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Street Smart

Even Letterman Would Find This Top 10 List 100% Weird


If you're like me, when you get stuck in traffic you ask yourself questions such as: How come I'm not moving? What is the cause of this? Am I going to be late for my lambada lessons?

OK, maybe I'm the only one who worries about the lambada lessons.

But Mike Leviton of Encino wrote to say that when he sits in traffic he ponders what becomes of all those hubcaps on the side of the freeway. He wonders whether they are spirited away by nocturnal scavengers or little green men (or women) from outer space.

Actually, hubcaps and other freeway trash are collected by Caltrans crews or folks hired by people such as Bette Midler who have adopted a stretch of freeway. If the hubcaps are mangled and resemble a pizza with a few missing slices, they are recycled or tossed in the trash, said Caltrans spokesman Russ Snyder.

If the hubcaps are in good shape, Snyder said Caltrans keeps them for a few months so you can come and claim them.

If you don't claim them, it's Caltrans' policy to turn them over to the local police as "lost and found" items.

Speaking of junk found on the freeways, during an annual freeway clean-up day last year, volunteers found some mighty weird things, which they categorized in a five-page list. I narrowed this list down and, borrowing an idea from Dave Letterman and/or NBC, I created the Top-10 List of Weirdest Items Found on California Freeways:

No.10: Size 40 bra;

No. 9: A book of Jimmy Stewart's poems;

No. 8: Two boxes of macaroni and cheese;

No. 7: False teeth;

No. 6: Uncashed check for $7,000;

No. 5: A dog's head in a bag;

No. 4: A "Dear John" letter;

No. 3: Handcuffs (no, there was no escaped convict attached);

No.2: Box of men's edible underwear, cherry flavor);

And--a drum roll, please--the No. 1 weirdest item found on California freeways: a sign that says "Will work for Sex!"

Dear Street Smart:

I know Acton, in the Antelope Valley, may not be in your area of expertise, but we do have a problem. There is no street sign identifying Soledad Canyon Road where it intersects Santiago Road. It's very hard to give directions. Can you help?

Jennifer E. Owen


Dear Reader:

You're right, I'm not an expert on Acton. All I really know is that it gets so hot up there in the summer you can fry an egg on your forehead.

But I also know that if some desert rat steals a street sign in Acton, you should call Terry Green at the Los Angeles County Road Department at (805) 947-7173, and he will get it replaced before it's time to flip that egg and add the bacon.

Dear Street Smart:

At a time when nine out of 10 people will not stoop to retrieve a penny from the sidewalk, why is gasoline priced in one-tenth-cent increments by every company and corner station in every state in the U. S.?

The savings in paint alone in not having to paint all those huge, meaningless nines would be significant.

What's the marketing advantage when everyone uses the tenth-cent ploy?

George A. Rutan


Dear Reader:

Those huge, meaningless nines, as you describe them, are nothing more than some marketing executive's idea to make us all think we are paying less for gasoline.

According to a couple of oil company representatives, it's the same concept as when a new car is advertised for $12,999 instead of $13,000.

Jim Huccaby, manager of the pricing unit for Chevron, put it simply: "It's a marketing tool that we use. Ninety-nine cents sounds better than a dollar."

But what is the advantage, you ask, when every gasoline station in the country uses this ploy? Why not be honest and round the price up to the nearest penny?

Well, imagine you own a gas station and you sell your fuel at $1.22 a gallon and the station across the street sells it for $1.21.99. Believe it or not, there are a lot of motorists out there who will go to your competitor because they think they will save money.

Personally, I choose my gas stations not based on gasoline price but on whether they give free commuter mugs with each fill-up.

Dear Street Smart:

A motor home is always parking on the corner of Monogram Avenue and San Jose Street in Granada Hills. When you go south down Monogram Avenue and stop at the intersection, you can't see the on-coming traffic from the east because of this large motor home.

On two occasions my wife and my daughter almost had a collision with an oncoming car. What can be done?

Sam Young

Granada Hills

Dear Reader:

Driving into a blind intersection must be like electing a new President: It could be a fairly painless experience or you could get smacked broadside, thrown for a loop and left emotionally bruised and physically wrecked.

But I digress. If the motor home has been parked on the street for more than 72 consecutive hours, the owner is violating city codes and can be towed and impounded. To alert the city to this problem, call (800) ABA-NDON and a cop will check into it within two days.

Another solution may be to have that curb painted red so no one can park there and block your view. But to do this, city engineers will have to do studies, traffic counts and stuff like that.

To get this process started on a street in the west San Fernando Valley, write to City Traffic Engineer Ray Wellbaum at 19040 Vanowen St., Reseda, 91335. In the east Valley, write to Al Albaisa at 6320 Van Nuys Blvd., Suite 506, Van Nuys, 91401.

Street Smart appears Mondays in The Times Valley Edition. Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about traffic, commuting and what makes it difficult to get around the Valley. Include simple sketches if helpful. Letters may be published in upcoming columns. Please write to Hugo Martin, c/o Street Smart, The Times Valley Edition, 20000 Prairie Street, Chatsworth 91311. Include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers. Letters may be edited and no anonymous letters will be accepted. To record your comments call (818) 772-3303. Send fax letters to (818) 382-6651.

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