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Traffic makes us all scream for ice cream

July 29, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Corporate America better start being nicer to me or I'm going to start taking brand names.

I'm still having a fit over the Great Ice Cream Scam of 2004, in which just about every major manufacturer has scrapped the traditional half-gallon container in favor of something smaller (for the same price, of course).

And they try to confuse us by going metric on their packaging, hoping we won't notice the bait-and-switch. Instead of a patriotic, proud, all-American measurement like "One U.S. Half Gallon," they must slink in with some foreign, communistic measurement, like "1.742642 Hectalitres."

Some measurements ought to be sacred, like a gallon of milk, a quart of strawberries, a pound of bacon or a half-gallon of ice cream. Now the makers of brand-name ice cream have violated a sacred American trust.

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So look all you brand-name hooligans, your ice cream is not that much better than the store brands that are still using the standard measure. And I for one am not going to pay the same price for a smaller product! I would rather switch than fight. Or maybe switch and fight both. Who is with me? Huzzah, to the barricades!

And while I'm still steamed about the cream, further injury comes from big business, as outlined in an story in The New York Times:

"The expression 'road rage' usually refers to infuriated drivers who lose control of their temper and lash out at other motorists. But what if a car also could express anger, crouching low on its wheel base and glowering with red headlights like a lion about to pounce?

"Four inventors working for Toyota in Japan have won a patent for a car that they say can help drivers communicate better by glaring angrily at another car cutting through traffic, as well as appear to cry, laugh, wink or just look around."

Why am I annoyed about this? Two reasons. First, because it was MY IDEA. I think I even wrote about it once, but now someone else is going to fill himself with cash by swilling at my own trough of native genius. Second, they have taken a perfectly plausible idea and scrambled it beyond recognition.

My plan was simple; On your rear deck and front bumper there would be a lighted message ticker, much like the one in Times Square. On your steering wheel would be a keyboard so you could communicate with your fellow drivers.

This would allow you to take your road rage and channel it into an educational experience for your fellow drivers. Like, "Use your turn signal, moron" or "Do you realize what a dork you are when you hang out in the fast lane going 54?"

Think of all the ammunition this would save, especially in places such as Miami.

But this "car with emotions" thing is all wrong. They want antennae that wag happily like a dog, and headlights that turn red if the car is "mad" and "eyebrows" that will shoot up in surprise if you stand on the brakes to avoid a deer.

"The inventors believe these features on cars will make driving more entertaining," the story says - and they write in the patent papers, "as traffic grows heavier and vehicle use increases, vehicles having expression functions, such as crying and laughing, like people and other animals do, could create a joyful, organic atmosphere rather than the simple comings and goings of inorganic vehicles."

First, outside of doves and hyenas, what animals laugh and cry? Second, if I want organic, I'll go to Tonoloway Market. And third, I definitely do not want a car that thinks for itself. I don't want to drive a vehicle that has "moods."

I don't want to mash down on the accelerator and hear "Not tonight, I have a headache."

Under the pending plans, people would not determine how the car feels, the car would make the determination itself, based on speed, steering and braking inputs. Then we get to watch the reaction in the "expression" of other people's cars.

That ought to be safe. Instead of watching the highway, everyone will be watching other people's grilles to see if the cars' "nostrils" are flared.

Obviously, a simple rule needs to be in place: If you're going to drive, watch the road. If you want to see someone's nostrils flaring, just look for me in the dairy aisle.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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