Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2005/ 22 Kislev, 5766

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Last minute end-of-the-year bellyaching | Since 2005 is just about at an end, please indulge me while I unload some last minute random thoughts. There are just a few more details I need to get off my chest before the year is through. Some of them may seem minor to you, but remember — it's the little things that finally drive us nuts. In my case, it's the little things, the big things, the medium-sized things basically everything drives me nuts!

How come I can't find a real old-fashioned neighborhood bar anymore, but there are psychic readers on just about every block? The proliferation of psychic readers (what used to be called fortune tellers) is only surpassed by the tattoo parlors and body piercing salons throughout Southern California. How do all of these physics stay in business? Who is going to all these con artists? Many of them have storefronts in pretty expensive areas; some have even taken over private homes in residential neighborhoods. Why is this allowed? They put up their large "PHYSIC READER" signs right on the front lawn and boom, just like that, they're in business. I wouldn't be allowed to sell T-shirts or open up a coffee shop from my home, why is it okay for the fortune tellers to practice out of their homes?

Another little item of annoyance and stupidity is all of the new high freeway walls they've been putting up. The whole reason they've been erecting them is to cut down on the freeway noise in the neighborhood, right? Guess what folks? It doesn't work. Matter of fact, the noise has actually increased since the wall has gone up where we live. The traffic sounds are now bouncing off the walls and echoing throughout the surrounding area.

Nice, huh?

The other little bonus of these new "soundproofing" walls is the fact that you can't see the traffic situation from the street anymore. Before the things were built you were able to check out freeway conditions before getting on the onramp, not anymore. Now you can't see how the traffic is moving until you get on and then it's too late, you're stuck! The city engineering geniuses strike again!

The walls have also made driving on the freeway feel like you're driving in a tunnel. Those high walls are claustrophobic and disorienting. You used to be able to see buildings, trees, and other landmarks on either side of the freeway, now of course all you see is a continuous wall of concrete as you zoom by at 70 miles an hour. You can't tell if you're in Sherman Oaks, Burbank or Newark.

Minor question: Why do they still call the little, useless storage box located on the passenger side of the dashboard in cars a "glove compartment?" When was the last time anyone actually used the thing to store their gloves? Actually, one pair of gloves is about the ONLY thing that can really fit in that compartment without stuffing it in. The automakers should think about renaming the storage space to an "owner's manual/registration/insurance certificate/dirty napkins/and dry ball point pens compartment." Call it what it is.

And speaking of cars, there was a time long, long ago, when teenagers and young twenty-somethings drove around in old cars. I was one of them. We had the old junkie cars because that was what we could afford to get, or what our parents could afford to get us. Back then if you saw a clunker coming up fast, not using turn signals, being driven erratically, whipping through stop signs and blowing through red lights, chances were it was a young person behind the wheel. But all that has changed.

Not to say that young folk don't drive crazy anymore — they do. The difference is, today the erratic young drivers are all in BMW's and Mercedes. Almost without exception when I see a car coming up really fast, changing lanes back and forth like a maniac, cutting other cars off, and gunning it to get across red lights, its usually an expensive car driven by a young person — usually with booming bass "music" reverberating throughout a ten mile radius.

We're talking of $45,000, $65, 000 and up vehicles here. Top of the line luxury cars with all the bells and whistles. I don't know what these people (or their parents) do for a living. My wife thinks maybe they're all drug dealers or music industry people. They can't ALL be drug dealers and gansta rappers — can they? I don't know, we live in Southern California — maybe they are.

Maybe I'm just jealous because I drove an old car when I was young. My first car, when I was sixteen in 1966, was a 1949 stick shift Chevrolet in two-tone green. I'll bet the glove compartment in that '49 Chevy had more space than in the new 730 BMWs. I drove an old car when I was young and I still drive an old car today. Isn't it comforting to realize that some things never change?

Happy New Year!

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2005 Greg Crosby