Friday, July 19, 2002
Taking to the roads
Now that it's summertime in Carlisle with many families away on vacation, those of us remaining in town find quieter roads with less traffic, the perfect time to take a stroll around the block or into town. For those more energetic souls out for a daily run, this is the time of year with fewer cars and school buses on the road to contend with. But still there are some problems.
One such problem was brought to our attention here at the Mosquito last year by Dr. John Japp of Bedford Road. Now retired, Dr. Japp has had more time to relax and sit on his screened-in porch watching the steadily increasing traffic go by. The problem, as he sees it, is people walking or running with the traffic instead of facing the traffic as it heads up and down Bedford Road. "If you are facing traffic, at least you can see who is coming towards you," said Dr. Japp. To put it more bluntly, he added "or who is going to kill you." He wonders why, in a town such as ours where the level of intelligence is so high, people seem to have trust in the unseen traffic coming from behind.
Dr. Japp remembers growing up in Connecticut during a time when schools and parents stressed the importance of walking on the left side of the road, against traffic. He wonders what is going on here in Carlisle, especially when he sees a woman pushing a stroller down one of Carlisle's narrow country roads, going with the traffic, on the right side of the road.
One can't help agreeing with Dr. Japp, especially when driving down Bellows Hill Road behind a father and three children running together with the traffic as they round the corner onto Estabrook Road with little possiblity of seeing traffic coming from the opposite direction. Of course there are exceptions to the common-sense approach to sharing the road with vehicular and bicycle traffic. There will be times when a walker or runner will find safer going on the other side of the road, whether it is due to a bad curve or overgrown vegetation obscuring the motorist's view of an oncoming pedestrian, or spots on the road where the pedestrian has a safer shoulder to retreat to in case of heavy oncoming traffic
Until Carlisle finally builds pedestrian pathways, walkers and riders must keep a heads-up approach to using the roads. Walkmen and cell phones are a distraction and, as Dr. Japp stresses, walking against the traffic, on the left side of the street, might save your life.
A Saab Story
For some, summer is a time to relax: lie in a hammock and watch the clouds drift by, or maybe read a good book. For people like me, though, it's time to tackle repairs that have been put off since, well, since the lawn was white instead of its current greenish brown.
It's not really necessary to have great mechanical skills to be a regular Mr. Fix-it. All that's required is an ability to observe how things work, a willingness to perform repeated acts of masochism, and a steely resolve not to listen when your spouse pleads with you to call a pro.
Let me give an example of how this works with a simple automotive repair I undertook back in February.
Upon returning from a visit to Manhattan, I discovered that my car's retractable antenna was hanging limply by the rear fender rather than extended skyward as intended by its designers. Did I wail and moan at my misfortune? Not at all. I simply called the garage where I had parked, explained that the problem had occurred while the car was in their care, and asked them politely to cover the cost of repair. Their reply was equally polite, though more succinct: "Fuhgettaboudit."
This response was not wholly unexpected, so I immediately launched into Plan B: acquire new music for the CD player to compensate for the now spotty radio reception. This strategy worked swimmingly for several weeks, until my car-expert brother-in-law told me that replacing an antenna was as easy as hanging a picture: simply unscrew the old antenna from the outside and insert the new one.
Armed with this bit of advice, I purchased a new antenna and proceeded to follow his instructions. That's when I made my first significant observation: if the engineers at Saab had designed a picture hanger, it would take a Ph.D. in physics to affix it to the wall. The outside of the broken antenna mast was impenetrable. This repair would require access to the antenna motor.
Now, at this point I could have listened to my wife's sage advice to let the mechanic have a go at it, but steely resolve kicked in. Instead, I gathered all my tools and began to disassemble the trunk liner to get at the antenna motor. Surprisingly, I succeeded in short order, accumulating only two bloody knuckles and a banged-up shin along the way.
With the motor now accessible, installing the new antenna would be a snap. All I had to do was insert the nylon line and turn on the motor, which would reel in the line and allow me to snake the retracted mast through the exterior opening. Have you already guessed that the motor was dead? When I turned it on, nothing happened. Nada. Zilch. Zip.
Muttering a few mild expletives, I removed the antenna line, reattached the motor and trunk liner, and decided to head to Tower Records to purchase more CDs. As I switched on the ignition, a familiar sound filled the car . . . the whir of the antenna motor as it pushed up the still non-existent antenna.
This is just about the time that I thought, "This repair will be much easier to do in warm weather."
So, with the temperature now regularly in the 80s, the time has come to finish what I'd begun many months ago. First thing tomorrow morning I'm going to schedule an appointment with the Saab dealer . . . and order a few more CDs from Amazon.com for the upcoming trip to New York, just in case.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito