After the big snow, I published a reader's tribute to his newspaper carrier. I added that the lad who serves my route had also gotten through drifts that stopped everybody else, but I didn't give his name.
My wife has been on my back ever since. "You mentioned the name of the other fellow's carrier, but not ours," she has complained more than once. "You're not fair."
Finally I said, "Write me a letter. If it's funny, I'll print it."
So she wrote me a letter. It began, "Dear Mr. High and Mighty," and went downhill from there. I didn't think it was very funny.
However, other readers have also been telling me about their carriers, so an explanation may be in order:
I try use this space in the best interests of our readers. I try to avoid using it for my own purposes. I enjoy praising your carrier, but my own carrier's reward must be in the form of tips rather than mention here.
Publication of one letter praising a carrier brings in many, many others -- and if those were published, even more would arrive. There is no reasonable way to handle such a situation except to name the first one as typical of thousands of boys and girls (and adults) who give good service, and to pass along to our Circulation Director the names of all the others, so that their good work will be internally recognized.
It is generally believed that the public is quicker to complain than to praise, but I think the balance is tipped the other way among District Lienrs. I receive many letters that speak well for public servants and private citizens, and I always try to see that they come to the attention of those who hire and fire and promote.
TIS THE SEASON
Several of my neighbors who were snowed in last month made out their income tax returns "out of sheer boredom," one one explained. "there was nothing else to do."
However, my mail indicates that most District Liners are just now getting around to looking at the forms for the first time. I am getting letters like this one from Bob Kieckhefer:
"If you have ventured into your 1978 (ugh!) tax return and gotten as far as line 21B of Schedule A&B (itemized deductions), you probably shuddered at 'Show who you gave to and how much you gave.' Do you think we could withhold our returns this year on account of their grammar? Also look at line 24, page 10, Payment to an IRA worksheet. I defy you to grasp what IRS is trying to say and put it into layman's language."
That who would never have gotten into print in our newspaper, Robert. We change everything to whom , possibly on the theory that whom , is correct 50 percent of the time and always sounds more elegant than who .
HOW'S THAT AGAIN?
Speaking of words and the manner in which they are used, be advised that Alice Cole of Falls Church raised an eyebrow at this headline, which appeared in our paper a few days ago:
"Vienna Man Dead, Jumps From Bridge."
In a recent column I discussed local licensing laws that may or may not pertain to farm tractors that use our streets. Willis K. Jordan commented:
"You seem bewildered by the quote from the law, 'except traction engines used exclusively for drawing vehicles in fields,' etc. There used to be an engine mounted on wheels (but not self-propelled) which, by means of a cable, pulled a plow, cultivator or harrow across a field. The one I saw was a steam engine, but any sort of engine could have been used. In the old days, a license tag was needed only if a farm vehicle went to town."
Thanks for the background on the traction engine, Willis, but I'm still not sure on what basis we permitted tracters to use our streets without license tags. If a traction engine or any other device is used "exclusively" in the fields, the question never arises as to whether it needs license tags on a city street.
And when it does appear on a city street, it no longer fits the definition of being "exclusively" a farm vehicle.
February's snows raised the question of how one can protect "his" cleared parking space from poachers.
When Leonard M. Gerstel found another car in his haven, he left a warning under its wiper blade: "It is easier to shovel a car into a space than out of one." It worked.