Responses and rebuttals to recent columns:
I swung some heavy lumber at jaywalkers in my April 23 opus. About how they never cross on the WALK. About how they are nevertheless amazed and outraged when the cops give them a ticket. About how they deserve whatever the cops throw at them.
To the defense of pedestrians rises Val Choslowsky.
Every hour of every business day, Val watches whereof he speaks. His office at 1001 Connecticut Avenue overlooks the intersection of Connecticut and K -- which is surely the leading breeding ground for pedestrian scofflaws here in River City.
Says Val: Blame the WALK and DONT WALK signs, not the humanoids who disobey them.
"Half of them the signs don't work," writes Val. "The other half face in all possible directions except where the pedestrian could properly see them . . . . If the cops want to enforce orderly street crossing, they should first make the city put them all in working order."
Amen, my watchful friend. Are you listening, District Building?
Should we emulate Freiburg, Germany, and install movie cameras around town so we can catch red-light runners on film? I said no on May 2 -- too easy to make a mistake, too difficult to protect the rights of the accused, too Big Brotherish.
But Bruce Borchardt of Southeast disagrees. You might call his argument Winning Through Intimidation.
"All in all, I think it's a great idea," says Bruce. "Anyone who doesn't run red lights would have nothing to fear . . . . Besides, after a little while, they wouldn't even need to put film in the cameras. The sight of the device would make you think twice about running that light."
If that's so, Bruce, then why doesn't "the pack" slow down on superhighways when it passes a sign that advertises radar surveillance from airplanes? And why don't those cameras in banks deter robbers?
Intimidation is useful, but it isn't enough. With red-light runners, I think a little visit from a real, live, 220-pound cop with reflector sunglasses would do more to mend somebody's ways than a movie camera -- filmed or filmless.
Why do checkout clerks always hand the change to a man, even if the woman who's with him has forked over the cash to begin with? Deeply ingrained sexism, I declared, on April 25. But a reader from Silver Spring says it's actually a way to improve efficiency.
"Case No. One," he writes. "The checker hands the change and receipt to Hubby, who jams the whole thing in his pants pocket, while his Beautiful Wife steers the shopping cart toward the parking lot. Total elapsed time: about 10 seconds.
"Case No. Two: The checker hands the change to the B.W., who then puts her purse down on the counter, effectively stopping the conveyer belt. She then fishes through the purse, until she locates her wallet, at which point she separates the bills from the coins . . . .She then returns the wallet to the purse, closes the purse and heads for the parking lot, with Hubby in tow. Total elapsed time: about 3-4 minutes.
"I must ask you: In which line would you prefer to be next?"
I think your analysis is just as sexist as the action of the checkout clerk, kind sir.
Do you really think that every woman is a fumbler-bumbler-stumbler who is too scatterbrained to master the clasps on her purse? I'd say you've been reading too many Dagwood comics and watching too many Ozzie and Harriet reruns.
However, I agree vigorously with your point about speeding up the line. Couldn't those few women who really are fumbler-bumbler-stumblers jam the change in their purses and sort it later? And couldn't checkout clerks ask them to step out of line in order to complete the jamming?
Finally, I managed to annoy hundreds of crossword addicts on April 24 when I wrote that using a dictionary to help with those three-letter toughies is cop-out-ery of the highest order.
Most letters said, in one form or another, "What else can we do? You don't expect us to wait until the next day to find out the name of that Amazon tributary, do you?"
My answer to that was short and sweet:
But the most original notion among the dictionary peek-sneakers belonged to Jeffrey Holland of Annapolis. "When a crossword puzzle worker looks up a word in the dictionary," writes Jeffrey, "he's not cheating. He's checking for errors on the part of the crossword puzzle writer!"
The exclamation point is his, dear readers.
So is the tongue.
Which I assume is buried deep in his cheek.
As for me, I've got to go now. I've been trying for two days to get a three-letter word for "S. African yak," beginning with A. There's this book on my desk, see. By a guy named Webster. I know I shouldn't, but I keep reaching for it . . . .