Almost everyone, it seems, has a wish list of some sort. Amazon.com, in fact, makes beaucoup bucks catering to this particular fixation. (And if you're inclined to buy me stuff, here's mine.) But life is about more than material things, and occasionally I find myself with desires that cannot be fulfilled with a swipe of the ol' MasterCard. A sampling of such follows.
1. Contemporary panhandlers appear in two manifestations: the urban beggar meets you downtown and gives you his spiel in person, while his suburban counterpart shows up at a major intersection with a crudely-written sign. Either is a blight upon the landscape, but the guy working the 'burbs is also a safety hazard, what with having to wander into the way of traffic to finalize the deal. What I want: Proper warning signs CAUTION PANHANDLER 1000 FT. or something similar which indicate the presence of the individual and give adequate notice to the driver, should he wish to select an alternate route to his destination.
2. From time immemorial, or at least from the time your grandfather traded in his Model T, gasoline has been priced at something-point-nine cents per gallon, largely because it's a fairly innocuous way to increase the take by slightly less than a penny without the customer paying the slightest bit of attention to it. It's not really a deceptive practice, since (1) they all do it and (2) no one gives a particular damn, but it sticks in my craw. What I want: Pumps that will support prices in hundredths of a cent: say, $2.4599. It may be that the extra digit will go equally unnoticed, and retailers will pocket a few extra dollars per year; but I'd like to think that the additional length of the posted price will persuade consumers that the second additional digit is pure BS at which time they may conclude the same about the first additional digit and agitate for its removal.
3. Trini was inspecting her pay stub this past week, and she noted with dismay that various governmental imposts had swept several thousand dollars out of her hands without her ever seeing it. The governments in question, of course, like this sort of thing just fine, since it enables them to screw around with minimal outcry from the proletariat. What I want: I'd like to see tax withholding discontinued and the filing of quarterly tax estimates, with payment attached, be made mandatory. (Having everyone write one big check on the 15th of April seems unnecessarily cruel.) To make this work, the existing penalties for underestimating tax would have to be discontinued also. The informed citizen, I submit, needs to be confronted with the price being exacted for his citizenship more than once a year for a couple of hours. The likelihood that many, perhaps most, people will be outraged and demand that the government be called to account well, that's just a fringe benefit.
4. Alarmism is now one of the few growth industries in the world economy: there's always money to be made by claiming that it's the end of the world as we know it. And eventually someone will actually be correct with that claim. Until that time, though, Cassandra wannabes, amateur and professional alike, will clutter up the landscape with dire predictions of doom, and when such doom fails to materialize, their predictions will slide unnoticed into the memory hole. What I want: An annual Paul R. Ehrlich Award, given to the most spectacularly bad prognosticator of the year, and promoted with as much vigor as the Nobels or the Pulitzers. Once a pundit is so tagged, he will find himself hard-pressed to make so much noise in the future. And the inaugural award, of course, should be given to Dr Ehrlich himself, for being so wrong so often.
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Copyright © 2008 by Charles G. Hill