Pass the rolls, please,” the nice-looking, white, middle-aged gentleman said to me. It was the autumn of 2005, and I was at one of the countless luncheons I attended as a journalist. This one was in a small yet sumptuous dining room at the Pasadena Ritz-Carlton. The expected elegance was on display: fresh flowers, impeccable service, crisp linen tablecloths, nice glassware. Even the ubiquitous luncheon chicken was a delight.

The man next to me and I were having a good time during lunch. I was between marriages, and we were actually flirting. Then he saw my name tag. Horrified, he looked in my eyes and said, “You’re Ellen Snortland? But I hate you!” It was so authentic and unguarded, we both burst out laughing.

“I haven’t had the pleasure to spend enough time with you to hate you. Yet,” I said. We laughed again.

“Why do you hate me? I don’t know you, do I?” I asked.

He said, “I read you a lot.”

I responded, “Can I give you some advice?” “Sure.” “Don’t read my columns!”

“But I like hating you. It gives me something to look forward to,” he said. We laughed again.

“Hmm. Yes, I often feel the same way about Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, although she occasionally surprises me,” I said.

“You never surprise me,” he said. “Except today. You’re fun to talk to.”

I said, “Wait a few minutes, and if you’re lucky I might tick you off!”

He really was an entertaining man, as I am still talking about him.

Fast forward to last week: I received an email from a reader named Tim W. regarding my previous column about “Snortland’s laws.” The message read: “I often read your drivel in the Pasadena Weekly. It’s amazing how practically every word you write is 180 degrees from the truth. Exactly opposite. You’d think laws of averages would allow an accidental occasional truth.”

The man I credit with my columnist career, the late, great Jim Bellows, gave me sage advice about anti-fan mail. He said to simply write back to the naysayer with:


Dear Tim W.,

You might be right. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Sincerely, Ellen

I’ve always loved that advice, except I have to add a postscript.

P.S. Don’t read my columns.

I had to look up “drivel,” as it’s not a word I often use, even if I occasionally employ it. I don’t claim to be 100% drivel free, after all. What a great word! It’s useful and underused. “Drivel” can mean everything from unintelligible babbling to dog saliva.

This is also definitely not the first cranky email I’ve gotten regarding my column. I have often wondered why people who don’t like something have so much time to express their discontent? What about the people who enjoy reading my column? I rarely, if ever, hear from them — at least in print. I am guessing that Tim is a white male Republican. If so, I can see that he might be offended by some of my opinions and open mockery. And one way he can “get me” is to label my words as dog spit. I am such an avid dog lover that being called dog drool is empowering to me.

What was it about my last column that got Tim’s goat? If he often reads me and “Snortland’s laws” was the last straw — “That’s it! I’ve got to write to that driveler and let her know exactly how I feel!” — what was it? It requires effort to write a journalist.

Everyone is familiar with that harridan Murphy’s laws, you know. “Everything takes longer than you think; if anything can go wrong, it will, blah blah, blah…” But Snortland’s laws are less well known. I reviewed them, and I think I found what set Tim off.


The “They Who Smelt It, Dealt It” Rule — When Republicans attack anyone left of center, it’s often because they are doing the exact thing they accuse the centrists and liberals of doing. Drumpf is a classic example of the “They Who Smelt It, Dealt It” Rule. The most obvious is blaming Democrats for cheating on the election.


Dear Tim W.,

Your email of Sept. 25 was serious as hemorrhoids (serious as a heart attack is so old school). If you don’t mind taking some unsolicited advice, try to have more fun. Don’t read my columns unless you really enjoy being annoyed, in which case, read away! It seems like you might have written your own drivel and needed to express it!

Sincerely, Ellen


I have no laws yet on emails from detractors, but I’m getting closer!


Ellen Snortland has been entertaining and annoying readers for decades now. Email her at

Note: This coming Monday is National Indigenous People’s Day, formerly known as Columbus Day. Please show your form of gratitude to the people whose land we stole. In the San Gabriel Valley, that’d be the Tongva.