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Readers' chilly responses to snow column

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Drivers moved slowly on I-66 at Lynn Street in Rosslyn last night, even at 11 p.m.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 6, 2011; 7:52 PM

Sometimes I think my column is like an iceberg. No, not threatened with destruction because of global warming, but bobbing along with two-thirds of its bulk below the surface. That 66 percent is the feedback I get from readers, feedback that I'd like to share with you today.

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For example, I didn't think I'd ever encounter someone who would actually defend the practice of not clearing the snow from the roof of your car, but I did. Meet Mike from Baltimore, who said motorists shouldn't fret about chunks of ice flying off uncleared vehicles, a subject I mentioned last week.

"If a driver is hindered and distracted by this and is unable to stay focused, he or she either shouldn't be on the road during times of snow and ice or they should get their nervous systems checked," Mike wrote. "Honestly, I seriously doubt the percentage of insurance claims relative to the total number of incidents of chunks of snow/ice falling on vehicles in a given winter rises to the level of significance. If one thinks most working people have the luxury of time to sweep off their vehicle roofs, you are utterly delusional. . . . And to address your comments, 'if a big chunk of frozen snow comes loose from a speeding vehicle in front of you and explodes across your windshield,' then you are definitely too close to that vehicle!"

Oh really? What Mike doesn't seem to understand is that roof ice doesn't stay in its lane. Last week on Interstate 270, a chunk hit my windshield from a car one lane over. I wasn't following too closely.

In the same vein was an e-mail from Rob from Virginia, who didn't like that I quoted someone who criticized sport-utility vehicle drivers for nipping into gaps in the traffic during the storm. Wrote Rob: "Funny how the only folks you pointed out by vehicle type for blame in your article were, as you quoted, the 'SUV that would pull out of the cross road.' No fault to the bloated, overstaffed D.C. government, of course. I was caught five hours in that mess, and the only reason it wasn't 15 is that I followed some of the SUV drivers plowing through the mess. . . . The Prius drivers I saw (your cohorts, I'm sure) were the folks quivering in the middle of the roadway for lack of a spine or a clue of what to do without the green police to guide the way for them. Sad."

Ooh, "the green police." I like that. Now I have "the green police" running inside of my head, to the tune of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police."

Hey, Mike and Rob: Surrender. I just want you to want me.

John F. Banzhaf III, a public interest law professor at George Washington, thinks drivers should be required to fuel their vehicles when a snowstorm is forecast. "This would prevent one of the most common causes of vehicles blocking streets and roads: running out of gas," he wrote. "If vigorously enforced - e.g., by a $500 fine if the vehicle blocks others and the driver can't show a nearly full fuel tank on the gas gauge - occurrences of this all-too-common but completely preventable cause of gridlock could be slashed."

Good luck getting that law passed, though I'm sure Exxon Mobil would be supportive.

Alexandria's Karen Bankert wants to defend the true Washington driver. "I am a native, and I do know how to drive," she wrote. "I stay home!"

Karen thinks our recent woes were due to "all those people who come from 'snow places' who think they can get around like they do 'back home.' . . . This is D.C., baby! Stay home, stay off the roads and let the road crews do their thing!"

Finally, my column about the way unscrupulous customers rip off retailers - including return fraud - reminded Mary Anne O'Hare of Fairfax Station of a return she had to make. She'd purchased a suitcase at Kohl's but hadn't opened it until she needed to pack for a trip, at which point she found it full of baggies with white powder in them. (Sounds like a Coen brothers movie.)

"I immediately called the police, who discovered that the bags contained baking soda," Mary Anne wrote. "Who knew? Maybe the person was trying to con a stupid buyer into buying the wrong stuff?"

I'm sure they just wanted to deodorize a bunch of refrigerators.



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