'Mail Call,' 'You said it' keep me on my toma-toes

November 16, 2004|BY TIM ROWLAND

For some years now, there has been a feature in The Daily Mail newspaper called "Mail Call," which allows readers to phone in anonymous comments on anything that happens to be on their minds that particular day.

It can be political commentary, solicitation of a recipe, religious treatise - anything. Often it takes the form of thoughtful, "constructive criticism," such as "To the brain-dead idiot in the blue station wagon who pulled out in front of me at the mall, I hope someone slits your nostrils open and your lungs rot."

Often this will provide a thread for the days that follow, as other readers weigh in with similar experiences and encounters they have had with said blue station wagon.

Since I usually read The Morning Herald, however, I had been largely ignorant of this underground, call-in society. I knew it existed, but I rarely saw it. Fortunately, however, as of last week, this feature has been extended to the morning paper as well, under the name of "You Said It." Frankly, I find it fascinating, and I'm a little nonplussed over all those years I was "missing out."


There are a lot of conspiracies in this feature, and I love conspiracies. For example, readers wonder why the South Hagerstown High School band did not play at halftime of the North-South game (I have a Very Clever Answer to this, but I will keep it to myself, since I don't want a bunch of people out there wishing my lungs would rot).

And from another caller comes the Great Salad Conspiracy of '04:

"I am wondering what is up with these spaghetti feeds lately. They never have tomatoes for the salads. I don't like salads without tomatoes."

All right, as issues go it may not be as weighty as the implications for a post-Arafat Middle East, I grant you. But it is a fair question nevertheless. Before I answered, I think I should have to know whether the reader is talking about hothouse or vine-ripened tomatoes, as one would be a crime against nature itself, while the other would be no big loss. So I'll have to await clarification from the caller.

Moving on, the paper recently published the ample salaries of employees of the Washington County landfill, and apparently some people thought them exorbitant. This caused a landfill employee to speak up:

"In regards to the public who read The Morning Herald on Saturday, how was your day off? Well, I work at the landfill 312 days a year, six days a week to make that money."

OK, fair enough, although I believe a larger point needs to be raised. Have the people who complain about landfill salaries ever been to the landfill? It ain't exactly like working in a spice boutique pressing violets, if you know what I'm saying. If you believe the salaries are too high and want to trade jobs with them, go right ahead, but I'm staying put.

One of the great appeals of this feature is the brevity - usually a paragraph per call. If they are longer than five lines they lose me, so I appreciate calls such as this one:

"Nothing which is morally wrong can ever be politically correct."

Zounds, how did such a philosophical sounding entry find its way among the blue station wagons and disappearing tomatoes? On reflection, I don't have a clue what this means, but it sounded so good I jotted it down for use at a future cocktail party when I want to confound the bothersome person who's bending my ear into silence.

Another thing which impresses me about "Mail Call/You Said It" is its lack of theme, the random and unconnected thoughts bouncing off each other like billiard balls on the break. Sometimes these disconnects occur deliciously within the same entry:

"My complaint is about these people who drive around with the handicapped sticker in the window. If you read the top of it, remove it before driving. Also when it rains, it is a law to have your headlights on."

How's that for dexterity? Just when you think this is a call about handicapped stickers, bam, headlights in the rain. But I'm glad someone raised the topic, because my question is this:

If there's a real light rain and you have your wipers set to "intermittent," do you still need to turn on your headlights? Because technically speaking, your wipers are "on," but practically speaking, they are not engaged a majority of the time. So what gives?

If that isn't a question for Mail Call/You Said It, I've never seen one.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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