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Dear Urban Diplomat: My wife keeps stealing berries from our neighbour’s tree

She can’t resist picking mulberries, but I’m worried the property owner will catch her and flip out. How can I convince her to stop?

Dear Urban Diplomat: My wife keeps stealing berries from our neighbour's tree

Dear Urban Diplomat, My wife and I enjoy our daily walks around the neighbourhood, taking in the gardens. However, she can’t resist stopping to pick and eat mulberries from every tree we encounter. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to see other passersby watching as she reaches over people’s fences to grab a handful of berries. And what if the homeowners see and start freaking out? How do I convince her to stop? —Forbidden Fruit, High Park

Plucking a few berries hanging over the sidewalk is fair—let’s call it urban foraging. Reaching over a fence to harvest half a tree is not. The good news—as outlined in Heritage Toronto’s handy guide on the city’s urban orchard—is that many homeowners are happy to share their bounty. The next time your wife gets that look in her eye, knock on the door and ask the owner for permission. If they say no, your wife will have to rethink her berry-burgling ways. But, if they say yes, she can return with a bushel basket and reap with impunity.


Dear Urban Diplomat, My condo has a large space off the lobby with several dog-washing stations. It’s perfect for cleaning my car mats. But, on a recent visit, a dog owner berated me, saying the room is for pets only. I don’t have a dog, but I do pay condo fees and feel like I should be entitled to use all my building’s amenities. Who’s right? —In a Lather, Mimico

Whether you can use the room for cleaning mats as well as mutts comes down to your condo’s rules. If the building has a pets-only policy for it, you could try asking the board to consider an amendment dedicating one station to all-purpose washing. There can only be so many dirty dogs in one building.


Dear Urban Diplomat, My 13-year-old is addicted to her phone. It’s so bad that I genuinely don’t know how she’ll cope in September, when the new ban comes into effect at her school. I’ve decided to wean her off gradually over the spring and summer by confiscating her phone between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. It hasn’t gone over well. Now she barely speaks except to cuss me out. My wife thinks I’m overbearing and worries that our daughter will feel left out. I think, as a responsible parent, I need to stick to my guns. Do you agree? —Screen Therapy, West Hill

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Dear Urban Diplomat: My neighbours want to hire private security. How can I politely opt out?

Superglue yourself to those guns. It’s perfectly reasonable to set limits on a 13-year-old’s phone use, and she can catch up on whatever Mean Girls drama she missed after 3. You’ll have to ride out the withdrawal rage, but you could try sweetening the pill by bonding over her favourite activities during phone-free hours. Maybe even reach out to her friends’ parents to get them on board. Excessive screen time has been linked to anger and anxiety in kids. You may all find you have surprisingly serene teens by summer’s end.


Dear Urban Diplomat, My best friend is a bit of an energy vampire, sending me long messages on the regular about everything that’s wrong with her life. She can be exhausting, but I’ve always tried to give her smart, thoughtful advice. Now she’s signed up with one of those creepy AI personal assistants, and instead of texting me, she talks to the bot. I’ve basically lost my job to AI. Am I crazy for being jealous of an algorithm? And how do I get my best friend back? —Virtual Insanity, Riverside

Many of these bots are designed to ingratiate themselves by behaving more like personal fan clubs than caring confidantes. Your friend is probably basking in the advice she wants to hear instead of the tough love you’ve been sending her way. Remind her that AI’s sugar rush of relentless affirmation is no replacement for the messy—but ultimately rewarding—trials of friendship. She also may have signed up for this surrogate companion after realizing that she was burdening you. Try making time to reconnect with her over coffee or drinks rather than by text­ing your feelings into the digital void. After all, the real world is the one place your virtual rival can’t go.

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