Sunday, July 17, 2011


Recently on Twitter I asked why National Public Radio’s Neal Conan specifies that he’s in Studio 3A. After all, it's not as if we need to know the studio number -- just introducing guests "here in the Washington studio" should suffice.

One follower suggested that it gave Mr. Conan a sense of ownership and stability ... plus (she added humorously) it kept us from mistaking them with the guests in Studio 4A.

Meantime, NPR Managing Editor Mark Stencel (@markstencel on Twitter) took the opportunity to put me in Studio 3A, virtually.

Being there almost in person, well now, that put a whole new light on things. "Studio 3A" it shall be!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Attention, shoppers!

If you were driving along a road and saw something interesting, you wouldn’t stop in the middle of the road to ponder it, would you? Of course not. You’d have to hope that all the other cars on that road would maneuver around you safely.

However, if you’re in a grocery store and you want to study an item or two, are you likely to stop your cart in the middle of the aisle? Oh, I hope you’re not among the millions who do.

Now that I’m an impatient old person (I used to be an impatient young one), I wish the stores would change from grocery carts to bumper carts. Ring those suckers with thick rubber bumpers so if someone stops in the middle of an aisle, you could just smack their cart with yours — utilitarian and fun at the same time.

Let me just mention a few more aggravations one can encounter while buying groceries. I’ll feel better. Thanks.

The grocery store I use has free samples of bread, along with toppings like butter and cream cheese. The trouble is, some shoppers tend to stand there, oblivious to others waiting behind them, as they take the bread, spread the topping, eat the sample … chew it, moan a little, wipe their mouths, think about how good it was, etc. Please, pay attention.

Are you a thief all the time? If you take food from the bulk candy bins and eat it without paying for it, that’s stealing. The same applies to fruit, vegetables, any loose food not designated as a free sample.

Do you like the temperature in most grocery stores? You do if you’re a penguin. I can only guess that it’s to help with all the refrigerated and frozen products, because it is freezing most of the time, even in the summer.

Last week I saw a middle-aged male customer take a handful of the free samples of strawberries (not stealing, just piggish), then walk over to fruits that were displayed on a mound of crushed ice. This guy repeatedly wiped his dirty, strawberry-juiced hand on the ice, back and forth, just to clean some of the goop off his fingers.

Oh, and eggs. It takes more time to find a carton of 18 unbroken eggs than it takes to fill the rest of the should-be-bumper cart. The cracks might be on the underside, they might be on only three or four eggs, but trying to find a crack-free carton? Forgeddaboudit.

Maybe this next gripe is just in my store, I don’t know. But its public-address announcements sometimes are horrendously loud. Some of the staff members understand that amplification through a microphone means they don’t need to shout, but others simply go nuts. It can only be described as ear-splitting. Stop it.

Finally, here’s a sincere “Stop it” note. I don’t care how few items you are there to buy; I don’t care if you’re only running in to return something. Do not park in the fire lane.

“Oh, I'm just picking up milk and beer.” Doesn’t matter. If you park at the very front of the store, right beside or on top of the “No Parking” and “Fire Lane” signs, you could be responsible for a catastrophe.

The fire lanes are there to provide access to fire trucks and personnel if there is ever a fire in the store. Being able to pull up close to the entrance is what can save us all if there is a fire.

And don’t think that you’ll be able to run to your car and move it if it comes to that. You’ll likely be trapped inside, standing behind Frick and Frack as they slowly slather free cream cheese onto bread samples.

Please, park in the parking lot every time. If you don’t, we might put you in a rubber-bumper grocery cart. Try driving that home.


Mike Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Greensboro and provides daily language tips on Twitter ( He can be reached at