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Jewish World Review Oct. 21, 2002 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Roger Simon

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Consumer Reports

Oh, no! Geraldo has arrived | WASHINGTON I knew when Geraldo Rivera showed up that we were in real trouble.

Since Oct. 2, a sniper has shot 10 people in the suburban Washington area where I live, killing eight.

But not until Geraldo showed up did I experience real fear.

Geraldo is a hot dog. He exists to convince people that he is seconds away from his own death.

He likes to pretend he is in imminent danger and that just over the next rise there is a tank or mortar or machine gun waiting to do him in. When Geraldo covers a story, the story can only be about one thing: Geraldo.

So where was Geraldo a few days ago? Not in Kabul or the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. He was at a gas station in Spotsylvania, Va., where a guy was fatally shot.

And while police were urging the sniper to make contact with them and give himself up, Geraldo went on the air to call him "this pervert, this creep."

That ought to help.

As always, the purpose of Geraldo's piece had nothing to do with victims or perpetrators. The piece was designed to show that Geraldo had the nerve to go to a gas station.

Millions of people do this every day, of course, and few of them are surrounded by the crew that Geraldo is surrounded with -- but filling up your car with gas has become dicey in this part of the country.

Four of the eight people who have died have been killed in gas stations: three while pumping gas and one while vacuuming his car.

This has led to certain behavioral changes: Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who lives in the area, wrote a few days ago that he hides behind the gas pump when he fills up.

Me, I bolt from the car, stick the nozzle in, flip the little switch on the handle that makes it fill automatically and bolt back inside the car. When the pump shuts off, I bolt back outside, put the nozzle back and roar off.

There is one local man who has been on just about every TV station who fills up his car while wearing a Kevlar vest.

Going out and buying a bulletproof vest seems a little excessive -- like those people who bought gas masks after Sept. 11 -- and so most of us just use some variation of the crouch and bolt.

We also don't go out that much. An enormous number of activities -- from 10K runs, to high school football games, to SAT tests -- have been cancelled because of the sniper.

Nobody knows why the sniper is killing people. Maybe he is a psychopath and voices in his head are telling him to do it. Maybe he is a sociopath and is doing it because he is evil.

Maybe, as many have suggested, he wishes to humiliate the police. If this is his goal, however, he may be well on his way to achieving it.

The police brass go on TV every day even though they have nothing to say. They have become TV stars, even going on the national Sunday talk shows.

And though local stations insist on using a "Breaking News" logo to announce the police brass's every word, they aren't making news and it isn't breaking.

One recent press conference was devoted entirely to the police introducing local politicians, some running for re-election, who wanted to say how horrible they think it is that a sniper is killing people.

We citizens were very grateful for that "breaking" sentiment.

Although we would like to believe otherwise, there is no guarantee that a crime will be solved merely because huge resources are devoted to it.

I remember when the Chicago police turned the city upside down in 1982 when the Tylenol Killer murdered seven people by placing cyanide in Tylenol capsules (which is why you can't buy capsules over-the-counter any more.)

The manhunt was massive, the number of clues enormous, and the expenditure of time and funds huge. But he was never caught.

We all hope that the police in the Washington area know more than they are saying and that the sniper will be caught.

Until that time, we fill our gas tanks quickly, we sit at home because of cancelled events and we pray for the day when Geraldo leaves town.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate