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Archive for Sunday, September 11, 2005

Goff: It isn’t easy making sense of things

September 11, 2005

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"Did you ever notice," asked my friend Kathy as she used a tortilla chip to scoop salsa onto her fajitas, "that Mexican restaurants never give you a spoon?"

"And have you noticed," I questioned in return, "that Chinese restaurants never give you a knife?"

Why is that? A spoon certainly would come in handier than a fragile tortilla chip for scooping salsa, and a knife is often needed for Chinese food containing large pieces of half-cooked broccoli. Perhaps it is simply a matter of economics. I can easily imagine the owner of a Mexican restaurant phoning the owner of a Chinese restaurant and making a cost-saving proposal: "I'll give you all my spoons if you'll give me all your knives."

A lot of things restaurants do make no sense to me. While having dinner at a pricey restaurant with a group of people, our friend Tim ordered barbecued salmon. He quickly learned that if there are two words that should never be in close proximity, those words are "barbecued" and "salmon." Had he inquired, I could have told him that the only sauce that complements salmon is one that contains the words "Jack" and "Daniels."

Perhaps I just have an inquiring mind, but there are a great many things in life that I question. Why, for example, does the store offering a huge bath towel for $7.99 expect customers to fork over $4.50 for a much smaller matching washcloth? How come a safety razor is cheap until you factor in the price of replacement blades? And do you know that some people throw away their printers when the ink cartridges need to be replaced? I was stunned when a clerk in an office supply store shared that fact with me, but - believe it or not - you can often find a printer on sale for less than the cost of new cartridges.

I wonder how one TV news reporter got through journalism school when, while reporting a grisly murder, she said of the victim, "Both her legs were decapitated." I couldn't resist the impulse to e-mail the station with the press-stopping news that "only heads can be decapitated."

The station manager replied, "We know. She didn't. We should have caught it. Our bad."

Another mystery of life is that the higher the price of gasoline is, the lower my car's mileage per gallon. Why does a freshly washed car run better? And why won't the car make the funny noise for the mechanic that it makes almost constantly for me?

But when it comes to vehicles, most of my questions are about the people who drive them. Why is it that the driver of the car I have followed for miles - at a way-too-prudent 20 miles below the speed limit - decides to make a race of it when I try to pass him? Why do some drivers fly through red lights?

But the most maddening of all human interactions I've encountered recently has been with my telephone company. Several years ago, I wrote in frustration that E.T. the extraterrestrial had a better connection than I did. The situation did not improve. And yet, on countless occasions through the years, telephone repairmen failed to perceive a problem.

My son Ray, an information technology expert, said the trouble was clearly in our line, but every repairman simply checked the box on the side of our home, then tried to blame our phones inside. It took a complete meltdown on my part - plus recording the static on our phone that drowned out all conversation - to obtain a repairman who found, not just one, but TWO serious problems on our line.

Although I have sympathy for repairmen who must try to diagnose intermittent problems, I have even more sympathy for the phone guy who, approaching the box on the side of our house for the second time in three days, made a hasty departure to check the line when I proclaimed, "THE PROBLEM IS NOT IN THE BOX!"

The good news is that our phone is presently static-free and I can turn my attention to problems like the lack of spoons in Mexican restaurants ... where the only meltdown necessary involves cheese.

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