Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Six things (or, nostalgia is curable)

Three cool things I didn’t have as a kid:

Postage stamps. OK, we had stamps. I’m not THAT old. But the kind you peel and stick instead of lick and stick? Those are a brilliant innovation.

Window clings. The elegantly simple use of static electricity instead of messy adhesives. Nice. These came in quite handy when daughter changed college affiliations three times in less than three years (accepted at Simmons, then decided at the last minute to go to the U of M, then transferred to Occidental* after her freshman year.) Also handy when selling a car.

Refrigerator containers. My mom had a world-class collection of Tupperware. She had to go to these lame-ass parties to get it. And it was expensive. But if you had leftovers (and for my mother, leftovers were treated like sacraments), you had Tupperware. It was apparently the only game in town. Now, the plethora of cheap plastic containers is amazing. Every shape, size, color. We are truly blessed.

Three not so cool things I didn’t have as a kid:

Roundabouts. Sometimes called traffic circles, these suddenly seem to be the darlings of traffic engineers. I have driven on roundabouts in the eastern US and in Europe, so I know they’ve been in use for a very long time, but here in the great middle west, the plains states, where we have bad winters and worse drivers, roundabouts just don’t work very well. Traffic experts like them because they enable a more or less continuous flow of traffic, but I think that’s exactly the problem. At least when cars stop at a four-way stop, they can’t bang into other cars while they are stopped.

Check engine lights. There are two ways to interpret the signal from a check engine light. 1. “EMERGENCY! STOP RIGHT NOW AND CALL A TOW TRUCK! ONE MORE MILE AND I BLOW UP!” or 2. “Hey, buddy, how’s it going? Y’know, there might be some little issue with your car. Maybe the catalytic converter only has, like, 3,500 miles left? Or it could be somebody didn’t screw the gas cap in tightly enough. I don’t know. You might want to get that checked out sometime. Or not.” The worst kind is the intermittent kind. PANIC! Don’t worry. HELP! Never mind. OH MY GOD! It’s okay, really.

Free shipping. Who are they kidding? We all pay for shipping.

* On the Occidental College bookstore web site, the window cling that says simply "Occidental College" in block letters is described as a "rear window strip." Does it not work on the side windows? I know it's not a good idea to put it on the front window. It could be distracting, especially if the driver is approaching a roundabout with the check engine light on.


Bleeet said...

On Traffic Circles:

I think the small ones work very well and are safer than a four way stop, but the larger ones, where you have to change lanes inside the circle to enter and exit out of it, those are considerably more tricky.

In my wife's hometown in New Hampshire, the large traffic circle in the center of town has stoplights at all the entering streets and within the circle itself, which totally negates any possibility of uninterrupted traffic flow.

They also are easier to navigate if you are simply making a right turn, as you only have to navigate one-quarter of the circle and can stay in the outer rim of traffic. If you are making a left-hand turn, you have to go three-quarters of the way around, and usually have to cross into an inner lane of traffic and then back out of traffic when exiting. That can be tough in the heavily-traveled and multiple-lane circles.

On the other hand, they do allow for a convenient U-turn if you need to double back on your route.

Jim H. said...

So, Brendon, where exactly do you stand on this issue? Are you for or against traffic circles? Or are you a flip-flopper, flip-flopping around in circles? The voters (those not caught in the endless traffic circles of hell) want to know.

And, seriously, do we need to re-engineer entire intersections to make it easy to turn right? I mean, a right turn is a pretty fundamental, even elementary, maneuver. Sheesh.

Bleeet said...

No, I didn't mean making a right was easier in the traffic circle compared to a standard 4-way intersection. I meant that a right turn in a traffic circle is simple when compared to a left turn in a traffic circle, particularly the large traffic circles.

As for where I stand on traffic circles, I stand where I have always stood on traffic circles which is exactly where I stood before I answered this question, and where I anticipate standing for the foreseeable future as long as I see that this is what the voters want, and I know this is what the voters want - someone who is standing in the same place on the issues that matter and doesn't flip-flop in any way which is what I am not doing at all.

Jim H. said...

Brendon Etter: Man of Principle