Archive for society
A few weeks ago, hurried and on my lunch break, I stepped into the Barnes and Noble bookstore in downtown Royal Oak. My goal was simple: purchase a newspaper.
Every Friday I cash my paycheck in Royal Oak and then take in lunch somewhere in town. But I’m one of these people who can’t eat alone if I don’t have something to read. Hence the newspaper.
My usual provider, the gas station by the bank, was out of papers, so I remembered B&N.
The bank took longer than usual, so the sands in the hourglass were dwindling. But hey, it’s only a newspaper, right?
The newspapers at B&N are located behind the cashier’s counter. They’re not self-serve.
So first I had to wait for a cashier, which knocked off precious seconds from my meal time. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part came when I voiced my request.
“Detroit News,” please, I said to the college-aged cashier.
He retrieved it. I had my dollar ready, eager to pay, leave, and look for sustenance to jam down my throat.
He needed to scan the newspaper, and that took a few tries before it beeped.
“Are you a Rewards member?” he asked.
No, I am not, I told him, as I jabbed the dollar toward him.
“E-mail please?” he asked.
My jaw dropped.
“For a newspaper?”
He gave me a sheepish look. “I just want to see if you’re in the system.”
Again, I said, “For a newspaper?” although with much more irritation in my voice.
By this time I sort of tossed the dollar toward him. But he still clutched my newspaper, holding it hostage.
He could see that I was not a happy camper—my annoyance was hardly subtle—and he looked at his co-worker, as if unsure of what to do with a man who just wanted to buy a newspaper and who wasn’t a Rewards member and who didn’t want to provide his e-mail address in order to purchase said newspaper.
I had had enough.
“I’m in a hurry. Can I just please have my newspaper?” I said.
Finally he relinquished it.
Now, this entire exchange obviously took less time than it did for you to read about it, but when you’re in a hurry and all you want to do is buy a newspaper for one dollar and you can’t do it without being asked about memberships and e-mails, your stomach grumbling, each second translates to ten times its length.
Thankfully, my normal newspaper provider (gas station) hasn’t run out of papers since. And if they do, I’ll be damned if I wander into B&N to purchase one. I’ll do without, or try to find a box dispenser.
I love the gas station, by the way. I grab a paper, give the attendant a dollar, and walk away. If there is someone ahead of me in line who is buying cigarettes or lottery tickets (don’t get me started), I just put the dollar on the counter, wave my newspaper so it is seen, then walk away. The attendant has my back.
At the gas station they don’t need to scan the paper. At the gas station they don’t ask me any questions. All they do is take my dollar and tell me to have a nice day. I love the gas station.
But this inconvenience, such as displayed at B&N, is happening all over. The ability to make simple purchases without being asked to present membership cards or provide phone numbers and e-mail addresses is slipping away from us. K-mart asks if you want a paper receipt or one e-mailed to you—even if all you’re buying is a gallon of milk. And the answer you give can’t be verbal—it has to be registered on their debit card thingy.
But hey, this is progress, right?
Happy New Year. Or happy new year, however you choose to look at it.
As I watched the big ball drop on Tuesday night in Times Square, I jokingly asked my daughter what life would be like if we did that for the change of every month instead of year.
Seems silly, of course.
But so does, when you think about it, going through all the expense and effort to mark the start of a new year. Or New Year.
It’s perhaps too cynical—even for me—to say that January 1 is “just another day,” but it truly is. It is different, however, in one respect: It’s the one day when no one has ditched their new year’s (or New Year’s) resolutions—yet.
Ahh, about those resolutions.
There’s a funny commercial playing on TV right now where a small boy calls it the New Year’s “revolutions.”
I kind of like that.
You do have to revolt, in a way, if you’re going to commit to doing something different from how you’ve been doing it, which is essentially what a resolution is.
The revolt is internal. A civil war going on inside your body and brain.
The little dudes inside your head have to declare that there is a revolution, and then they have to start symbolically dumping tea into the harbor, i.e. those bad ways you are trying to get rid of.
A new year’s revolution.
I don’t do resolutions—or revolutions—per se. I make mental notes to change and then hope for the best.
Not working out too good for me, but there you go.
I don’t do anything involving weight. I’d like to drop a few pounds, like anyone else. But I don’t do any numbers crunching or obsess with the scale in the basement. Notice I said basement.
I don’t resolve to change my eating habits, which goes along with the above. My wife is Italian and Polish. I get what I get, and I scarf it down happily. If I lose weight because of diet, it’s akin to finding a dollar bill in the laundry.
I don’t make any commitments professionally. I don’t set out to write X-number of blog posts or set any goals at work. That may sound lazy and uninspired and displays a shocking lack of motivation, but I figure, why set myself up for failure?
In short, my revolutions internally are weak and quickly squashed. I’m the Bay of Pigs of self-improvement.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a success and that I don’t care about my body or that I have indifferent feelings toward my fellow man.
It just means that when all is said and done, the status quo is OK. I’ll continue to help out my wife around the house, put in my 40 hours at work and be as good of a dad as I can be. I’ll say my prayers at night and make it a point to perform a random act of kindness now and again.
Wherever that leads me, so be it.
Happy N(n)ew Y(y)ear!
How long before video stores go the way of travel agencies?
Remember the local travel agent? They’d advertise on local TV and they had tiny offices with globes on the signs and maps on the walls. You’d ring them up if you wanted a surrogate to get you the best deal on a hotel in Chicago or a rental car in Boston.
Then the Internet struck, with its multitude of websites, and the American traveler became his or her own travel agent. The middle man, as so often has happened after the Internet, was cut out, like a tumor.
Why pay someone to do something that we could do for free, and still get discounts to boot?
So I wonder about the fate of the corner video store.
Actually, you may have to drive past quite a few corners before you find a video store these days.
NetFlix, the Red Box kiosks, the Internet (of course) and more people owning BluRay discs than DVDs, are all contributing to the slow death of the local video store, I’m afraid.
But some of it is the video store’s own doing.
Take late fees. Please.
One of the allures to the above alternatives to renting movies is that none of them will charge you a late fee. And late fees, if we’re just talking between us, is surely a big revenue gainer in the video rental business.
One of the reasons why late fees are so common is that the due dates for the movies are all over the map.
This one’s due in two days. That one’s due in three days. You have a full week on that other one. Oops, better get THIS one back TOMORROW. Or else.
We used to run a late fee balance at one of the local stores like a drunk would a bar tab.
Even asking for a printout of the due dates, which the store gladly provided, didn’t always prevent Video A, B or C frome being brought back tardy.
But here’s the deal: video stores must be feeling the heat from their competitors. So why not back off on the late fees? And I have just the idea to make that happen, and make the video store more attractive.
If I ran a video store, I’d advertise that every movie in the joint, from A to Z, was a one-week rental. Every single one.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a “new release.” Doesn’t matter if it came out on Tuesday, or 12 years ago. Every one of my films, you can have for a week.
Simple. Easy to remember.
Will people still be tardy, even under that arrangement? Sure. But that’s on them.
I’d even call my place One Week Video. Seriously.
Think of it. You come in, browse, grab a bunch of movies, pay me and know that everything is due one week from today. Simple. No muss, no fuss.
I’d even have seven different types of bags, each with a day of the week on it. You come in on a Monday, you get a Monday Bag. And so on.
“Honey, when are these movies due back?”
“What does the bag say?”
Of course, you go beyond the seven-day limit, and we have a problem. But I won’t tag you for very much. Promise.
It’s an idea that makes far too much sense, which is why it won’t be adopted.
Which is part of why the video store will join the travel agent, the drive-in movie and mini-golf in the Dungeon of the Forgotten.
Sooner, rather than later.
It’s another of the talking points pushed by the gun camp, symbolically accompanied by the throwing up of hands in the air.
“If you ban guns, only criminals will have guns.”
First, I am not in favor of banning guns. I fully believe in the Second Amendment to the degree that folks should have the right to protect their castles—even if deadly force is required.
I do, however, believe that reasonable, responsible gun owners can darn well protect themselves—and their homes and their families—with weapons that aren’t designed to mow dozens of people down in minutes.
But here’s the thing. These mass shootings that are being committed nowadays aren’t being committed by criminals. In fact, many times the perpetrator has no previous criminal record. Not even a parking ticket.
Like Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old monster who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
Lanza had no criminal record.
Neither did the shooter in the recent mall incident in Oregon. Same with the Aurora, CO theater shooter last summer.
The kids who committed the atrocities at Columbine weren’t criminals, either. Nor was the perp in the Virginia Tech massacre.
Loners? Yes. Troubled? Definitely. But not criminals.
Criminals aren’t committing mass shootings. Armed criminals typically rob or steal. Or trade on the black market. If they stockpile artillery, it’s to sell. They don’t acquire automatic weapons so they can shoot up a mall, a school or a movie theater.
Those are facts.
The folks who are arming themselves to the hilt, throwing on military-style vests and camouflage gear, aren’t criminals. They’re suffering from mental illness.
Until we start treating root causes rather than symptoms, we’re going nowhere in the effort to try to make what happened in Connecticut on Friday a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy.
It’s time to start educating about mental illness, which is still, in the 21st century no less, terribly misunderstood.
Look no further than the reports that Lanza may have been autistic, or afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Neither has ever been directly connected to violent behavior of any serious degree. Yet you just know that there is a segment of the population that will take the autism and Asperger’s thing and run with it. And you know that those afflicted with said disorders will now be looked at sideways.
There is so much we don’t know about mental illness. I’d say we’d better start getting a handle on it, because it ain’t going away.
If there is any common ground I can find with those on even the most extreme side of pro-guns, it’s that people are ultimately responsible for their actions. The gun provides them with the means of destruction, but not every gun owner commits mass shootings, so that should be a clue right there.
Lanza’s mother, Nancy, who was gunned down first last Friday, has been taking some posthumous heat for her decision to have guns of the magnitude that was used by her son, in the first place.
But even his own mother clearly didn’t understand the scope of Adam Lanza’s troubled state.
This is a time for experts in many arenas to sit down, together, and start hashing some stuff out. To do whatever we can to prevent another atrocity like Newtown from happening again is going to require serious, honest discussion from everyone across the gun, mental illness and law enforcement spectrum.
You’re afraid that only criminals will have access to guns?
It’s not working too well when the non-criminals get a hold of them, either.
For eight years, every Saturday, I have pumped out 1,000+ words about pastimes—kids games played by grown-up millionaires. I have mused about the merits of the Lions’ latest draft, the Tigers’ latest free agent signing, the Pistons’ latest implosion, the Red Wings’ latest Stanley Cup.
Not this Saturday.
This Saturday, there won’t be any hand-wringing over the NHL’s (latest) lockout. There won’t be any fussing about another Lions season gone wrong. No analysis about whether the Tigers should have committed $80 million to a pitcher. No unsolicited solutions to all that ails the Pistons.
What does any of that matter, when 20 precious children woke up, went to school, and ended up being carried out of their classrooms in body bags?
For many, sports is a diversion—a way to unplug, for 2-3 hours, the cord that connects us to our troubled lives. We shove our money problems, our marriage troubles, and our job worries to the back burner, so we can yell and scream at the TV and bring our sports teams’ troubles to the fore. Sometimes the logic seems ill, actually.
But it’s not real life, in the strictest definition. The drama is played out on the field, or on the ice, or on the hardwood. At the end there is a winner and there is a loser but none of it really matters.
Even Reggie Jackson, who didn’t meet a spotlight he didn’t like, once tried to put sports in perspective.
“I was reminded that when we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China don’t care,” Reggie said.
Sports is a diversion, but even that is kind of disingenuous to say. The line between sports and real life is being blurred, almost daily. The off-the-court, off-the-field, off-the ice news is capturing a larger slice of the information pie. Sports isn’t, any longer, just about hitting a curve or sacking the quarterback. It’s not just about how to defend the pick-and-roll or getting the puck out of your own zone.
They used to do a lot of killing in sports, but it was all figurative.
Kill the umpire! Kill a penalty. Kill the clock.
Lately, as we’ve seen with recent incidents involving players of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, they’re killing people for real.
But on this day we don’t look to sports to divert us. The games go on, but today we are glued to our TV sets, tied to the Internet, frantically searching for answers that may never come, to a one-word question.
That three-letter word starts so many of our queries.
Why did a 20-year-old young man kill his mother? Why did he then drive to the school where she reportedly worked, and gun down the principal and a school psychologist?
And, the biggest “Why?” of them all.
Why did this young man, reportedly identified as Adam Lanza, march into a classroom and start shooting grade schoolers?
Why did his mother have such powerful weapons registered in her name, to which Lanza had access? Why didn’t anyone see this coming?
After the why come the next big questions, and those all start with “How?”
How will the parents of the dead children cope? How will the parents of the surviving children ever hope to re-instill a sense of security in their kids? How will the town of Newtown, Connecticut, a small burg of about 27,000 people (not unlike the size of Madison Heights, where I live), manage to carry on after the slaughter that occurred in their town?
You want to keep sports in this discussion, in an allegorical way?
Well, here it is.
The country has hit its two-minute warning. But it needs to get the football back from the gun lobbies before it can mount a game-winning rally.
We’re out of timeouts, too.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in the wake of the news of the shootings that “today isn’t the day” to talk about gun control. Someone should remind Carney that we have no timeouts remaining.
If the day to talk about gun control isn’t the day in which 20 of our babies are shot dead, sitting at their desks in a kindergarten class, then we’ll never have that talk.
The nightmare in Connecticut has pushed us to the brink. Our backs are against the wall and all that sports rot. The gun violence keeps getting worse, backing us closer to that wall. It wasn’t bad enough after Columbine, apparently. Wasn’t bad enough after a Congresswoman was gunned down at a public appearance.
We edged closer to the wall after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. And even closer, after the mall shooting in Oregon, just this week.
Now 20 little boys and girls are dead. If this doesn’t cause us to start kicking, clawing and scratching, trying to fight our way back from the edge of insanity, then the clock will run out and the game will be over.
For decades, the gun people have put all their chips on “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s a rallying cry that lacks common sense and immediately puts blinders on those who utter it.
It’s catchy, I grant you that. It’s also true in the most literal sense. A Glock or an assault rifle won’t, of course, kill someone if no one takes hold of it, aims it, and pulls the trigger. You got me there.
But people with guns kill people. Why doesn’t the gun camp think that’s as catchy?
Get ready for the argument of, “If only someone at the school was armed, then a lot of lives might have been saved.”
The old OK Corral argument. The notion that, like in the movies, a hero will draw his weapon, and pick off the bad guy with one shot, with no possible chance of collateral damage or stray bullets striking and killing others.
You think that’s really how it would go down if everyone walked around with a pistol on their hip? Or is it more likely that more people might choose to go for their weapons to “solve” problems, in a horrific moment of indiscretion?
Is the way to put out a fire, to throw more fire at it?
We’re at the two-minute warning. We have no more timeouts remaining. We need the ball back. The situation is just that dire.
We can’t put off the rally any longer. Twenty babies are dead. If that’s not a game changer, then we’re doomed.
The sandwich board is making a comeback.
I’m not talking about literal sandwiches here, like the kind you eat.
I’m talking the term often used for the signs those poor folks are holding or wearing these days, hawking a variety of retail outlets, from cell phone stores to oil change places.
The sandwich board was so named because of its original incarnation, which was usually two pieces of wood, connected with rope or twine, which the wearer would sling over his shoulders, advertising on the front and back, creating a sort of human “sandwich.”
The sandwich boards started showing up in earnest in the late-1920s and early-1930s, which were, not coincidentally, the days of the Great Depression. But in those days, often the human sandwich was promoting himself, not any company.
The sandwich board is back, but in a more streamlined fashion. It used to be that the only businesses in recent years who commissioned people to stand on the curb and wave people in, holding a sign, were car washes (the fundraising kind) and, during tax season, tax preparers (with typically someone dressed as Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam).
Now, there are so many sandwich boards and signs out there, I’m surprised they’re not bumping into each other.
There’s this one dude who works for one of those companies that buys and sells gold. I see him every Friday when I’m on my way to cash my check on Rochester Road, and I have seen him for over a year now, rain, snow or shine. He wears headphones and is swiveling his sign like mad, all the time. And I just see him on Fridays. Doubtless he works the whole week as well.
The thing is—and granted, it’s hard to tell just by driving by at 40 mph once a week—he seems perfectly happy to be doing it. Not bored at all. He walks up and down, forward and back, swiveling his sign.
To be honest, I don’t even know where his employer’s store is located. I only see him, not the actual store front.
But he’s there, every week, with his gold sign with black print, walking up and down that tiny stretch of Rochester Road. He looks to be in his 20s, and physically fit.
I wonder what they pay people these days to be human sandwiches?
Back in the day, the sandwich board advertised people, not businesses
Is it worth the cost? Is such advertising really effective? Using my Friday Guy as an example, maybe not. You’ll notice I have made mention of driving by him, but not knowing the name of his company, nor exactly where the store is located. And I’ve seen him do his thing for well over a year.
Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of having him there?
I also drive by an oil change place every night on my way home from work. That dude strays from the sidewalk, however, and damn near stands on the street. Kind of dangerous, if you ask me.
But again, does his presence make me want to get my oil changed?
Does any human sandwich influence your wanting to drop some dollars at the sandwich’s business?
Regardless, there’s no question that the human sandwiches are increasing in number. I guess it’s the new wave of guerrilla marketing.
We’ve come a long way, I guess, since “Eat at Joe’s” was the sandwich board of the day.
Not sure if that’s good or bad.
So did you hear about the Cleveland woman who had to stand on a busy street corner and hold up a sign that says “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus”?
To recap: 32-year-old Shena Hardin was caught by surveillance camera, driving her car on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was loading and unloading children. Her sentence, as handed down by a Municipal Court Judge, was to hold the sign for one hour each on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, in 34-degree weather and in full view of rush hour drivers.
Hardin also had her license suspended for 30 days and she was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.
Apparently, Hardin was the victim of a good old-fashioned sting, put on by the bus driver, because the incident in which she was caught by the camera was not the first time she had driven recklessly in order to avoid waiting for the kids to get on and off the school bus.
Shena Hardin serves her sentence
Whether you agree with Hardin’s “Scarlet Letter” type sentence or not, it would be hard to disagree that other offenses might merit similar sentencing from the court of public opinion, if it were left up to them.
Non-use of turn signal. This is the ultimate in arrogance. The offender is telling us, “You don’t need to know what I’m about to do, until I reveal it.” Suggested sentence: Not allowed to order own food at restaurant for next two meals out. Offender has to eat whatever the server brings, not revealed until the plate hits the table.
Rolling through/failing to stop at stop sign in residential neighborhood (where there are kids and pets about). The disrespect for those red, octagonal-shaped signs is getting ridiculous. I walk our dog daily and I see vehicles cruising through stop signs routinely. Suggested sentence: Offender must stand in the middle of a high school hallway during lunch rush, wearing a brand new, all-white outfit.
Tailgating in a residential area. Nothing grinds my gears more than being followed closely by some clod in a 25 mph residential area. I don’t like being tailgated, period, but something about cruising down a side street, usually going to or from home, with a very aggressive, very impatient dufus riding my rear is just so wrong. Suggested sentence: Offender must spend next session of opening and responding to e-mails with someone (a stranger) looming directly over his/her shoulder the entire time.
Taking two spaces in a parking lot. This one needs no trumping. Suggested sentence: Offender must watch helplessly as person ahead of them in line orders the last two pieces of cheesecake, and only eats one—throwing the second one in the trash.
Cutting across two lanes of a freeway in order to exit, last minute. This one is not only annoying but freaking dangerous. Most people know, way ahead of time, which exit they’re taking. Why you decide at the last possible moment that you suddenly need to bid farewell to the freeway is beyond me. Suggested sentence: Since this is usually a male offender, sentence is for offender to be cut in front of, at the last moment, by a counterpart who wants to use the only available urinal in a public restroom. And I do mean at the last moment.
Those sound like apt punishments, eh?
Sex, lies and…e-mail?
Videotapes are so passe. And who has a VCR player anymore, anyway?
E-mail (and its evil spawn, texting) is the smoking gun of the 21st century, when it comes to catching those engaging in extramarital affairs. And it seems no matter how powerful and how high up the food chain you are, you’re not impervious to its tentacles.
Witness what’s happening at the CIA and the Pentagon these days.
First, General David Petraeus (rhymes with Betray Us) was busted, and subsequently resigned his post as Director of the CIA, for engaging in hanky panky with a mistress, much of it via e-mail.
Now the military’s top man in Afghanistan, General John Allen, might be in the same kind of mess. E-mails, once again, are being scrutinized.
It’s a sort of love triangle, with Petraeus’s mistress allegedly sending threatening e-mails to the woman who Allen has been allegedly fooling around with.
As The Pentagon Turns.
Gen. David Petraeus
This, of course, is unbecoming no matter what, but when it involves men of the stature of Generals Petraeus and Allen, well then it moves into another category of unbecoming.
Women might be right. Maybe men do think with their penises—in general (sorry, pun intended).
Recall how text messages and e-mail helped bring down Detroit’s young and promising mayor.
There really isn’t any shock value, anymore, to the philandering powerful man story, even when it comes to Petraeus and Allen. I mean, did your jaw drop when Petraeus resigned, and you found out why he resigned?
Surprised? Sure. Shocked? Maybe not so much.
At this point, only such an affair involving the President of the United States would be shocking enough for us to be, well, shocked.
One by one they fall, betrayed by their own anatomy below the belt.
Politicians. Corporate leaders. Entertainers. And now, CIA directors and generals.
The question isn’t really “Who’s next? but rather, “When?”
When will be the next time we read of a powerful, entrenched man toppled by his pee-pee?
There are 48 days left in the year. Plenty of time to squeeze another scandal in, maybe before Christmas.
We have a DVR at home, as do many people nowadays, and I admit it is spoiling me rotten.
For the few of you who don’t know, the DVR enables you to, among other things, record your favorite shows and store them for viewing later. You can even categorize and file them, digitally, so your TV suddenly turns into a sort of computer hard drive.
The other thing the DVR does–and this is the spoiling part—is allow you to pause, rewind and fast forward shows you are currently watching, including live sporting events. So you turn into your own replay specialist.
We are DVR reliant at home. We only have one, connected to the big screen TV in the front room. And it gets a work out. Lots of pausing, like when nature calls or my wife needs to check on laundry when she’s watching something of note. The pausing can sometimes lead to fast forwarding, especially during commercials.
By the way, there’s nothing better than fast forwarding through a four-minute commercial jam. Nothing!
We also like to have someone else in the house see and hear something that they missed, especially now with political season in full swing. So there’s a lot of “Honey, you GOTTA see this!” and “Listen to THIS!”
Being a sports junkie, I’m constantly going back and forth with the rewind and play, reliving great moments by my Detroit sports teams, like the latest Miguel Cabrera moonshot.
But with only one DVR, that means when you’re in the bedrooms or in the basement watching the telly, you don’t have DVR capability. And that’s rotten.
Oh, how many times lately I’ve been watching TV on a non-DVR set and have longed to go back and relive something, or try to catch something I missed. But I can’t. The moment is gone forever (sort of).
Then I have the audacity to actually grumble that I can’t go “back in time.”
It gets worse.
I’m having DVR withdrawal in the car now, while listening to the radio.
Since I am nothing other than a very responsible driver who does nothing other than pay 100% attention to the road (don’t look at me like that), things get said on sports talk radio that I am only half listening to, but which perks my ears up like a rabbit’s.
I have found myself, lately, wanting to hit “rewind” on the radio! It’s almost instinctual now, because I do it so much while watching TV.
That’s a sign of someone who’s gotten spoiled by the DVR.
It hasn’t gotten so bad that I have had the urge to rewind people, but I’m afraid that’s next.
Then again, if I had that power, I’d also want to edit what they said. And frankly, I don’t have time for that. Especially during political season.
I was walking the pooch the other day when I saw something on the sidewalk that elicited a big grin and took me back about 40 years, instantly.
Kids had been playing with outdoor chalk and while I couldn’t make out what they had written, it didn’t matter, for just the sight of chalk on the sidewalk brought back a ton of memories.
When I was a lad of 6-10 years old, my friends and I would create whole worlds, just with some chalk.
Usually the theme centered around the automobile: roads, retail stores, gas stations, etc.
It would go like this.
Everyone would bring a toy car or truck or any other motor vehicle and those would be our “traffic.” Then the roads and highways would be drawn, up and down the driveway and the adjacent sidewalk, complete with exit ramps to simulate freeways.
We had a long driveway at our home in Livonia, so when you combined that square footage with that of the sidewalk that ran in front of the house, you had yourself enough space to create a good sized portion of Wayne County, as seen through the eyes of a child.
Store fronts would be drawn. So would the corner gas station, replete with bays for auto repairs and spaces for the gas pumps and a sign.
We also liked to draw parking lots—vertical or diagonal spaces, and a car or two would always be parked in one of the spots.
If I recall correctly, the fun wasn’t so much in the actual “playing” of cars and trucks, but rather in the creation of all the stretches of freeway, the roads and the side streets that made up our driveway/sidewalk commercial suburbia. That, plus the stores and houses that lined those thoroughfares.
I used to love how all the roads would intertwine and spill into each other, and always in a very logical way. We were meticulous in making sure there were broken lines in the middle, delineating lanes.
An example of a “chalk town” that we may have created back in the early-1970s
There were also the requisite signs, like those that called for stops and yields and speed limits.
Everything was one-dimensional, of course, so you had to use your imagination in order to give everything life.
Imagination—I wonder how many of today’s kids even know what that is.
Yeah, you’d scuff up a knee or two and your leg might fall asleep in creating the village, but it was all worth it. If nature intervened and washed everything away with a good rain, then it was a good excuse to create a whole different town.
Those kids who wrote on the sidewalk the other day have no idea how much joy they gave me.
I wonder if anyone walked past our sidewalk towns back in the day and curled their lips into a grin.