So the other night I'm out riding around with my buddy Bob, and I ask him to swing by this local music store so I can pick up my weekly copy of Scene. We discover, much to our dismay, that all the parking places are taken, save for the single "Handicapped Only" spot directly in front of the door.
Perfect! I'm thinking. I can be in and out in twenty seconds, max.
But would you believe? Bobby Boy refuses to take it!
"C'mon, man!" I tell him. "You can leave the motor runnin' and the lights on, for chrissake! Technically, we won't even be 'parking'!"
No go. The thought of somebody coming up in a motorized wheelchair and trying to put one of those 'Shame on You!' cards under the windshield wiper is simply too much for my friend to bear.
Bob ends up parking clear across the street, which necessitates my spending five long minutes in the subfreezing cold. And irony of ironies: During the whole time I'm gone, nobody takes the damn space!
The deal is we're all supposed to circle the lot, so that there'll always be a parking spot for some handicapped shopper who may never even materialize. These "differently abled" people can play on wheelchair basketball teams, roll along in marathons, and climb Mt. Everest, but don't even think about making them negotiate a few extra feet of blacktop.
A few weeks ago, more than seventy self-styled "disability activists" wheeled through Sandusky in support of a woman who'd been arrested for tooling down the city's streets in a battery-powered chair--with her four-year-old daughter on her lap.
Talk about your crisis of PC conscience.
Had this lady been driving a car without having the kid strapped in securely, the defenders of political correctness would've called for her head!
Now we're even reserving parking spots for pregnant women, of all people! As if getting a little exercise, thereby stretching and strengthening those muscles that'll be called upon during delivery, is somehow anathema for today's mother-to-be.
And speaking of absurdity:
Do Not Disturb!
I read recently where the only sure way to keep the tide of fliers and catalogs and other unrequested crap from flooding your mailbox, as it does every year around this time, is to write the Direct Marketing Association in Farmingdale, N.Y., and have them put your name on what amounts to a list of people not to bother.
Which seems ass-backwards to me. Better the DMA should send every "occupant" in America some sort of reply card, that anybody who actually wanted to be deluged with the processed carcasses of dead trees could simply fill out and return.
But I'm dreaming here . . .
Now comes "Privacy Manager," a new service from the friendly folks at Ameritech that--according to the TV commercials--will block calls from those obnoxious telemarketers who are hell-bent on disrupting each night's dinner and the hour we like to think of as "quality time" with the kids.
Not to mention that weekly roll in the hay. (Can you say coitus interruptus, boys and girls?)
Imagine: Instead of taking the steps necessary to put these insufferable privacy invaders out of business, our benevolent phone company wants to provide us--for $3.95 a month, you understand (plus the $8.50 charge for Caller ID, which you've gotta have to make the thing work)--with some peace insurance!
Personally, I'd rather see Ma Bell's baby adopt the sort of policy that my man Andy Rooney suggested on 60 Minutes a few Sundays ago, where they'd break in on telecreeps' calls with a message like this: "Mr. Rooney has a $1 charge for any callers who are trying to sell him something. If you accept, please press '1' now; if you do not, please hang up and quit bugging him!"
Here's a bit of irony that jumped up and slapped me in the face the other day:
My stereo receiver, a twenty-year-old Sears special whose dial light (we're not talkin' digital here, OK?) burned out a decade ago, has been on the blink of late. So I went out to search for a replacement.
And what I was amazed to discover was that, while I wasn't looking, the world's electronics manufacturers evidently have been loading up the store shelves with these cutting-edge machines that come equipped with--would you believe?--a whopping eighteen frequency presets!
Now think about that for a minute.
Here we have a broadcast spectrum that, as Scene's faithful readers never tire of pointing out in the Letters section each week, offers almost nothing worth listening to these days. And we're supposed to pick a dozen-and-a-half signals to program into our tuners?
Hell, there are only about 24 stations in the whole damn market--not more than half of which even show up in the quarterly ratings!
Buying one of these babies, it occurred to me, is a little like driving a car with a speedometer that goes up to 120.
I got myself a new CD player instead.
A few weeks ago, the Girl Scout cookies that so many gainfully employed Americans had their arms twisted into ordering by co-workers last fall finally arrived. And now--that New Year's resolution to drop some excess tonnage be damned!--we're all stuffing our already pudgy faces with Trefoils, Do-si-dos, those ironically named Thin Mints, and Marlon Brando's favorite, the Samoas.
What gets me is that, in most cases, the Scouts themselves had virtually nothing to do with peddling these seductive goodies.
The way it went down at the place where I work is that one of the supervisors took to the office computer system with a message announcing that his daughter was selling the cookies. "Come one, come all!"
A few minutes later, another staffer countered that her little darling was, too. "Hey, don't buy from him; buy from me!"
Which prompted a third employee to declare a truce. Such competition between well-meaning parents was unseemly, this woman sagely suggested--whereupon she proceeded to list all the people in the office with whom orders could be placed.
That seemed fair enough.
Except that it failed to address the central question: namely, what are these little girls, who stand to win prizes for posting the biggest total sales, learning from all of this, when Mom and Dad do all the damn work?
"'Twas ever thus," one of the parents shot back when I posted this query on the computer.
Ah so, Grasshopper.
And God forbid anybody should ever try to do things differently.
David Sowd's e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org