Monday, January 28, 2008

Is it....Murder???

I love language. I love words. I tend to see words in a word. I tend to look at them backwards and forwards.

So I wondered about the name of this street (not far from my house) when I saw it. Sure, I know that CAMELOT, the King Arthur reference, is not exactly TOLAMAC backwards, but it sure sounds the same. Besides, what the heck is a Tolamac? I can't find a reference to it.

So then I noticed this other street, Red Rum. Anyone who has seen or read Stephen King's The Shining knows that Redrum is Murder backwards! Who names streets, anyway? And was the person who named these streets playing a little joke on us?

Further investigation bore out a different explanation. Notice the horseshoe that takes the place of the letter U? It turns out that Red Rum was the name of a famous steeplechase racehorse in England, long before Stephen King used that particular play on words. Of course, that didn't stop some local politicians to take up the matter! From a local paper (click here to see the article) we see that one of them asked "for the county to look at renaming Red Rum Drive, saying he finds the name, which was repeated in the horror movie The Shining, 'personally offensive.' Red Rum spells murder backwards." The reader comments were not kind to this politician, reminding him and all of us that there are slightly more important matters for our elected officials to ponder than the name of this street!

Our Guinea Pigs and Dog

Hey, dog, jealous much? Our dog of 11 years didn't know what to make of the guinea pigs that I gave my wife for Christmas. I call them Nibbler and Quibbler. Nibbler likes to....well, nibble, on our clothes and fingers (never hurts) when we hold him. Quibbler wants to argue about everything, at least it sounds that way from all the sounds they make.

By now they are much more trusting and love to be held. They make purring sounds and are very affectionate. This is not borne out by the pictures. They look like nothing more than rodents in the pics but they really have wonderful personalities. I did not ever think I'd like guinea pigs, nor did my wife, but we took care of a friend's while she was traveling and we liked it enough that we got our own!

Our dog at first looked at them with hungry eyes - yum, dinner! After all, we've not stopped him from chasing rabbits on our property, so why should these be any different? And, I'm sure he was thinking, what's the deal with my humans that they should suddenly show affection to my dinner? Well, we've taught him with a lot of "kiss the baby" invitations to have him at least not show aggression toward them. He hardly ever exhibited aggressive behavior toward them, but we wanted to make sure he never would. Now he tends to ignore them or he'll come over and lick them HARD. They don't seem to mind and it seems to give him the outlet he needs.

By the way, I wrote that *I* call them Quibbler and Nibbler because my wife likes to change their names every day. Not that it matters - they don't seem to know the difference!

Smart Contractors...

These contractors are installing the steel pillars in concrete to stop vehicles from parking on the pavement outside a sports bar downtown. They are now in the process of cleaning up at the end of the day and anxious to go home.

How long do you think it will be before they realize where their vehicle is parked?

Thanks, Mary, for sending this my way.

Car Accident Followed by Thieves

My son was in a car accident recently. It wasn't his fault but that didn't make him feel any better about the fact that his car was totaled. It also meant that now we were down to 2 cars in a family of 4 adults so I had to start getting up at 4:00 am to take him to work (he opens at Starbucks). He was bummed that he didn't have a car anymore and was apologetic that now I had to drive him to work in the middle of the night. I told him that I'm much happier driving him to work at 4 am than having to visit him in the hospital - better the car than him! He saw the wisdom in that and it made him feel better. He found out today that despite the fact that the police office who came to the scene said that my son was not at fault and the other person was, that both my son's insurance company and the other person's (the skunky driver who would not admit fault) insurance company said neither was at fault and so neither would pay. Of course - this way they save money!

But here was the salt in the wound. My son's car was towed by Henry's Towing Service, a local chain of tow shops in Northern Virginia. I told him to be sure not to leave the car there longer than necessary because they would end up charging him a daily rate to keep the car on their lot. Sure enough, he didn't pay attention and left the car there for 12 days while waiting on the insurance companies. So he called and was told that to retrieve his car would now cost $880, which would come out of his pocket unless the insurance company were willing to reimburse him later (and you know how that went!). He had to show his registration card which he could not find. Believing it was in his glove compartment, as it should have been, we went to the tow shop. I was very surprised once there as to how dirty the place was. The customer "lobby" was filthy, the people behind the window were talking amongst themselves, cussing up a storm and laughing, and I saw on the wall behind the window notices to the workers that they were not allowed on certain parking lot properties because the property owners refused them access - a clear sign that they were abusive in their practices.

When my son asked access to his car, they refused, saying until he showed a registration card he couldn't. When he convinced them that the card was probably in the car, they finally let him through. Not finding the registration card, we went home and looked for it there. We found it, and the next morning I called and was told that the cost was now $1,092!! I asked for a breakdown of the cost from the woman on the phone and made a Word table showing the cost breakdown. I gave it to my son and told him to go get his car towed home. The cost included a $250 fee for leaving the car more than 10 days. I asked why and the lady told me it was an administrative fee. I asked what they did after 10 days that was different and she said it was just a policy, meaning it was for no good reason. After all, they were already adding a $50 a day charge for leaving it on their lot.

They also offered to take the title, in other words, to hand over the car permanently so they could sell it for parts. It would cost us $50 to give them the car or the same amount for them to tow it to our house. We told them that the insurance company said that before we could take that option (which we didn't think we would do anyway) we would need to take good pictures of the car so that the insurance company can have some proof of the damage. Well, wouldn't you know it, Henry's Towing said that it was against their rules to have any photos taken on their lot. Why, I have to wonder? Is it because they are scummy and doing possibly illegal things and don't want evidence?

Talk about insult to injury. Not only was my son's car hit while he was driving it, not only did the other person, a late-20s woman driving a minivan with eight other passengers, including one in the front passenger seat holding a baby on her lap in direct violation of the law, not only did she lie so as to not be found at fault, not only did my son lose the use of his car, but then the towing company, HENRY'S, turned out to at least APPEAR to be a den of thieves. You have to wonder!

Duplicitous Packaging!

So I was in the World Market store and saw this package of Jordan almonds. Yum, I thought, it had been a long time since I've had these. In Italy, they use these (typically white ones), as give-aways at weddings, wrapped up in gauze.

I bought it and took it home and only after I got to the bottom of the package did I notice that there was a big funnel, unnoticed until you turn the package over, that severely cuts down the number of actual Jordan almonds in the box. Is there any reason for such a big dent if not to make you think you're buying more almonds than there actually are in the package?

I sent this photo to Consumer Reports for their Selling It page. Who knows? They may publish it!