving the president a chance to lead by example at a global climate conference in Paris starting Nov. 30.

“This is the biggest emission reduction of greenhouse gases that any president has ever achieved,” said Judi Greenwald, deputy director for Climate, Environment, and Energy Efficiency at the Department of Energy.

Environmental and health groups have lifted their green thumbs in approval.

According to the American Lung Association, the plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed days of work and school by 2030.

“This is a president who said the time to act is now and he’s followed through,” said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, director of the healthy air campaign at the ALA. She said she was pleased to see the target increased from the level in the draft form last year, which was 30 percent.

“We don’t often see the rules strengthened when they’re finalized,” she said.

The states have considerable control: They now have until 2022, two more years than in the draft proposal, to begin complying; and they have until 2018 to create their own plans. If they do nothing, the federal government can create plans for them.

Given that the states can comply with the plan in their own way, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided a rough estimate of 415 million less short tons of carbon dioxide in the air in 2030 with the plan than without it.

Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is a funded primarily by the DOE, has a team of scientists dedicated to energy security, which conducts just the type of renewable energy research outlined in the plan.

“This clean power plan will spur the adoption of cleaner technologies that are being developed” at BNL and other national laboratories, Greenwald said. “We really are going in a direction toward much cleaner power systems. This will accelerate that and will provide a market for the technologies.”

While Congress will determine future funding, the Clean Power Plan could provide an additional boost during appropriations.

“We’ll absolutely be working with our lab champions in Congress, who obviously include lots of members, to push for the most robust funding we can get for the department and the labs so we can get a lot of these technologies out of the lab” and into the field, said Eben Burnham-Snyder, deputy communications director at the DOE.

Some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have suggested the new limits would cause hardship in his state and would hurt the national economy. He has suggested he would use every means at his disposal to fight the plan.

Margot Garant, mayor of Port Jefferson, got behind the plan.

“It’s totally in line with repowering the industry,” said Garant. “This, as far as I’m concerned, gives PSEG another shot in the arm to take down these legacy plants, repower then with clean, efficient plants.”

Garant said the plan, at first blush, didn’t appear “unrealistic.”

Cheap natural gas, a tough recession, the rise of wind power and improved efficiency have already reduced power plant emissions by 15 percent from 2005 to 2013.

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I am now a member of a club that I would just as soon not have joined. It started with vomiting. I haven’t vomited in so long that my wife and daughter had never seen, or heard, the process. My daughter said I shriek in a scare-the-bats-out-of-a-tree way just before releasing the contents of my stomach. After this vomiting episode, I questioned what I’d eaten, what new allergies I might have developed or what stomach bug or virus I might have picked up. Vomiting, however, was only one of a host of symptoms, including extreme lower abdominal pain that radiated to my back.

I had kidney stones. My taller brothers don’t have kidney stones. Did I hit the genetic jackpot: crooked teeth, nearsightedness, vertically challenged and, gulp, kidney stones? Is it possible — and I’m hoping this is the case — that my diet somehow caused this excruciating experience and, as such, I’ll have some control over my kidney future?

When I said the words “kidney stones” in public, I saw a universal sympathy and support, even from people who are less than thrilled to see or hear from me.

“Oh, man, I gave birth to four kids and none of the deliveries was anything like the pain of having kidney stones,” one woman confided as she offered a reassuring squeeze of my arm.

Of course, after the little, life-altering intruders come out of our kidneys, bladders or anywhere in between, they don’t smile broadly at us, learn to walk and share an unending love — and the occasional sneer — with us. They’re just a hard pebble that uses our nerve endings like tightly wound strings on a violin of pain.

“My brother is a firefighter, built his house with his own hands and catches pitches without a baseball glove. I’ve never seen him as uncomfortable as he was when he had kidney stones. He was crying on the floor of the emergency room,” another woman recalled.

A friend said the pain embraced his abdomen, back and legs. He could barely move until he’d ejected the stones.

Other than the vomiting, the thing that struck me, literally, about my kidney stones was how impossible it was to get comfortable. No position helped: sitting, standing, praying with my head down and backside up. Pacing the room, putting my arms over my head, pulling out the hairs on my leg and curling my toes under my feet as I walked did nothing to distract me from the acute agony.

“One to 10 on a pain scale?” the emergency room nurse asked me on my first hospital visit. “11,” I muttered, as I crouched next to the hospital bed in a catcher’s position.

“Sit here, honey,” she offered.

“I can’t,” I whined.

After glancing at my face, she raced out of the room and jogged back with an IV and painkillers.

Even strangers rallied around me. I called to cancel a hotel reservation within moments of the allowable policy. When I mentioned kidney stones, the operator promised to hold the reservation past the usual time and would allow me to cancel the next day, free of charge, if I couldn’t make it. When I called the following morning after a brutal night, she wished me a quick end to my kidney stone saga.

Eventually, when it was clear my stone wasn’t rolling itself out of my body, I had a procedure to remove it with its own aftercare challenges. My recovery, despite some pain, is considerably more comfortable than the agony of a kidney stone.

I’m hoping some time down the road, a medical miracle worker turns these particular stones to rubble before they bring their unwelcome pain again.

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Back when my kids were much younger, they didn’t always play with their best friends at school or even on playdates. Sometimes, their friends would push trains around a room while they would bounce a ball, connect the dots or create an original drawing. The first time I heard the term “parallel play,” I remember nodding in agreement.

Fast forward to the teenage years, and on most days parents and their children live parallel lives. We occupy the same house, we walk in and out of the same bathroom, we sometimes sit at the same table, but we don’t always connect or even interact with each other on a substantive basis.

Just to keep my kids on their toes, I sometimes ask them on a weekend how school was. The conversation goes something like this.

Me: “Hey guys, how was school?”
Kids: “Good.”
Me: Smiling.
Kids: Replaying the short tape of the conversation to see why dad is still looking at them.
Kids: “Wait, we didn’t have school today.”
Me: “Right, so tell me, how was your Saturday morning.”
Kids: “Good.”
Me: Sigh.

Recently, though, the stars all aligned for my family, giving us a chance for more than the usual brief interactions on our way to something else. My daughter started reading the John Green young-adult novel, “Paper Towns.” She finished it in little more than a day and left it on a counter. My wife and I took turns reading the same book.

When we suggested our son try reading something during the summer, he initially resisted. Given the consistent message from my wife and me, he relented and grabbed the nearest book which, as it turned out, happened to be “Paper Towns.”

What’s followed has been a bending of those parallel lines. Remarkably, our daughter who considers herself something of a morning person in the late afternoon woke up one day and entered into a discussion with me about the book. Yes, that’s right, a discussion. I consider any exchange of dialogue that involves more than two sentences, eye contact and a continuation of a conversation beyond a single room a discussion.

It’s not that she or I loved the book, or even particularly related to it. The interaction allowed us to share what we thought of the overall plot points, of the characters in the book and the story arc. We had also both read another of Green’s books, “Looking for Alaska,” and compared some themes that overlapped in both books.

In the meantime, conversations with our son about what he’s read have included a detailed recall of the most recent chapter he completed.

No, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of the book or of the author. In fact, none of the four of us is eagerly encouraging friends and family to get a copy as soon as possible so they can read it before they see the movie.

I am, however, suggesting that a family book club is a way to create a delightful and meaningful intersection of those parallel lines, enabling us to converse and connect. We have had our moments when two of us have wanted to read the book at the same time. Given our different schedules, however, that has happened considerably less often than I would have imagined.

The benefit of a book over, say, a trip to a lake or an amusement park is that the words on the page give us common ground. That becomes the starting point from which we can share our respective perspectives.

Without a specific assignment, our kids can share a relaxed view of a book. The conversations can, and have, brought us together.

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Anxious, muted conversations filled the church. People in mostly dark colors tilted their heads to the side, offering sympathetic hugs, knowing nods and long handshakes.

The attendees had come to pay their final respects to Dr. Phil Riggio, someone my family has known for more than four decades.

A husband, grandfather and friend, he shared a positive, patient energy, which made him an effective doctor. As I sat in the church, looking up at the stars and moon on the stained glass windows, I could hear his calm voice as he offered comfort to a much younger version of myself. Whenever I contracted yet another case of strep throat, he talked to me, looked me in the eye, and waited until I was ready for that unfortunate moment when he had to swab the back of my throat.

Once the mourners entered in the back of the room, the church became completely silent. Holding the hands of her children, Marge Riggio took one slow agonizing step after the other toward the front of the room. Her eyes nearly sealed shut to the painful reality, she showed the raw emotions of someone suffering from the agony of an irreversible loss. As the widow passed each row, the mourners reached for tissues and handkerchiefs. She was at the leading edge of a powerful wave of emotion for him that moved through the room one row at a time.

Whatever she or others felt about her husband going to a better place and finding everlasting peace, it was clear that those still living on Earth would feel his absence keenly.

More than half a century earlier, the Riggios were married, starting their life together. All these years later, Marge has three children and eight grandchildren she shared with her dignified, respectful and warmhearted husband. Her family embraced her, offering to hold her hand, to listen to the words mixed with soft sobs and tears, and to bring their bodies into close contact.

We all felt and will continue to feel the absence of this remarkable man who shared so much with my family and, after my father died, with my mom. The friendship my mother had with the Riggios didn’t change at all after two couples became a couple and a widow. Marge and Phil stood shoulder to shoulder with my mother, whether their shoulders were on Long Island, at an opera in New York City or waiting in line to ride an elephant in South Africa.

On this impossible day, when Marge Riggio said goodbye to the man she’d loved for more than 50 years, I could see and feel the depth of the love they shared. My wife asked me when we got married if everyone felt the same way we did when we started out; if they had the same sense of belonging and fitting together; and if they saw the whole world in each other’s faces. I can’t answer that for the rest of the world, but I could certainly see it in the way the Riggios lived.

Love is not an entitlement, given to us the same way our genes are handed down from one generation to the next. We earn it and work at it and, when it’s mutually shared and respected, we use it to power everything we do. The end of a life threatens to remove the air we breathe. Surrounded by family and friends, we dare to take those next steps, buoyed by years of memories, holding parts of those who have left us deep within our hearts.

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When does what we do matter? More importantly, how do we handle the moments that matter?

Each day, we go through so many activities that are so mundane as to require little to no concentration. We can walk to a deli, order a sandwich, nod at someone familiar on the street and engage in a conversation with our boss on a cellphone.

We have become incredibly adept at multitasking, making it so much easier not to focus on any one activity or even thought. We are not exactly grand masters of chess, thinking several moves ahead to gain an advantage over an ingenious opponent. We allow ourselves to wade through a pool of activities and decisions that are a collection of loose change jingling in our pockets.

But then there are those days, hours or moments that turn the ordinary into something filled with so much electricity that the muscles in our legs that hold us up threaten to buckle.

The thrilling and terrifying collide in our minds. Something real is at stake and the outcome isn’t predetermined, at least not as far as we know.

We need these moments that matter, even if they make our mouths dry, send pinpricks to our fingers and make us feel as if we can suddenly sense the rotation of the Earth.

Why? How does leaving our comfort zone help? Well, for starters, it reminds us of who we are and what we want. Yes, she might say “no” and yes, we might not pass our driver’s test. So what? If this is what we want, the only mistake would be avoiding trying to get what we want because we might not get it. It’s easy to believe we are not ready or that we are not good enough. Why not roll up our sleeves and give it a shot?

Maybe if we could convert all that energy and anxiety into something else, we’d feel empowered by big moments. Those pinpricks in our fingers might make them even faster and more nimble than we could imagine, allowing us to play the piano more efficiently than we ever have, while that racing heart and dry tongue could be just the kind of internal obstacles we need to overcome to
believe in ourselves. When these telltale signs return, they might become familiar companions on the road to something bigger and better.

Butterflies feel strange in our stomachs because they give us the sensation we don’t get when we turn the ignition on for our car, when we pick up the phone and dial a number we know by heart or when we walk down a familiar hallway at work to hear our colleagues share views they have constantly offered for years.

Maybe we need a few more butterflies in our lives. We need to feel something unusual and exciting, something bigger and brighter and something that shakes us up. Maybe we need to imagine seeing those butterflies outside of our stomachs and fluttering around us.

While we take for granted that those butterflies are a sign of nerves, they are also an interesting choice. Butterflies fall in the same category as bunnies. We like them. If we can somehow imagine them fluttering just outside us, circling a room or a field, we can breathe deeply in the moment.

When we look back on any given year, we can gain a new appreciation and perspective on these opportunities. They may not only define a time, but they may also help remind us that our lives are not just about the ordinary — they are about embracing and conquering the moments that matter.

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John had the miles-away stare, while Alissa poured a wall of words to the next table’s occupants. He had probably heard it all before. While he couldn’t hit mute or change the station with some magic spouse remote control, he didn’t have to listen closely.

She wasn’t talking to him anyway. She was directing her word waterfall at Linda, the five-months pregnant woman eating at the next table. She suggested parenting websites and shared advice on where to find the best strollers at the lowest price. She even suggested the name of a villa in Italy they “had to visit” before they became parents because it was the perfect final trip for a family of two.

Linda’s husband, Victor, slowly ate his mahimahi, nodding the few times Alissa looked at him. This was a woman-to-woman conversation.

My son and I observed these couples we didn’t know from a bench outside a restaurant as we waited for our table.

What is it about expectant parents and newborn babies that turns so many people into authority figures on that unlicensed job known as parenting, dispensing free advice about what to expect, how to handle everything, what to buy and what lists to make?

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter and she walked around Manhattan, people used to go out of their way to find out if she was having a boy or a girl: “Oh, honey, you’re carrying more in your back, so it must be a girl.” Then these strangers would share their thoughts on the best place to buy clothing, the ideal kindergarten in the area and the things she should do to prepare for the baby’s arrival.

The positive side of all this unsolicited wisdom is that it shows that people have a sense of community: They want to help and they see a newborn and a new parent as people in need. Birds do it, too. I’ve heard that birds flying through a forest, minding their own business, will sometimes feed a hungry bird demanding food in a nest.

There is a magic that surrounds a new life. This small person inside the bigger person could become anything: a president, a senator, a doctor, an astronaut, a teacher. While this is all true, it’s also a time when adults make that abrupt transition from one world to another, when everything comes within the context of your role as a parent.

The downside of some of that advice is that it can be worth what we pay for it.

“Buy only pink clothes for your daughter, because she’ll wind up liking pink anyway.”

“Feed your son from the floor so he gets sick now and develops a stronger immune system.”

Once a baby is born, there are parents who absolutely know better and seem to see you as younger, nervous, anxious, inexperienced version of themselves. You are the comedy to their reality, the ridiculous to their rational and the neurotic to their well-balanced lifestyles.

“She’ll be fine going outside in 40 degrees in a T-shirt. Trust me, nothing bad will happen.”

As parents, we have every right to worry about whatever is important to us, to take whatever advice works for us and discard the rest.

There’s a kicker to the story about the couples at the restaurant. While sharing advice about parenting, Alissa sat next to her 2-year old daughter for close to half an hour. Not once did she speak to, or look at, her own little girl, who disappeared into a video game during the meal.

Parents giving parental advice are not always perfect themselves.