Archive for May, 2011:
Let’s start with a question: how much time do you spend pondering the American roadway system?
My answer is this: pretty much every time I drive.
I have redesigned cities in my head. And in my head, I am The Roadmaster.
There are little, simple things I would fix first: In Los Angeles, I would label things better. Most of the roads are labeled not by direction but by future towns they will pass. So when entering the 101 freeway for example you don’t choose ‘north’ or ‘south’ you choose ‘Thousand Oaks’ or ‘Anaheim’. You’d better know where those are or the people behind you are gonna develop some road rage. Also, the 101 – which runs north/south – meanders a bit. So in some places you don’t choose from ‘north’ or ‘south’ but from ‘east’ or ‘west’. Yeah, that’s confusing. It’s like they don’t want people moving to LA or something!
There are other things I would fix, too. Tech things. I always heard that, in Rome, they timed the stoplights, and shaved an hour from the time it took to get across town. And in my hometown (‘the city of scientists’) the lights along the turnpike WERE timed. If you drove the speed limit, you hit the first light red, then all the rest green. Pretty cool, huh? (they have since let the lights go to hell, which is sad.) But why can’t the rest of us do that?
Apparently this is what happens when two smartass people get together and have kids.
* As I turned out the hallway light one night, my kids complained that it was too dark. I told them they’d get used to it in a few minutes and be able to see fine. Instead, my youngest whined “But it takes twenty minutes to fully dark adapt!”
(to which I replied “No more science channel for you!”)
* My daughter went for the melodrama early in life. By eighteen months she had perfected a look with eyes wide enough to cause tears, while her lower lip quivered with utter despair. She employed this one day after getting her hand smacked for doing the thing she’d just been told not to do (three times). Unable to keep a straight face, I left the room. I heard my son tell her “Don’t look at me that way, I’m not the one that smacked your hand!”
Peeing is contagious. Okay. . . actually the feeling that you need to pee is what’s contagious. It’s like yawning, and as humans we are highly suggestible. You may already know that you are a lot more likely to yawn if you see someone else doing it. And this should make biological/evolutionary sense: if someone is yawning, then oxygen might be low. Why wait until you feel the effects? Yawn now and stay alive. What’s interesting is that the trigger doesn’t have to be a nearby person – just seeing someone (or something) yawn on TV can trigger you to yawn. This may be why you yawn while watching nature shows (lions, anyone?) It’s not that you are bored or tired, it’s that the animals triggered your ingrained biological reflexes.
Peeing is much the same – only you don’t have to see someone else peeing to feel the need. (thank goodness?) Now, I haven’t really figured out the biological advantage of needing to pee just because someone else is doing it. Maybe it’s a migratory thing. So your tribe is walking long distances, and someone stops to pee. You don’t. Later when you do need to pee . . . maybe you have only snake infested grass in which to go? Or the herd walks on? Maybe you are only allowed to pee when the clan leader says so? Clearly, I don’t have this one worked out yet. But it doesn’t change the fact that as humans we are susceptible to the suggestion to pee.
Though you might not have known this, you may have used this knowledge. Ever run water to help a little kid go? Or you may have been victim to it yourself. Some of us are more susceptible than others. My friend Lina is one of the very suggestible. She used to attend a class that was about 40 miles away from home. There were two routes to class . . . one route was five minutes longer, but the other route went past a urologist’s office about ten minutes after she left her house. This urologist’s sign was blue, and in the shape of a wave. That alone was such a suggestion to her poor brain that she couldn’t make it the remaining thirty-five minutes to class without having to stop and find a bathroom. Lina always took the longer route to class if she wanted to make it on time.
Everyone in my family seems to have hearing problems. Before she died, my grandmother was known for yelling “what!? What!?” at us every time we spoke. She also needed to crank the volume on the TV as high as it would go, just to hear it. It was so awful that no one could go on that side of the house. Grandma would then complain that no one wanted to keep her company, and promptly fall asleep. We would have to draw straws to see who had to risk permanent damage to turn off the TV.
Though I lost several times, it doesn’t seem that I did any real damage to my eardrums. No, apparently I was born with the damage I have . . . and no one even realized it for a long time. It seems I ace all the hearing tests – even hearing a few of the sounds that are supposed to be heard only by dogs.
But – though I hear everything – it appears that I am unable to distinguish sounds. My parents now think this is why I mumbled as a child. It seemed I was talking the way I thought everyone else was. Yes, this is why I was in theater as a kid. To learn to enunciate and to hear other people enunciate. (Not that we knew it was a legitimate hearing problem at that point. . .)
This kind of hearing problem isn’t uncommon, but the doctors have no idea how common it really is. Even in this day and age, my own kids were only flagged if they couldn’t actually hear the sounds on the health screening . . . nothing else was checked for.