The potholes of television news

literallyYour tires cringe each time they strike a ragged pothole. I cringe when I hear the following on a television news broadcast:

Literally— It is literally the most overused word in the English language. It’s a deceiving little word that makes you think it’s useful, when it’s not. Rather, it is the seed of redundancy. When the Vatican was busy choosing a new Pope, a reporter told Atlanta that, “Catholics are literally glued to their television sets.” There was literally no sign of anyone with a plasma screen attached to their forehead.

Brutal murder— There’s no such thing as a polite murder. Murder is, by definition, cold and violent. It is brutal in nature. There is no need to make one murder appear more devastating than another. Sure, there are homicides that are more savage than others, but they’re all brutal.

The missing child has been found— Once a child, or an adult for that matter, has been found, they’re no longer missing. The missing part drops from their description the moment they’re located. It doesn’t require an excruciating amount of effort to say something like, “After a seven hour search, police have located a 10-year-old boy.” It’s awkward to show video of a child wrapped in his mother’s arms while continuing to refer to him as “missing.”

Totally destroyed— This is another professor at the University of Redundancy. If a building is “destroyed,” then it’s gone. No one is going to live there again. To say that it’s “totally destroyed” is saying…that it’s gone. That no one is going to live there again.

The fire left five families homeless— Okay, in some cases, there are fire victims who lack the resources to find shelter. However, referring to fire victims as “homeless” has become a lazy writing tool. If my house burned to the ground, I would not earn the distinction of homelessness. When you see the victims of an apartment fire, their options are typically not limited to sleeping beneath a highway overpass. To say a victim of an apartment fire has been left “homeless,” is assuming they have no insurance, or family, or that the complex won’t move them into an unharmed unit. They’ve been displaced. They’ve lost one home. There is usually another one waiting.

The Mayor had no comment— It was fine for Woodward and Bernstein. Let’s move on. The Mayor refused to talk to us. The Mayor ignored our questions. We asked the Mayor’s staff for an interview, but they haven’t responded. The Mayor suggested we go skydiving without a parachute. The “no comment” line is as worn as the tires on my 1996 Toyota.

Exclusive— If a reporter calls something exclusive, it better be exclusive. I’ve seen too many cases where it was not. Sometimes, journalists will attach “exclusive” to a semi-meaningless nugget in a desperate attempt to bring importance to their story. If a story is powerful enough, it doesn’t need the “exclusive” label. Your competitors know they missed out. The term “exclusive” has gotten so watered down over the years. It’s our fault for using it improperly.

Up in arms— Yet another overused phrase. People who are upset don’t automatically lift their arms over their heads. In fact, I’m not really sure what this term means. When someone is upset, they’re usually down, not up. By arms, do we mean weapons? I think it’s time to give “up in arms” a big hand for it’s dedicated service, and a spot in the retirement home.

That’s literally it for now.




Things your GPS doesn’t tell you

many jerrysThey should never charge you a toll to drive on a freeway.

If I see myself in my rear view mirror, am I closer than I appear?

There’s no fork in the road near Spaghetti Junction.

What happens with bald tires on a hairpin turn?

Does your dashboard help you drive faster?

We have a  seat belt, but no seat belt loops.

Can you depress your brake simply by insulting it?

There are Broncos and Mustangs and horsepower. Watch your step.

In a car, it’s a carburetor. Why is there no such thing as a truckburetor? Or busburetor?

I just about have a coronary anytime I’m on a bypass.

If there’s one person in the car, it’s a U-turn. If there are passengers, it’s a they turn.

Speed bumps slow you down, but slow pokes don’t speed you up.

I don’t know of anyone who keeps gloves in their glove compartment.

My car has blinkers, but no eyelids.

Radiators cool. Gas fumes.

They call it bumper-to-bumper traffic, but in reality it’s Buford-to-Barnsville.

The city too busy to yield

Psycho-On-Board-2012_001Imagine you’re in line at the grocery store, your cart brimming with the latest in finely cured luncheon meats, the unhealthiest of salty snacks, canned delicacies labeled as seafaring chicken, noodles of every shape and size, and at least seven hundred dollars worth of foodstuff that will hopefully feed your family of three for a week. You look at your watch and realize you’ve got fifteen minutes before you have to retrieve your daughter from her Origami on Horseback class at Chastain Park. The rather talkative woman ahead of you, dressed in a blue polyester pantsuit and high-top sneakers, has lost her coupon for gourmet cat food. The clock is ticking loudly against your eardrum. Next year, your daughter will be restricted to bridge classes from the next door neighbor.

Suddenly, a creature with enough back hair to blow dry approaches from the left. He wedges his cart between your Sun Chips and your neighbor’s Converse.

“Excuse me,” you cry over the sound of detergent hitting the floor. “You’re cutting in line.”

“I’m in a hurry,” he explains.

All you can do is stare at the long dark strands flowing from his earlobes and seeth.

No one would ever do that, right? Decorum dictates that you take your rightful place in line, no matter the hurry.

And yet…

Every day, I watch drivers, masked by their tinted windows, as they put courtesy in the backseat. Long lines don’t apply to them. They rush past the cue on I-285 as commuters wait to transition onto Georgia 400. With a blinker and a wave, they fold themselves into a gap the size of skinny jeans. Those who obey the rules register their complaint with a slam of the brakes and a honk of the horn. The next day, they think, “why not me?”

Impatience seems to beget a sense of entitlement. I see drivers zip around congestion by using the emergency lane. They know they don’t belong there. Somehow, their dinner is going to get colder faster than ours.

I see drivers doggedly determined to protect their rectangle of asphalt. Many times, I’ve signaled the need to move over a lane so I can safely make my exit. My efforts are greeted by drivers pretending to read a Cracker Barrel billboard. All they need to do is relinquish about fifteen feet. It will add less than a second to their trip. Instead, they spend that second extending a virtual middle finger.

Not all Atlanta drivers are rude. In fact, I would say the majority are willing to give an inch to make your commute better. It’s the presumptuous minority that can ruin your ride. It’s more than a lack of manners. It’s dangerous. There’s no telling how many fender benders have been caused by those aggressive line cutters. I’ve seen them block two lanes of dark rush hour traffic on I-285 rather than wait their turn in the Georgia 400 exit lane. In a situation like that, it’s real easy for metal to intertwine.

We all have places to go. We all want to get there quickly. Frankly, my desire to get home is no more important than your son’s little league game. As badly as I want to take my place on the couch, there is no way to construe my evening commute as an emergency. If you have to wait it out on Georgia 400, so do I. That guy over there flying by us in the lane reserved for ambulances and police officers has no special privilege. He just thinks he does.

It can cause tremendous stress. I don’t need stress. I’ve become that sap who let’s the churlish line cutter move right in front of me. I let him have his way. The alternative is to kiss the bumper in front of me so he doesn’t have a chance. Then, he’s stuck blocking a lane of travel. Others get mad. It leads to road rage. No, I smile. I give them my fifteen feet of blacktop, and delay my trip by a second. I know. It just encourages him to cut the line tomorrow. So be it. Maybe if I’m polite to him, he’ll give someone a car length tomorrow. Maybe. I doubt it, but maybe.

We live in Atlanta. Sweet tea. Southern gentility. Face to face, we’re as warm as a fresh dozen from Krispy Kreme. When we can hide behind the wheel, we become quite selfish. We should all drive like everyone on the road knows exactly who we are, like we’re going to be held accountable for our behavior.

Treat the other drivers like they’re all your grandma.

You wouldn’t cut grandma in the grocery line.

Would you?