Saturday, September 23, 2023

Taking Your Own Advice

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published September 25, 2023] 2023

I've often reflected while reading the morning paper that it's a good thing I have my current gig with the La Jolla Light because I would make an absolutely terrible advice columnist. My answer to about 95% of the letters would be, all caps, IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION???

I'd be fired the first day.

I mean, I like to think I m a compassionate person (unless we re talking about my former stepmother, Fang, for whom I wish nothing but the worst possible suffering). But you have to wonder whether the folks who submit these even read their own letters because the answer would - should -  is often abundantly obvious. In fact, I've often found it a useful tactic in solving my own problems. Write yourself a letter.

Alas, a disproportionate number of letters to syndicated advice columnists seem to be written by women who are in abysmal relationships. This makes me incredibly sad.

A common denominator in so many of the most despairing epistles is that they are written by women who seem to have a profound deficit of self-worth. As my friend Jill has often observed, "If it weren't for women with low self-esteem, there s a lot of guys who'd never get laid."   I couldn t agree more.

Alas, a lack of economic resources often seems to be playing a role in many a letter writer's dilemmas as well. Hence, the question they re posing at the end of a truly depressing tale is not the one you'd hope for, like "help me get out of this horrible situation" but "how do I get him to marry me?"   Gah! More gah! Very (very) disheartening indeed.

Here are some composites of letters I've saved in recent years and how I would reply to them were they written to me.

Dear Inga,

I met a man on line who, after a week, invited me to move across country to where he lives. I do believe in love at first sight, and no man has ever made me feel this way before. At first everything was really cool, but lately he keeps having to go on these extended business trips for weeks on end, leaving me along at his rural house to care for his six dogs, five goats, and two donkeys. They are a lot more work than you might think, especially the donkeys. I am starting to get suspicious that these business trips might include more than business although he denies it and maintains that that s why is first six marriages didn t work, because his wives were these total b----s who always thought the worst. But he leaves so little money for me when he goes out of town that I have been reduced to eating dog food which I don't particularly like but is tastier than the donkey food. I am tempted to give him an ultimatum: either he marries me the next time he comes home or I'm moving into the barn. Is this the right plan? Signed, YOLO in Idaho

Inga replies: Next time he's out of town, sell the livestock and buy yourself a one-way ticket out of town leaving no forwarding address. Take the dogs. They deserve better.

Dear Inga,

I ve divorced my husband twice because he cheated on me constantly, and also beat me. Now he says he has gone to anger management and wants us to get married a third time. He is currently living with another woman (my 17-year-old sister, actually) but says he will break up with her and move back in with me if I say yes. I am concerned that he doesn't have a job and is also very racist. I have always loved him with all my heart even during the time he was in prison. Should I remarry him if he promises for sure to quit beating me and stops his promiscuous behavior? Signed, Love conquers all?

Inga replies: Sweetheart, you need a lobotomy. At minimum. If you are even considering this, you need to be under conservatorship.

I m thinking the Dear Abbys and Ask Carolines of the world must need a really stiff drink at the end of the day. As a fourth-generation feminist, I just can't bear reading about women making incredibly bad relationship choices. Not, of course, that I haven t edged up on some questionable choices myself which were delineated in the post-divorce Dates from Hell section of my book. For example, going out with the criminal lawyer with a cocaine habit and herpes. Such a learning curve! He seemed so nice! But was such a creep! Fortunately, he was just one (really really) bad date, not a long-term life choice.

But that date was a Dear Inga moment. My future dating choices were faaaar more selective. Oftentimes the best advice you'll ever get is not from someone else, but the advice that's already circulating in your own head. Listen to it.



Monday, September 4, 2023

Why Letting Your Kids Suffer The Consequences Is A Really Good Idea

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published September 4, 2023] 2023

I failed in a hundred ways with my kids. If you asked them what my worst mistakes were, they d reply, "Alphabetically or chronologically?" But the one thing I feel I did right a legacy of my own parents was to make them take responsibility and consequences for their actions.

The felony murder rule applied in my house: if you were there, you were guilty. No I was there but I was just watching defense that I heard endlessly the day after Halloween from kids who I recognized who had vandalized my street. Their parents assured me that they believed the kid's version of events, and if he wasn't actually doing anything, (believe me, he was), he was innocent. It still makes me incredulous.

For years, I could count on having to wash the egg off my car (no garage) before going to work (it really messes with the paint job), sweeping up my dumped-out trash from the street, and hoping the paint from paint pellet guns would eventually wear off my siding.

I know: it s just kids being kids. And I m fine with kids being kids on Halloween if they or their parents want to come clean it up afterwards. But intrinsic in that phrase, someone other than the fun-loving kid gets to deal with it.

I always felt really lucky that, unlike other neighbors, my car windows weren't broken, my brick retaining wall hadn't been pushed over, and nobody had spray-painted black graffiti on $40,000 worth of custom cabinets recently installed on a nearby house being remodeled. Such little devils!

I confess that my childhood sense of justice was honed on a steady diet of Nancy Drew books. The whole River Heights Police Department sprang into action when Nancy s rosebushes were stolen. When she called the authorities, not only did they quickly apprehend the bad guys, but they locked them up forever. No habeas corpus, but you can t have everything.

But damage or theft or outright aggressive behavior from teens seems to be happening not only daily, but becoming increasingly egregious.

I am finding it truly dismaying to see kids who are still minors having no consequences for their actions. On my neighborhood social media, people with Ring cameras post pictures of kids who have actually broken into homes and aren't even trying to hide their faces. (Adorable!)

A recent social media post showed teens pulling green bins out into the middle of the street at 1:30 in the morning where they could easily be hit by cars. (What fun!)

Then there was the group of teens who were skateboarding (one of the most grating noises on the planet) on the garage ramp of a local condo complex at midnight night after night right under someone s unit and who simply flipped off the residents when asked to leave. (Those little scamps!)

Another recent post reported tweens throwing rocks at a homeless person behind Rite Aid.

In the early days of the pandemic, I was dismayed to witness on several occasions groups of local teens rushing into my local CVS, grabbing all the alcohol they could carry, and rushing out again. (Those imps!) People wanted to say that those kids must have been from out of the area, but unless that area was Rancho Santa Fe, I m guessing that the late-model Range Rover they climbed into at the curb probably came from La Jolla.

What dismays me is that the comments posted under these stories always include way too many comments along the lines of Oh, stop being such a curmudgeon. It's just kids being kids.

Even worse, when clear photos are shown of the kids faces (usually from homeowners wanting the miscreants to be identified so the kids themselves or their parents can be held accountable), they ll be a backlash of people insisting that minors should not be identified on social media.

Um, excuse me. They were committing a crime. Please identify them. Let there be at least some hope that their parents will care enough.

That's the thing. No one s looking to incarcerate these kids. But before your 18th birthday is a really good time to learn that laws (at least theoretically) apply to you. Not learning this, as some kids on my block later learned, means you might do some serious time in an adult penal institution, where kids are not being kids.

Please, if your teen gets apprehended for some infraction, don't make your first step be to call a lawyer. Let them do community service. Hopefully a lot of community service. It s the biggest gift you can give them.

Halloween is approaching. Fortunately, our neighborhood now has a strong police presence on that night so the outright destruction is way down. But it still happens. So if you're going to send me an email insisting it s just kids being kids, could you include your phone number so my neighbors and I can call you to come clean up?




Saturday, August 26, 2023

Torture By Telephone

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published August 28, 2023] 2023

I would rather get a root canal and a colonoscopy simultaneously than get a new cell phone. And no, I am not kidding.

I had genuinely hoped I would die before my phone did. But the phone decided to force the issue.

IOS just wasn't reliably supporting my iPhone 7 anymore. Even upgrading to the latest version something I only do when the phone pretty much ceases to work wasn't helping. In fact, it seemed to be making it worse.

I am a person with genuine talents. But even people who love me would agree I am not just techno-challenged but deeply, profoundly, techno-disabled. Whatever synapses were involved in techno skills failed to survive my gestation. It does not help that I have a frustration tolerance of a gnat.

Was it time for a Jitterbug the phone heavily advertised in AARP Magazine for techno-inept oldies? Or did I still have one more iPhone in me?

I went with the iPhone partly because I really enjoy FaceTiming with the grandkids, but because I was also under the (extremely false) illusion that I already knew how to use one.

Unfortunately, the operation of the iPhone 14 is totally different from the iPhone 7. They're as alike as cousins twice removed who were adopted at birth. My old phone had a little Home button at the bottom that was heavily involved in the operation of the phone. It's gone! (The SE still has a Home button for iPhone Luddites but it's too small for me.)

Now you have to swipe, but just so. It s definitely all in the wrist.

At the phone store, I was fobbed off on a nice young commission-oriented kid who was probably as unenthusiastic about dealing with me as I was with dealing with him.

We were speaking completely different languages.

How many gigs did I usually use, he inquired. (No idea.)

How much do I use Apple Pay? (Don't even know what that is.)

Do I need a hot spot? (Not unless he means a jacuzzi.)

I really need to switch to AutoPay if I want a better deal. (Not happening.)

Was I sure my husband wouldn't be willing to get a new phone too? (Nope and stop asking.)

The kid was pushing the iPhone 14 Plus Pro which has three cameras. I could take cinema-quality movies! (Um, do I look like Steven Spielberg?)

Things were going downhill fast. Rather than slash my wrists with a plastic screen cover, I gathered up my stuff, thanked him for his time, and walked out the door.

Fortunately, the young woman who I had hoped to work with came running after me. She said if I would return, she would swap her current customers with the young kid since she was almost finished.

This young woman was basically an iPhone therapist, skilled at dealing with the aged techno-terrified.

So, she says, soothingly, what is the most important feature to you on a phone?

That I can use it, I said.

How about the second most important feature?

Maximum screen size.

So it's easier to read? She queries 

Yup, and so I can post the most directions on the back of it. I showed her the back of my phone. A brief frown flashed across her brow.

We determined fairly quickly that the right phone for me was going to be the iPhone 14Plus with two cameras (not the cinema-quality Pro variation that the kid was pushing). And she was confident that with practice, I could learn to swipe. (Sounds faintly larcenous.)

While not a natural swiper, I am slowly getting the hang of it, although several times I have found myself unable to get out of a screen. Even turning the phone off doesn't help; when you turn it back on, the same annoying screen is still there. Banging the phone on a granite counter top doesn't help either. (Just kidding).

Alas, the new phone had some immediate glitches when I got it home wouldn't send or receive calls (major flaws in a phone), and was sending text messages to people's email. My husband (see frustration tolerance, above) had odds that this phone was going to end up in the pool.

In lieu of this, trips back to the store were required.

Guess what fixed the calling problems? Turning the phone to airplane mode then turning it off again. How are ordinary humans supposed to figure that out??? When those Apple people (or my engineer husband) refer to cell phones as intuitive, I want to smite them.

I will concede that it has one sort of cool feature (I am only willing to concede one.) It has facial recognition in lieu of typing in your passcode. But then I fantasized my care givers in the dementia facility being able to hold the phone up to my face and stealing all my data.

But I definitely don t have enough emotional bandwidth to ever do this again. And I truly mean ever.


Maximum screen size important
to be able to cram in the most instructions possible



Friday, August 18, 2023

Worst Summer Jobs Ever (Olof wins)

[Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published August 21, 2023] 2023

Both Olof s and my parents were such proponents of child labor that it is probably a good thing there were no coal mines within commuting distance to our homes. There was pretty much no employment they considered beneath us.

 Olof and I used to like to play "Who had the worst summer jobs?"  Physically, I'd have to concede that Olof won. A native of Walnut Creek (CA), he spent the summer after his freshman year of college as a roofer in the East Bay's brutal 100-degree summer heat in a perpetual knee-crippling crouch position pounding nails hour after hour.  The only shade, he recalls dramatically, was a flying bird.

So the next summer, desperate to get out of the blazing sun, and hoping for a pay raise, he managed to snag a job in the Pittsburgh (California, and yes, there is one) US Steel Mill. It was a union job as summer relief help for which he was required to purchase both a hard hat and steel-toed boots even though his actual job was cleaning the toilets and changing rooms. But hey union wages! Huge step up.

It would not be too surprising that neither of our sons got too much sympathy from Olof about their summer employment. A summer job cleaning toilets in an un-airconditioned steel mill in the East Bay pretty much trumps everything.

I definitely can t compete in the physical labor department, but when my sister and I were seven and eight, our mother got us our first jobs: stuffing (seven inserts) and licking 1,000 envelopes for a local agency. At a penny apiece, it was far faster to lick the envelopes than use a wet sponge. It s amazing we didn t end up with brain damage from all that glue. I distinctly remember our little tongues desperately trying to produce saliva after the first hour. 

Over the years, I did the standard summer jobs: babysitting, retailing, and waitressing ($.53 an hour before taxes, $.45 after, gold nylon uniform $20).

I spent one summer as a clerk-typist for Scholastic Magazines in their book division in the pre-word processor days typing endless clean copies (with eight carbons) of a book called No Hitter about all the no-hitter baseball games up to that point.  (It's on Amazon for $.01, and no, don't send me a copy.  I've read it.  Eleven times.)  Every typo had to be corrected on all eight carbons with White-Out, a toxic substance probably responsible for more brain damage in persons of my generation than glue sniffing.

I hate to start comments with the words "kids today" but truly, kids today have no idea what a boon to humanity the word processor is.  Space travel and penicillin have nothing on it. I can say with some conviction that a world without carbon paper is truly a better place. 

But my worst summer job by far was proofreading telephone books.  And yes, this was a job. People really depended on phone books and got very touchy if their name or address or particularly, phone number was listed incorrectly because it would be a full year before the next phone book was going to come out. So some human - that would be moi - sat there cross-checking the typewritten list with the microscopically-printed galleys line by line. I could only surmise that the people I was replacing had been committed to a home for the numerically insane and were being taught Braille.

I've observed over the years that school guidance counselors don't list 90% of jobs that people actually end up doing.  I'm trying to imagine, for example, some perky high school student's yearbook listing:  "Future goal: career in the phone book proofreading industry."

Of course, there is no requirement that summer jobs have to be ill-paid and boring even if many of them are. 

For both sets of our parents, summer employment provided cash for the expenses we were expected to pay, but I think they regarded it as character building as well.  Not that I was ever inclined to be rude to waiters or sales clerks, but working in those fields gives you a new respect for the job. Forget mandatory military service.  Everyone should be required to work retail.

I mention all this because I often her parents say at this time of the year that they don't think it's worth having their kids take a $10 an hour menial job when they could be doing something educational. Both Olof's and my parents would have said that it's all how you define educational.

So, are we better or even different people for our summer job experience? Different, certainly. Both Olof and I would agree that most of our summer jobs were excellent incentives to pursue higher education in the hope of never ever doing any of these jobs again. Just as important as know what you want to do in life is knowing what you really, really don't.

Waitressing at the Jersey Shore, summer 1966
($.53/hr - $.45 after taxes.  Gold nylon uniform: $20)

Sunday, August 6, 2023

The Family Finder/Observer

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 7, 2023] ©2023

I recently wrote about my role as the family worrier, and from the response, I learned that I have plenty of company.  And that the worrier in families is, by my unofficial data, the wife in 99.9999 percent of cases.  I’m sure there must be one guy out there with this role, but I didn’t hear from him.   Or maybe there truly isn’t a single guy out there who assumes this burden.  It could be one of those Y chromosome mutations that has evolved through the eons. 

As a fourth-generation feminist, I am loathe to make admittedly sexist statements like this, except for the fact that after two husbands, two sons and three grandsons (does former dog Winston count?), I have noticed predictable tendencies among individuals of the male persuasion. 

It is well documented that the sexes are doomed not to understand each other. But as one who has lived in a male-centric household her entire adult life, weird behaviors of the male of the species have always been a topic of keen interest, if total bafflement, to me.  In some cases, one can only conclude that a wife is cheaper than a conservator. 

It has been my perception that women, besides being the family worrier, also tend to be the family observer. By observer, I am referring to the woman’s ability to notice things around the property that require urgent attention that her spouse, despite two largely-functioning eyes, fails to see. Like, for example, that the Chinese Elm tree in the back yard has died and is about to fall on the house. 

“Olof,” I’ll say, pointing to the tree, “I’m thinking we need to get a tree service out here asap,”

“How come?” Olof will respond, looking directly at the tree. 

“So, you’re not noticing anything unusual about it, like it has lost all its leaves and is listing 40 degrees?” I point out helpfully.

“Oh, yeah,” says Olof.  “I see it now.  You should really do something about that.” 

Both of my husbands, current and former, have been indelibly afflicted with guy-gene-pool-embedded Passive-Dependent Blindness: you know, where a person of the male persuasion is standing in front of an open refrigerator with the mayonnaise dead center at eye level and says, "Do we have any mayonnaise?" 

And the wife, who has finally sat down to do the crossword with a glass of wine, responds: "Yes, it's on the top shelf in the front, right in the middle."

And the husband replies, "I don't see it."

And the wife reiterates, slightly testily: "TOP SHELF. FRONT. IN. THE. MIDDLE."

And the guy still can't find it.  Until she gets up and starts walking into the kitchen, upon which the guys says, "Oh, yeah. Found it!"

It's probably not too surprising that analogous to women tending to be the family observer, they are also the family finder, a.k.a. the patron saint of misplaced objects.  If you can't see the mayonnaise, what hope is there of finding your car keys?

There is a universal male phenomenon describing this that I have dubbed Ineffective Circular Search Behavior.  When men lose things, they will look in three places. If they don't find it, they will continue to look in those same three places in an endless, pathetic, futile loop.  I can only assume this is something that developed in the cave dwelling era and became hopelessly locked into male genes.  The cave wife would watch her guy circling the cave in increasing frustration looking for his club before she would step in and ask the question that became indelibly embedded in ours: "So where did you last see it?"  He grumbles, "How would I know?  If I knew that, I'd be able to find it!"

As she suspected, he left it outside the cave after he slew the mastodon. (Can he EVER put anything away after he finishes using it?)  She retrieves it. But does she get thanks?  Not a chance.

We recently watched our friend Jeff to the twenty-first century version of this when he was searching for a DVD he wanted to lend us. After his third loop, his wife, Lindsay, went to have what she called "a Lindsay look" and came back with it immediately.  Lindsay did a review of the first three places Jeff had looked and found it. A corollary of Ineffective Circular Search Behavior is that just because the husband didn't find it there doesn't mean it wasn't there all along. (See "mayonnaise," above.)

In fairness, I'm sure my husband could write his own version of this column about baffling behaviors of wives.  In fact, I think I'm going to give him the chance.  He's had two wives, two sisters, two nieces.  Plenty of data. Stay tuned.


Saturday, July 29, 2023

Aging Out

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 31, 2023] ©2023

The good news, our primary care physician informed us, is that we have officially aged out of early-onset afflictions.

As you get older, one less thing you can die of is good news indeed.

But there are plenty of other things we can’t decide if we’ve aged out of or not.  One of them is pets, specifically dogs, and birds for our outdoor aviary.  Fortunately, our beloved dog Lily is still with us, but she’s 14 and came perilously close to dying earlier this year. 

Actually, we’d decided not to get another dog after our beloved English bulldog, Winston, inherited from our younger son Henry, died suddenly in 2016.  Nothing to do with age; we couldn’t bear losing another dog.  Winston was a total pain but we really loved him.

But then a rescue agency asked us to do a “one week maximum” foster of a dog waiting for her next forever home.  They saw us for the mushballs that we were.  Three days into seven-year-old Lily’s stay, we’d fallen in love. 

Our aviary birds have been a more imminent issue.  My older son Rory began breeding cockatiels when he was nine.  He’s now 45 and married to a cat person in Santa Cruz.  Like many sucker parents the world over, we ended up inheriting the cockatiels who can easily live to be over 20.  But we grew fond of the little guys and were sad when the last of them finally died.

Olof and I agree that we have definitely aged out of cockatiels. Not, however, of the multitude of parakeets we also accumulated over the years, often neighbor kids’ ill-considered bird buys supplemented by grandkids’ fondness for pet store excursions.  Somehow we’ve ended up becoming an avian social service agency.

But our parakeet numbers have been dwindling.

Parakeets have varying life spans but the ones in our outdoor aviary tend to live up seven years. Are we good for seven more years of cage cleaning?  It’s a really nasty job and not one you can easily hire someone for. The cage is built into our back porch so that it is sheltered on two sides from sun and wind.  At night, a pull-down cover keeps the myriad fauna that populate our back yard from annoying them.

Olof, in a heroic act that earned him about a bazillion husband points, took over aviary maintenance from me about three years ago.  I don’t even want to calculate how many bird cages that I have cleaned over thirty-three years. I might be a contender for an Olympic medal in bird poop shoveling. 

To be honest, I’m over it.

Even Olof began saying that cleaning the aviary was getting a little hard on him physically.  We agreed that as much as we enjoy the birds cheerful chirping, we were officially declaring ourselves aged out of birds.  We don’t like to take on any pets we can’t expect to outlast, or in this case, whose maintenance we can’t expect to be able to physically manage.

So it was all decided. I thought.

Earlier this spring, we were down to two birds. You can always tell which birds were acquired - and therefore named – during grandkid pet store excursions (String Bean (green) and Banana (yellow)) and which were neighbor donations, re-named by Olof for Tolkien characters.  It’s culturally a very mixed group. Interestingly, they seem to know it.

But then suddenly we were down to one bird (Banana).  Were we going to let her fly around all by herself until it was time to flit to the great beyond? Or do we bring her inside to a cage where she can have more interaction with us but be unable to fly freely?  To me it was one or the other.

But apparently not to Olof.

I came home from an appointment last week and heard what sounded like very forest-y noises coming from our back porch.  They could not all be Banana.  And sure enough, they weren’t.

Several more parakeets had joined Banana and were zipping happily around the aviary, obviously pleased to have been liberated from the cramped confines of PetSmart. 

Olof looked sheepish.  “I know you were ready to be done with birds, but I wasn’t,” he conceded.  He got three more so there would be even numbers.  Birds, like kindergarteners, tend to pair up and ignore the odd one out.  Gandalf, Galadriel, and Frodo seem very happy with their new digs, and especially being in a flight cage. 

I told Olof he better be keeping himself in tiptop bird poop-shoveling shape for at least the next seven years.  He’s got something to live for now.

Our friends say that there is an easy answer to all this: leave any pets to the kids in our will. After thirty years of birds (inherited from Rory) and one problematic bulldog (inherited from Henry) they wouldn’t dare say no. (Would they?) 




Monday, July 24, 2023

[“Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published July 24, 2023] ©2023

Just when you think the city parents can’t make any worse decisions (SB 10, anyone?), they propose a law shifting a backlog of 37,000 sidewalk repairs (and the estimated $183 million to fix them) onto San Diego property owners. Such a law is called a “liability ordinance.”

As a property owner with a corner lot, and therefore a whole lot of sidewalk, this didn’t strike fear in our hearts.  It was abject terror.

Apparently, part of the motivation for this shift is the millions the city is paying out in trip-and-fall claims from people injured on damaged sidewalks. This liability would now be shifted to homeowners unless the city is directly responsible for the sidewalk defects.  How that will be determined seems destined to keep a lot of law firms in perpetual prosperity.

Some years ago, pre-Get It Done, I filed a repair quest on what was then the appropriate reporting vehicle for a root-ruptured sidewalk caused by a city-owned tree.  The sidewalk continued to rise and become more hazardous year by year, especially in the dark.  There were a number of trip-and-falls. I know this because I was the tripper and fallee. 

Seven years later, a repair crew came out…and repaired a much smaller sidewalk issue on the next door neighbor’s property.  Fortunately, I was able to accost them and get them to repair my sidewalk as well.

The city parents propose to soften the blow of shifting sidewalk repairs to property owners by reducing the permit fee for repairs from $2,200 to $100.  Wait.  We need a permit? Before we even do any repairs?

Forgive me if I’m not grateful. Or softened.  And with all due respect, city parents, have you applied for a permit to do anything in this city recently?  With pandemic backlogs, it takes years.

Once permitted, we’d be stuck paying whatever the city sidewalk repair contractor charges (no competitive bids) which according to a story in the Light on June 29 could cost as much as $5,000.  Which means that actual humans could do it for $500.

What scares me even more is that my street corner has become very dark ever since the streetlight in front of our house went out in February of this year.  The backlog of broken streetlights at the time was 5,900 (now 6,100) but some streetlight repair requests have been backlogged eight years.  I concluded in a La Jolla Light column (Trying to understand streetlight math, May 4, 2023) that our streetlight, according to the city's current rate of repair, would not be fixed in our lifetimes.  

Once our street light went out, even our dog was terrified to step off the front porch into the suddenly black abyss.  So we’ve improvised with solar lights hoping to be able to find our front gate.

But that has done nothing to make our large corner safely lit at night.  And now, if the liability for that expanse of sidewalk has shifted to us, I don’t know what we would do.

Well, my husband Olof has a few ideas.  He says if we’re responsible for injuries on our sidewalk, then we should charge to walk on it.  A little toll gate on either end.  We’d even be willing to learn how to use Venmo.

Alternatively, he suggests, we could resurface our sidewalk with a layer of synthetic rubber like they use for high school tracks so that if people fall, they would bounce right up.  Of course, we would have to do this in the dead of night. Increasingly (see recent La Jolla Light articles), locals have taken it upon themselves to do city improvements like paint railings at Wind n’ Sea, or re-landscape tiny Hermosa Park in Bird Rock.

If this proposal truly passes (please say it is just a bad joke), a whole cottage industry of rogue sidewalk repairs will, in my guess, spring up. No way are people getting sucked into the black hole of city permits and non-bid repairs.

I also can’t help but observe that some of the trip-and-falls in downtown La Jolla, an area with lots of foot traffic, were on sidewalks so badly damaged they were practically begging people to fall on them. Is there no priority system? 

On the positive side, an article in the San Diego U-T on July 10 reported that the city plans to prioritize fixing those 6,100-and-counting broken streetlights.  The plan is to address broken streetlight complaints from “about eight months” (see “streetlight math,” above) to just three days.  It’s a wonderful thought, and I would love to move to the planet where that is going to happen.

But if we could at least get the streetlight in front of our house working again, we hope it would greatly reduce the number of potential sidewalk accidents that the city parents want to stick us for. 

Meanwhile, my engineer husband is tinkering in the back yard with rolls of spongy synthetics. If this liability ordinance passes, we’ll be ready.