I had been meaning to ask for centuries, and Skip Milton was my opportunity.
Skip drives a bread delivery truck for a living. The other day, he was delivering fresh bagels and loaves to a shop on Wisconsin Avenue NW just as His Fatness, Robert the First, came lumbering by.
The side panel of Skip's truck said (as so many side panels do): DRIVER CARRIES NO CASH.
This language has always made me suspicious.
First of all, what if it's a lie -- or what if a holdup man chooses to believe that it's a lie? The words don't make a deliverer like Skip any safer.
Second of all, the language is incomplete. What if the driver carries checks? To some robbers, they're almost as good as cash.
Third of all, the language carries no real deterrent value. The driver may carry no cash that belongs to his employer. But surely he carries a wallet, and surely it contains cash. Any sophisticated thief won't be dissuaded in the slightest by DRIVER CARRIES NO CASH.
So I bounced up to Skip as he unloaded a pallet of rolls and asked if the language on his side panel had ever scared thieves away.
"I don't know," Skip said, "but I think so."
He told me about a group of young men who were "cruising" him one day while he made a delivery in Prince George's County. "I can't prove it, but I think they wanted to heist me," Skip said. They thought better of it when one young man "obviously noticed the words on my truck and started pushing the other guys down the street."
Anyway, I thanked Skip for letting me ask my question -- and for giving birth to an idea.
I dearly hope you won't be one of those people who removes cash from your savings account just before Jan. 1, 2000.
As you know, many folks are fearful about how well banks will handle the Y2K bug. They figure they'd better have cash on hand, because they won't be able to get at it otherwise.
I figure this will be a bonanza for criminals, and no one else.
Anyway, thanks to Skip, I plan to have a sign made for the front of our family's house. It'll hang right beside the front door, starting on Jan. 1. It'll read:
THIS FAMILY USES NOTHING
BUT CREDIT CARDS
You say this might be an invitation to a thief to steal our credit cards?
Ah, ha. Thought of that.
There will be a second sign. It'll hang directly below the first. It'll say:
. . . AND YOU DON'T WANT TO STEAL THEM BECAUSE THEY'RE ALMOST MAXED OUT
Dereck Woodward, of Potomac, is still trying to get over it. I'm not sure I ever will.
On July 27, Dereck was driving along Wootton Parkway in Rockville, during morning rush hour. He fell in behind a Mercedes convertible. The bracket surrounding the rear license plate read: FEET HURT? -- SEE A PODIATRIST.
Dereck followed the car along Wootton and turned with it onto Falls Road. All the while, the driver was dictating into a tape recorder as he drove.
This isn't illegal, and this sort of maneuver isn't even especially rare anymore. As Dereck points out, cell phoners do much the same. Only their electronic weapon of choice is different.
But then . . .
While still doing about 30 miles an hour, the driver of the Mercedes began to examine an X-ray of a human foot. Dereck says he knows so because he owns an Aerostar van. The seat is higher than a car's, which "gave me a good view."
The driver continued to examine the X-ray for about half a mile, Dereck says. "The X-ray was waved around some," he observes. "So was the Mercedes."
As the twosome passed the Potomac Village Shopping Center, the Mercedes "peeled off" into the parking lot, Dereck says. The X-ray had been laid aside when Dereck grabbed a last look. But the driver was once again "furiously talking to his tape recorder," he reports.
Pretty clearly, this is a doctor who needs to heal himself. Or if he wants it in terms he might understand better . . . take your foot out of your mouth, sir.
Here's a welcome update from Russell Sprague.
Last year, at about this time, I heralded Russ, a regular morning jogger who collects trash as he makes his way. All joggers could easily do this, I said.
Cynics doubted the value of what Russ did. One fellow said that picking up a Coke can every once in a while hardly justifies "your insufferable preaching, Bob."
No preaching necessary, dear reader, now that Russ has weighed in with numbers.
In the last year, Russ says he has gathered and recycled 2,008 cans and bottles. In addition, he has trashed two aluminum cans, 100 plastic bottles and 150 glass bottles. All this during jogs of less than an hour in Wheaton, "with parts of Kensington and Silver Spring mixed in."
If you're a jogger, it's well worth a few strains of your sacroiliac to follow Russell's lead.