It probably sounded like a hell of an idea up in Salem, where Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt on Monday inaugurated his toll-free line, 1-800-322-NEIL, to comply with a campaign promise that he would be more accessible to Oregonians.
The trouble is that a lot of them spell his name NEAL and all week long calls for the governor have been pouring into Angel's Jewelry in downtown Los Angeles.
"It started as a joke," said Bill Rizkalla, a salesman for the wholesale firm. "But now it's not so funny. Some people are very obnoxious. They don't believe us when we tell them it's the wrong number."
As he was explaining that the owners are trying to make certain that they aren't charged for the 800-number calls, his other phone rang. "There's another one," he said dispiritedly.
Those Oregonians who spelled the governor's name NIEL were reaching a freeze-dried food manufacturer in Grass Valley, Calif.
It did not occur to attorney-artist Kenneth Lipton, 33, that he sounded like a love-hungry opossum one night six months ago as he sat in his Sherman Oaks kitchen doing a little dry-point etching. But an opossum apparently thought so.
Lipton looked up and found the little beggar staring at him, seemingly mesmerized by Lipton's scratching at a zinc plate. The opossum had entered through the doggie door that permits two pet cats to act upon their whims.
The opossum jumped up on the table, then to the kitchen counter, captivated by the scratching. When it was over, he (or she) left.
Since then, Lipton has received a similar call virtually every night--not always by the same opossum, but always just one.
Lipton says his cats accept the visits congenially, even sharing kibbles out of their bowl, haunch to haunch. "The cats seem to have an affinity for opossums," he notes. "They accept them as another cat."
Before he gave up and decided to allow the nightly visits, Lipton tried to shoo one of the intruders away with a broom. The thing played dead on him.
Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale have chipped in on a new video camera to tape filth, splitting the $121,000 cost three ways and each using it four months a year. A little more expensive than the home models, admittedly.
Not only can the sophisticated video camera be dangled down a manhole to check out sections of sewer lines where regular cleaning equipment has encountered obstructions of some kind, it can locate deteriorated pipe and zero in on restaurants dumping grease into the mains.
In addition, says Sarah Gallup of Pasadena's Department of Public Works, it can track the pipe layout in areas scheduled for major reconstruction, thus "saving digging the street up more than once." Gallup agrees that the taxpayers should be in favor of that.
There are no plans, she says, to sell copies of the videotapes for home viewing.
Peter Utreras, 21, came in ninth in a field of 13 candidates for the Bell Gardens City Council, election returns showed Wednesday. How he comes out against that city's Police Department remains to be seen.
Utreras, owner of an electrical supply firm, was arrested on Election Day for allegedly tampering with the telephone lines of the Committee for Progress, which was backing three of his opponents.
Police said someone was constantly calling the committee office and hanging up, then dialing again--thereby jamming the line so that people wanting to ask where to vote and whom to vote for could not get through.
The nuisance dialings were traced to Utreras' home, police and General Telephone Co. said.
Utreras alleged, in turn, that police arrived without a warrant and roughed him up when he ordered them to leave. It's all harassment, Utreras said, because at a candidates' forum last week he called Police Chief William Donohoe "a piece of I don't want to say what."
Upon his arrest, Utreras reportedly said what.