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Transcript

John Kelly's Washington Live

Free-for-all Discussion

John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 2004; 1:00 PM

John Kelly writes five times a week about the joys and annoyances of living in Washington. He aims to show readers the Washington (and Silver Spring, Alexandria, Manassas, Bowie ...) that they know and take them places they don't know. He wants to make them see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and unfamiliar things in familiar ways. ("We may occasionally end up seeing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways," John says, "but such are the risks of the job.") His columns take a cockeyed view of the place the rest of the planet knows as the Capital of the Free World but that we all call home. John rides the Metro for fun and once kidnapped an Irishman to see what made him tick.

Fridays at 1 p.m. ET John's online to chat about his columns and mull over anything that's on your mind. This week's columns:
Lights Out and Shopper Beware , (Post, Nov. 5)
Showing the True Colors of Election Day, (Post, Nov. 4)
Everything Free to a Good Home , (Post, Nov. 3)
Ah, the Bells of St. Mary's, (Nov. 2)
Answer Man: Piering Into the Capitol's Past, (Post, Nov. 1)

Post columnist John Kelly (The Washington Post)


Wednesday's Sessions
World: Greece's second bailout, 11 ET
Food: Free Range on Food, 12 ET
Entertainment: Reliable Source Live, 12 ET
Style: 30 Lessons for Living, 12 ET
Weekly Schedule

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Readers Are Talking About...

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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John Kelly: The Washington Nationals. How does that STRIKE you? Is it a WINNER? Or is it a bit FOUL? Another newspaper is saying that the Nationals is what the Expos will be renamed. There's some history there, since it was what the team was called from 1905 to 1957. (And it explains the nickname "the Nats," which I could never quite reconcile with "the Senators": the SeNATors?) I can live with the Nationals, but one thing that I don't like about it is that it underscores how many people outside of Washington view Washington as THEIR city. This is not to be unfriendly. I think most of us Washingtonians like our city's special place in the country. But sometimes I don't like having to leave the light on for the rest of the nation. I guess the Washington LOCALS wouldn't have worked.

What else is on people's minds? How about that Metro crash! Now we know the answer to the question: What happens when a train rolls down a 4 percent grade and strikes an immovable object?

And we have today's column, which explores that old bromide "You break it, you bought it." Other columns this week were about the sandstone fenceposts on Constitution Avenue, the old clocks in two DC church steeples, the item-swap known as "the List," and encountering autumn in Rock Creek Park.

And away we go. Stand clear, doors closing.

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Frederick, Md.: Um, can we add two wrecked metro trains to the List? How about a malfunctioning second-term elected president?

John Kelly: I wonder how much of those trains they'll be able to salvage. And what happens to Metro's insurance? Does it go up? Will Metro put a claim in, pay a $500 deductible and get two new train cars?

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Washington, D.C.: I think that you owe it to your readers to name the lighting store from today's column. There's no legal reason you can't, and I'm sure that a large number of your readers would prefer to stay away from stores -- and owners -- like that.

As a journalist who covers the community, you have a responsibility to the community at large, not one individual shop owner who's afraid to lose business.

John Kelly: When we journalists write stories, we want to speak to everyone involved. I haven't spoken with the central character in this sorry tale. So I'm not going to name the store. I'm sorry. If you think it might be a place you shop, I would ask them: "Hey, are you the guy who John Kelly wrote about?" If it's him, he'll probably blow his top. Then you'll know.

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Silver Spring, Md.: OK, Answer Man, why did all the leaves fall onto my lawn the day AFTER the county came by to sweep them up?

John Kelly: The abcission layer that forms between the leaf and the tree branch was not sufficiently hard and brittle to cause the leaf to drop. That's the scientific reason. As for the cosmic reason, it's probably because God doesn't like you. But look on the bright side: You've got a head start on next year.

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Wheaton, Md.: I'm very happy that Laura Bush is getting a new dog for her birthday, but couldn't her hubby have set an example for the country by getting a dog from one of the area's many animal shelters, and thus save a life, rather than going the usual rich-guy route (used by politicians of both parties) of getting a pure breed puppy? The only well-known politician I know of who adopted a pet from an animal shelter is Bob Dole, who I believe adopted a dog from the Washington Humane Society shelter.

John Kelly: And aren't a lot of those purebred dogs really pure inbred dogs? We got our dog through Lab Rescue, and he's been just fine. I mean, except for being a goofy Lab. I must say that The Post had two of the cutest photos today: the one of the Scottie puppies and the one on the cover of Weekend, of the baby flying squirrel. I remarked at breakfast that I wanted to get a flying squirrel and send it out for donuts. My family pointed out that squirrels don't eat donuts. I was thinking I could train it to fly to the Dunkin' Donuts and pick me up a cruller , then fly back.

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John Kelly: Of course, I'm just kidding. I would never take an animal from the wild and force it to do my bidding. That's what kids are for.

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Prince Frederick, Md.: Very interesting column today about the broken light fixture and dispute about paying. I wish you had given the name of the store so I can not patronize it in the future. I have never broken any item in a store, but I boycott retailers if they really screw-up, if their employees have attitudes, or if they put themselves before the customer. In fact, I could write a book about the lousy service and nasty store clerks in Calvert County!

I have not patronized the Hecht Company since 1973 when I bought a set of dishes on "layaway" -- remember that? These particular dishes were on clearance; I loved the pattern; I paid bi-weekly until they were paid for. When I went to pick them up at final payment, they were not available. The stupid clerk failed to put a set aside to reserve them when I made the first payment. I got a refund after the department manager tried to sell me another pattern, which I did not want.

I stopped going to Hechingers when I realized you could drop dead in the aisles before any clerk would help you. I am female; male customers got service very quickly.

I will not patronize a store on Route 29 near Columbia because they refused to let me use their phone when my car broke down early one Sunday morning, long before cell phones were plentiful.

Retailers have to realize customers pay them money for goods and/or services. Customers can very easily boycott their establishment and go elsewhere. I wish there was a central list we could report retailers' sins and transgressions against their customers. The customer is not always right, but stores depend on customers for their livelihood. A little flexibility goes a long way.

John Kelly: Those are some pretty egregious examples of customer disservice. If it's any consolation, that Hecht's manager is probably retired by now. It might be safe to go back.

I hope next week to have a story about a business that went out of its way to treat a customer well.

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Re: Lighting guy: My big question is, was the customer 7 feet tall? I think the average customer should have the confidence he can walk through a retail establishment without banging his head on something!;

So, unless that is the case, I think the merchant should be more concerned about the customer's head than his merchandise. This is almost the equivalent of leaving ice on the sidewalk or a spill on a grocery store floor. You are creating a known hazard for your customer. Smacks of negligence.

If the same customer knocked something off the shelf that was neatly up there, totally different story, that would be the customer's carelessness and their responsibility.

John Kelly: No, the customer was normal sized, not Yao Ming-ish. What the store owner said to me was that hundreds of people had walked past that light before and it had never been broken. This customer walked past it and it broke. That, in the store owner's eyes, proved that he must have been doing something unsafe. My witness, however, said the guy was just walking along.

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Tucson, Ariz.: As a tall, but not overly tall person, (6-1), I find light
fixtures installed by someone shorter than me a menace.
If I had bumped into, and broken the lamp, I cannot
imagine offering to pay for the lamp. In fact, if I had hurt
my head, I would expect the shopkeeper to pay for me to
get checked out.

John Kelly: That apparently was the customer's first reaction: Shouldn't you be concerned about MY HEAD, not YOUR LAMP? That seemed to make no difference.

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Anonymous: Thank you for sparking some old childhood memories of church bells. About 100 yrs. ago, my sister and I attended Ursuline Academy, a Catholic boarding school in San Antonio Texas. Reverend Mother Chlotilde, who always wore a silver thimble on her middle finger (to thunk you on the head when you misbehaved) was a force to be reckoned with, but oh how we loved her. The Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby film, The Bells of St. Mary's, captures my love of that school and that time in our lives. Everyday, our bells at Ursuline rang at 6:00 a.m. for morning mass, noon for the lunch hour, late afternoon benediction, and 6:00 p.m. evening mass. How I loved the tolling of those bells; they never failed to thrill me with their beauty.

John Kelly: Bells were the original clocks, rung so that people would know when to pray. The St. Mary's bells could ring what's known as the Angelus--striking a 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.--but they're set up not to, so they don't awaken people in the neighborhood. Poking around the churches brought back memories for this lapsed Catholic, too. Bells were a big part of my altar boyhood. I was always afraid I would ring the bells at the wrong time during the Mass. (My favorite part was always snuffing out the candles.)

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Bowie, Md,: Your column today about the lighting store reminds me of an incident I was involved in about six years ago. My boyfriend and I were in a Chinese restaurant, and my boyfriend's dish arrived before mine. He offered me the first bite. When I tasted the food, I bit into something hard. It was a tiny, pearlescent looking pebble. Turned off from wanting to eat anything else there, my boyfriend and I decided to leave. We didn't feel we should pay for either that dish or the one coming because of the pebble, and I had not consumed my own meal, and it had not yet arrived at our table yet anyway. Well, the family of owners didn't take that well. We argued, one of them blocked the door and refused to let us leave, and they called the police. Long story short, after trying very hard to get us to pay for at least one of the meals, and our refusal, and the cops' finding that no crime had been committed, my boyfriend and I were free to go. If we had eaten a substantial amount of food before finding the foreign object, then I could see the owners wanting us to pay, even though I still think that's poor customer service. That restaurant lost a loyal customer that day. I couldn't believe the rudeness and petty reaction to what was less than $20 worth of food! But hey, I guess if you eat it, you buy it!

John Kelly: I don't think the fact that you didn't eat it applies here. They still made it, and they couldn't take it back at that point. But showing them the pebble should have been enough for them to excuse you without paying. You could've cracked a tooth or choked, and they wouldn't have liked that. I think I would have said, "You know what? I bit on this thing that shouldn't have been in my food and I've really lost my appetite. We're going to leave now and I really don't think we should pay." And what the owners SHOULD have done is been very apologetic, let you go, and given you a coupon for a free meal in the future.

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Germantown, Md.: John, I've lived here continuously since 1987 and have spent over half my life within 75 miles of the Washington Monument. This is home. I love it here. However, I am sick almost to death of politics. Every year we see the same old issues argued by new people, all of whom devoutly believe that life will come to an end if their position doesn't win out. I'm not being critical. That's the purpose of the Nation's Capital. I can't avoid it, however, when both newspapers and most of my fellow Federal government workers devote so much of their time EVERY DAY to the subject. Is it possible to be in the world of Washington and not be part of it?

John Kelly: That's a very good question. And I'd be interested in what the rest of you have to say. If all of that political stuff went away, what would be left of Washington's identity? It's a conundrum we face at this newspaper: How often should local, non-political stories appear on the front page, for example?

I imagine it might be a little like living in Los Angeles and not really being into the motion picture industry and thus getting sick of all the stories in the LA Times about Hollywood.

Another thing: I mentioned Newt Gingrich in a column a while back. I needed to check some facts so I Googled him real quick. Guess where he is? Right here. He has some sort of foundation and is still in the Washington area. That's what's so maddening: These politicans who decry Washington, who say they want to come here and change things, end up staying after they lose. If Washington is so bad, why don't they high-tail it back "home" the first chance they get?

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Washington D.C.: Yes, I have a Metro question: does the entire Red Line need to derail for a month before Metro officials, or the DC government, or the federal government, finally wakes up from this delusional fog they've been in, pretending that things have only gotten "slightly" worse, rather than the reality, which is that the entire system has been derailed?

It is absolutely the most unreliable metro system in my experience in four major metropolitan areas. I propose that they put up new signs only for when the metro is running "on time" as opposed to the constant reminders that there's another delay because someone has dropped a shoe in the track or because part of the rail mysteriously "broke" or because, well, just because they've run out of excuses, but, well, the trains suck. The service sucks.

When, when, WHEN is something finally going to be done to ease the horrid crowding EVERY DAY on the red line, to ease the burden of broken down trains EVERY DAY on the red line, to make the metro a passibly decent public transport system again that those of us who have NO alternatives are able to rely on again?

John Kelly: Wouldn't it be nice if Metro was something we didn't have to think about, the way we don't have to think about oxygen? I wonder if it will take someone actually getting killed before there's some sort of state of emergency and drastic changes/improvements are implemented.

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Arlington, Va.: I wanted to point out, in response to today's column, that even if the customer should find herself in a situation where it is appropriate to pay for something that is broken, she should pay the cost to the store owner and not the total purchase price. Sometimes it is reasonable to re-imburse the merchant's cost, but it shouldn't be necessary for the merchant to make a profit on the item at the same time.

John Kelly: I don't think the store made a profit on this sale. The customer paid the store's cost, $35. Which is what is so ridiculous. It wasn't that much money. Plus, it makes you wonder about the markup on those glass lamp shades. If it was a nice piece of handblown art glass I can see the store owner being upset. But they charge many times $35 for things like that.

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Arlington, Va.: I have to explode over this incident when a customer accidently broke store merchandise. It is not the customer's fault the store owner put his merchandise out so that this accident occurred. The store owner has to take responsibility for merchandising the store in the manner he chooses.

washingtonpost.com: Lights Out and Shopper Beware , (Post, Nov. 5)

John Kelly: I thought it was interesting that insurance wouldn't have paid for the broken lamp. But the experts I spoke with said insurance is just for big claims that a policyholder couldn't be expected to absorb on his own: fire, earthquake, etc. This was a mom and pop kind of place, not a big chain, so maybe their margins are extremely tight. Still...

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Metro Rider: Does the "You break it, You buy it" rule apply to Metro?
They'll never get a refund on that train car now.

John Kelly: Maybe reopen them as a tourist attraction, the way the Russians put their crummy space shuttle on display in Moscow?

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washingtonpost.com: Answer Man: Piering Into the Capitol's Past, (Post, Nov. 1)

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Annapolis, Md.: Washington Nationals??? That seems pretty blase to me. How about the Washington Sammies named after Uncle Sam. He could be the mascot too! Great PR campaign as well having Uncle Sam on a poster saying something like, "We want you to come to see the Sammies win!" or something like that...

John Kelly: It's by no means a done deal. And the new owners of the team, whoever that might be, may want to pick their own name. Naming the team after Uncle Sam has the same nationalistic problems that I detect in Nationals. By the way, Linda Cropp on the DC council is proposing a different stadium plan, one that builds the new stadium near RFK.

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Washington, D.C.: 12th Floor Metro Center: Hi John, I've noticed The Post has been a lot bigger (more pages) this week. It's obviously been a busy news week, but is it bigger because there is more news to report, because advertisers know more people will be reading the paper this week so they will put more ads in, or a combination of both? I'm wondering if you guys lose money this week because you have more pages.

Keep up the good work!

John Kelly: I think it's more that there's more news this week. When there's a lot of ads that does drive the size of the paper up--just see what will happen around Thanksgiving. But I don't think this is a case of advertisers wanting to be in because they expect more readers in the midst of a presidential election. As for losing money because of having to print bigger papers, I'm not sure of the economics of that.

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Anonymous: ....and my favorite part of Mass was the "kyrie eleison", which meant only 10 minutes left to go.

John Kelly: I also liked holding that little plate under peoples' chins when they had Communion.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Wednesday's metro commute was horrible due to the train crash. I found it deplorable to arrive at the Dupont Circle metro and find that all escalators were out of service. Over 150 people were in line for the elevator, so most people decided to walk up the escalators. Older people had to stop and get their breath, disabled people walked very slow. This contributed to the mess.

After getting to the street level, I got on a shuttle bus which was supposed to head for the Van-Ness Metro station, however, the driver was not familiar with the area and got lost.

Not a good day. Metro has been in business for 30 years, but still has a lot to learn. Don't they ever run mock exercises to prepare for various situations such as Wednesday's crash?

John Kelly: I'm sure they run mock exercises of some kind, of what sort I'm not sure. We don't want them to get too good at running these shuttle buses, because that would imply they'd had a lot of time to practice. I'd rather they just fix the darn Metrorail system. Wouldn't it be ironic if the thing that brought down Metro wasn't al Qaeda, but was...Metro?

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Manassas, Va.: When you said you were not going to name the store in today's column because you had not been able to talk to the customer, I assumed there was something the customer would need to explain, i.e., that s/he was somehow in the wrong. Not so! What I'd really like to know is why the customer paid. I hope s/he somehow gets in touch with you to explain this.

John Kelly: I hope so too. No word yet. He may be embarrassed about the whole incident: embarrassed for breaking the light and then embarrassed for paying the frothing-at-the-mouth store owner.

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Metro Question: Last night on the Channel 4 news, a Metro spokesperson was interviewed about the accident and how Metro was handling it. He said that Metro would continue to run "eight-car" trains today while the clean-up continued.

Did he misspeak? Or is Metro actually running eight-car trains? And, if they are, what is all the noise we keep hearing from Metro about not being able to use eight-car trains because the system can't handle them?

Thanks!;

John Kelly: A very good question. It may have something to do with the fact that theyr'e only running them on one line, and that they're single tracking for part of that. Maybe the electronics can handle that limited use of eight-car trains.

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Eating Pebbles?: There's a crude Flintstone joke in there, somewhere.

John Kelly: Quiet down, Bam-Bam.

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Oxford, UK: Just a thought -- you Americans have very strange ways of doing things. But I guess you can't expect rationality from a country tht voted for Bush.

John Kelly: Not so fast there, Limey. Who is it who drinks warm beer? AND you guys drive on the wrong side of the road! And that accent!

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Re: You break it, you pay: Wait until they figure out who's responsible for the fire in the PG County Courthouse. Didn't that wipe out about $20 million in very recent renovations?

John Kelly: "Construction activity" is being looked at as a possible cause. I wonder if someone left a blowtorch next to some oily rags.

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Washington, D.C.: I would like to add my comments to last week's story concerning the convenience store in the Homer Building and can assure you that there are definitely two sides to this story. I am a long time tenant of the building and want to say that Akridge did the right thing in terminating the lease. I had an unpleasant encounter with new proprietor on my first and last visit to the store under the new management. All I wanted to do was buy some cookies, but the proprietor actually came out from behind the counter, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me over to a refrigerated case to show me the contents. I managed to wrangle myself from her grip and fled the store, vowing not to return. Maybe there are those that might think this was endearing, but I did not. I am a small woman with a bad back. Physically grabbing customers in this country is not the norm. I thought about mentioning this to Akridge, but it decided to let it alone, waiting to see if others had similar encounters. I speculate that that other incidents of this kind and other odd behavior from the proprietor was what really led to the termination. I'm sure Akridge was protecting itself from getting sued--it's a building full of lawyers.

John Kelly: Mamma is unique, and not necessarily in a way that everyone would find endearing. A little of her goes a long way. But when you encounter a store that you don't like--either because of its workers, its prices or its selection--don't you normally just choose not to shop there anymore? That's your ultimate power as a customer.

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Arlington, Va.: I grew up in No. Va., and, like your Germantown chatter, I'm a mostly non-political person. So many of my friends and colleagues are passionate about politics, and I just listen and make approving or sympathetic noises, depending on what they seem to want to hear. It drives some people crazy when I shrug off their attempts to insist on making me declare either that I'm just as outraged as they are over some political issue or that I'm enthusiastically complicit in whatever scandal they're denouncing. I'm not stupid or disengaged. I have my own views on most political issues. I just don't care about them enough to get excited.

As far as printing less politics in the paper, I'm in favor of that. I like the polls and the electoral College, because they're like Sports. Otherwise, though, I would prefer more human-interest stuff, like the recent stories about monkeys attacking children or the naked man in the airplane wheel well.

John Kelly: You must be an Express reader.

I don't think we would ever do less politics in the Post. It's more a question of do things like the selections of stories on front page reflect the overall interests of our readers? Or are we preparing it with a more narrow slice of readers in mind? And is that wrong? And if it is wrong, are we gonna do anything about it? And if we are, what are we gonna do? And when?

You can see all the questions we're asking ourselves.

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Gaithersburg, Md. again: Hey, John,
Different topic: How 'bout that D.C Air National Guard plane shooting up a New Jersey school? Did he sneeze with his finger on the trigger?

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Guard Jet Fires, Hitting N.J. School (Post, Nov. 5)

John Kelly: Now who among us hasn't wanted to strafe a school from the cockpit of an F-16? There's probably a video game out there that offers just that option. Still, it was Wrong. American pilots shouldn't be strafing American schools. There's probably not a specific law against it, but there should be.

Did you see that the pilot was within the practice range when he fired? He fired from inside the range and hit a target outside the range. Maybe the range IS A LITTLE TOO SMALL!?!

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Fairfax, Va.: Re: Prince Frederick who wrote, "I wish there was a central list we could report retailers' sins and transgressions against their customers."

There is! How about your Better Business Bureau, or your local (state or city/county) consumer affairs office?

As for the lighting story, speaking as a "height-challenged" person (five foot three on a good day), sometimes even I feel the need to duck in those over-crammed stores! But I've never broken anything . . .

John Kelly: That's a very good point. I hope our lamp-breaking customer did just that. But I don't know what would happen then. The BBB is good at keeping logs of customer complaints that prospective customers might check on, but I'm not sure they proactively go after grouchy businesspeople.

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John Kelly: A chatter unable to post to the chat sent me this:
"Wrecked Metro Trains....
The train from the 82-83 smithsonian station crossing wreck, was still sitting in Brentwood yard, well...only 1/2 of it. With Wednesdays wreck, of the RHOR type train, can METRO save $$$ and marry the 82-83 wrecked train to the Wednesdays wrecked train? That way, Metro has an additional 2 car trains they can put into service =)
You used to be able to see that 1 car single train, INBOUND leaving R.I. Avenue station, in the corner of Brentwood yard."

This is all getting a bit "Mad Max"ish for me. Sad that we might have to cobble together shattered Metro cars.

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Detroit, Mich.: My favorite part of the mass was when my parish priest used to tell the congregation that the parishioners who left during communion were the ones parked in by those who remained.

John Kelly: Paybacks are...purgatory?

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Anonymous: Also Catholic: Kyrie Eleison is right at the beginning - I think the poster means Agnus Dei, Lamb of God, which is right before communion, and is 10 minutes before the end.

John Kelly: I don't know how this chat got to religious all of a sudden, but I have been informed that everyone attending this chat has been forgiven.

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Largo, Md.: Re: today's column. This may not be a politically correct question, but I'd be interested in the race and age of the customer, and of the shop owner. Do you this this had some relevance? I'd also love to know why the customer paid for the lamp. The only reason that comes to mind is intimidation, hence my earlier question.

John Kelly: I think the protagonist and antagonist were of the same race. I don't think that had anything to do with this. I hope not anyway.

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Alexandria, Va.: About the light store debate...I work in a bookstore. We have a rather large children's section. People are constantly leaving their children unattended. Several times I have noticed ruined children's books that we can never sell because the child has decided to color in it or take the stickers included with the book and take the liberty of placing them in the book. All without purchase. We rarely find the culprit and even if we did, we wouldn't make the parents may. But they should. This is irresponsibility. We are in the business to sell books; they are in the business of parenting.

John Kelly: I agree. And those things aren't accidents. That's more like willful destruction of property. Those parents should be made to pay for that merchandise.

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Bowie, Md.: I'd like to know the name of the store (or at least it's approximate location).

I'm in the market for lighting, and I'd prefer not to shop where the owner calls the police over a $35 broken fixture and what he determines to be a "wrong" attitude.

Needless to say, I think the owner was completely in the wrong. Even if the customer was a complete jacka** (and many are), that's part of doing business. If you don't want to deal with the public, you shouldn't be running a store.

washingtonpost.com: Lights Out and Shopper Beware , (Post, Nov. 5)

John Kelly: Is there anyone out there who thinks the owner was justified? If it went down as he says it did, I mean.

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Oxon Hill, Md.: I'm one of the most mild-mannered people around, but I think this is totally outrageous. No way would I pay for that lamp! Just my $.02 worth, but I'd be very surprised if most of my fellow chatters don't agree.

John Kelly: You are right. No one is supporting the store owner. Now what if the lamp had cost $10,000? Can you just say "oops" to that?

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Annapolis, Md.: Squirrels do eat doughnuts! My husband discovered this when after coming into the office after a long weekend. He and his officemates uncovered a stale box of Krispy Kremes. They didn't want to waste them and figured the birds would eat them so they chucked them out onto the back lawn of the office park. My husband got back up to his office and started working away and what does he spy out the window? Your average gray squirrel knawing on the Krispy Kreme clenched in its paws. You might want to think about that before you send a squirrel out for doughnuts. He might eat them all before he gets back!

John Kelly: Those poor squirrels. That can't be good for their hearts.

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Rockville, Md.: Once again, Metro proves that it's management is not only erratic and misguided, but that it has the potential to cost lives.
Is there ANY chance at all that the NTSB will force Metro to manage the system better after this accident?
When Metro chief Richard White emerged from his ivory tower to talk about the incident in a TV interview, he appeared overwhelmed and uninformed.

John Kelly: I wonder. And while I'm glad that Mr. White took a first-hand look at things, I'm not sure that having him in an orange vest directing things on the scene is going to do all that much. He can stay in his ivory tower, as long as he's working hard there to fix things.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: John:
We got the best of both worlds at the animal shelter in Rockville. Several years ago we got a pedigreed Bichon whose owner got tired of caring for it. When poor Nikki died, we went back and got a She-tzu (sp?). Our only requirement in both instances was a dog that did not shed (allergies rampant in our household), and in both cases we got a "loving family member and constant companion".

John Kelly: There you go. GEt a shelter dog. (I'm not sure things would be any different if Kerry had won, though. He doesn't strike me as the shelter dog type.)

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Arlington, Va.: Metro IS running 8-car trains today, but what I dont' understand is how they trains are STILL so very crowded, even with more cars on them! I catch the Red Line at Gallery Place, around 7, and for the past few days it's been a madhouse, with barely room to walk along the platform, and no room to breathe on the trains. Plus, the "helpful" Metro attendants palced along the platform weren't doing a good job of telling folks to move all the way down the platform, so it was really clogged right where the first car would stop, making it hard for others to continue down the platform. It's just ridiculous.

John Kelly: My ride in from Silver Spring took over an hour. We stopped for five minutes at almost every single station. Part of that is a consequence of single-tracking. But it was the first time since the crash I'd had a problem. The two previous nights I must have arrived at Farragut North just as a train was arriving.

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Arlington, Va: John -
Coyotes in Washington DC? Is this the mayors new rat control program?

John Kelly: Now if we can just train coyotes to develop an appetite for snakeheads, this might all work out.

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New York, N.Y.: Just FYI--a dog (or cat) can be purebred and still a Rescued animal. Many groups specialize in specific breeds, because so many purebreds get dumped by the puppy mills--they'll breed more than they need.

John Kelly: Thank you for pointing that out. It isn't only mutts at the pound. And these specific breed rescue groups always have dogs (or cats or fancy rabbits) available. Will we see Coyote Rescue eventually?

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Regarding today's article: I was surprised you didn't address this issue from one other direction: Liability. Stores are legally responsible to provide a safe environment for their customers and employees.

As I am quite tall, I have much personal experience trying to navigate the narrow aisles and low-hanging, breakable fixtures that seem to populate lighting stores and the crafts shops my wife likes to frequent. If I lean down, I'm too wide for the aisles and bump things that way (and, as an added bonus, kill my back); if I stand up, my head is banging into the fixtures. The last time I was in a lighting store (one in Rockville), I nearly knocked myself out hitting my head on a fixture. The employee who saw it happened scampered off after determining the fixture didn't break, without even asking if I was OK. (Personally, I was a bit annoyed it DIDN'T break.)

In the case in your column, the store owner was a triple winner: the fixture absorbed enough of the impact that the customer wasn't injured by the impact, the customer wasn't cut by broken glass, and the owner was able to arrogantly intimidate the customer into paying for the breakage by calling the police.

John Kelly: I think you may have summed it up in your last paragraph.

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McLean, Va.: In defense of the F-16 pilot.

The range was there long before the housing area. Who thought it would be a good idea to put a school less than 4 miles from a live fire range?

Also, he only fired 25 rounds which, because of the rate of fire of the Vulcan, indicates a possible malfunction. Humans just can't pull and release the trigger (or press the button) that fast.

John Kelly: Good point. And finding a home for a new live fire range is probably more difficult than finding one for, say, a methodone clinic. I hope they can get to the bottom of this. As with the Metro crash, they were very lucky things didn't end tragically.

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: John, please help me start the following campaign:

Beginning April 15 when the national antheum is sung at RFK for the opening day game of the Washington Nationals that we no longer shout "O" at just the right time....it will be difficult because so many of us have done it for so long, but our team isn't the "Os", it's the Nats (or whatever they call them) and this practice should stop!

John Kelly: You read it here first: No more "O!"-gasms.

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East Falls Church, Va.: Mind - I complain about Metro as much as the next guy.
However, WHY are we wedded to the idea that Metro,
PUBLIC transportation, has to be a profit-making venture?
Results of voting show that people expect to pay for what
benefits society. Why cannot Metro receive the funding
necessary for continued service and success?

John Kelly: I agree. I'm no economist, but the benefits or a well-run Metro system, in terms of reducing pollution, reducing wear on the transportation infrastructure, and in increaseing worker productivity, would seem to argue that we spend as much as it takes on Metro. What's going to be so hard now is that we have to fix it in place. It's like changing the wings on a 747, in flight.

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Re: The Metro: To the poster who wanted to know when Metro, the DC government or the feds were going to fix the system....for the last time people, Metro is run by the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority and is governed by a board of elected officials from the District and the surrounding counties. Metro is not a function of the DC goverment...believe me, it would be in much worse shape.....

John Kelly: Hard to imagine it could be in worse shape.

We went a bit long today. Sorry if I didn't get to your comment. There were a lot of good ones out there. Thanks for stopping by. Have a good weekend, and feel free to drop me an e-line if you're so disposed: kellyj@washpost.com.

go nats!?

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Anonymous: Bottom line guy: The guy broke the light, he should pay. The store owner is right. He may have been a jerk about it, but his light got broken.

John Kelly: There we are: one person, out of a hundred, who took the other side. That's what diversity is all about!

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