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Pay Now, Pay Later --or Pay the Price

ONLY IN L.A.

October 10, 2000|STEVE HARVEY

The items here about motorists' adventures at Self-Serve Island reminded Aleta Carpenter of an experience she had in Durango, Colo.

When she pulled up to a gasoline pump and went inside to hand the clerk her credit card, he laughed and said, "You're from California, aren't you?" He could tell, he said, because she was trying to pay for her gas first. That wasn't necessary.

"Out here," he said, "if you fill up and don't pay, we just shoot you."

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TRAFFIC OBSTACLES DU JOUR: After KNX's Donna Page reported assorted freeway spills of lumber, an air-conditioning unit and a "farm implement" Monday morning, anchor Dick Helton remarked: "We could almost start our own do-it-yourself store."

The "implement" on the Garden Grove Freeway was later determined to be a wheelbarrow.

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RUNNING WITH THE HOUNDS: Peter Davison, of Santa Monica, found a place to park that has gone to the dogs (see photo), while Michael Jelf, of Lomita, bought a kennel for Theo, his Saint Bernard, despite a warning (see accompanying). Jelf admitted that Theo's "skill with a wrench leaves much to be desired," so he might have to help the pooch assemble the structure.

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PTOMAINE TIDBITS: Palm Springs resident Peter Palm wrote to ask about Ptomaine Tommy's. Specifically, Palm wondered about the origin of the term "chili size," a dish said to have been created by Ptomaine Tommy DeForest at his tiny Lincoln Heights eatery in the 1920s.

"Almost every coffee shop, cafe, hash house and beanery across the nation has this dish, but no one--I iterate no one--can tell me the origin," Palm lamented.

Fortunately, the late Jack Smith knew the story. Years ago, the Times columnist recounted how DeForest introduced the size, "a hamburger covered with chili and beans and sprinkled with chopped onions, called 'violets' or 'flowers.' " (Bread was on the side, thus differentiating it from a chili burger.)

DeForest at first offered his specialty in two sizes: hamburger size and steak size.

"But," Smith wrote, "few customers took the steak size, and in time that term was dropped and the waiter would simply holler (to the chef), 'Size!' "

And don't hold the violets.

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SPEAKING OF GLAM JOINTS: Producer/writer Armand Deutsch used to dine regularly with director Billy Wilder at a Johnny Rockets eatery, where Wilder was fond of No. 12 (burger with cheddar cheese and red sauce).

"Often there was a line," Deutsch writes in Modern Maturity magazine, "but whenever the proprietor would spot Billy, he would quickly seat us. I couldn't take the dirty looks from the waiting customers, so I whispered, 'Billy, this is no way to die--the victims of an angry, hungry lunch mob.' "

Wilder, ever the cynical wit, responded: "I'm a star in a hamburger joint. They'll just have to accept it."

miscelLAny:

Worried about road rage, the state of Pennsylvania has begun posting highway signs with messages such as "Beware of Aggressive Drivers" and "Don't Tailgate."

L.A. tried a similar campaign at its borders a few decades ago. The accompanying warning (see photo), at the corner of Huntington Drive and Kendall Avenue, was aimed at the notoriously wild drivers of South Pasadena.

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Steve Harvey can be reached at (800) LATIMES, Ext. 77083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A., 90012 and by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com.

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