September 2022
Alan Dean Foster

To Sleep, Perchance to Gripe

For years, at the end of the CBS news show 60 Minutes, commentator Andy Rooney would come on and, for roughly five minutes, bitch about something that irritated him. For all that, he possessed a kindly and avuncular manner, so that few actually took offense. He was, in short, a professional curmudgeon. I adore words that sound like their definitions. You could say that Rooney was a curmudgeon in high dungeon.

“Not everyone has a right to his own opinion. If he doesn't know the facts, his opinion doesn't count.” Andy Rooney, 1942-2011

I love exploring different languages. Each has its highlights. For example, everything you say in French sounds like a prelude to seduction. Even ordering a bagel and lox (okay, if you must know, “Je voudrais un bagel grilleé avec salmon fumeé, fromage ala crème, y onion”; I’ll leave the fancy food-ordering to the critics). Swahili sounds like a made-up kids’ language. It actually is a made-up language, consisting of words taken from Hindi, German, Portuguese, Arabic, and several Bantu-related tongues. Melanesian pidgin is another one that’s fun. It sounds like it originated in Hollywood but actually, much like Kiswahili, originated as a trading language. The actress Mila Kunis once said that Russian (which she speaks fluently) sounds a lot like Klingon. And so on.

So after nearly ten years of doing this column, I thought it was time to devote part of one to giving vent to a few private exasperations, even if I don’t get paid like Rooney.

A few years ago we decided to upgrade our old TV, and so purchased a nice LG 55” set. Nothing extravagant: just a nice television sized for the space in our den where it had to fit. Good set, works fine. But the sound from any flat-screen TV comes from necessarily small speakers, so I bought an LG soundbar to go along with it. Set everything up, it worked as expected, except — I could not control the soundbar from LG’s elaborate “Magic” remote. Tried everything I could think of; no go.

It was when I read the full manual that I discovered that LG’s Magic remote isn’t magic enough to control soundbars. Not even one from the same company. So, not so magic, and very frustrating. I’ve recently discovered a workaround, but it’s way too complex to be worth fussing with, and I like fussing with electronics. And the last thing we needed for the TV setup was yet another, separate remote control (for just the soundbar).

I don’t mean to pick on LG here (okay, maybe a little), but you would think that a remote control from a company could control appropriate accessories from the same company, let alone others (Bose, Vizio, etc.). I reckon what really bothered me was that the relevant information was not displayed anywhere on the TV’s packaging, which would have saved me buying the soundbar, raising my blood pressure trying to get it to work, and then having to return it. Not to mention placing it, in smaller font, deep within the manual. I doubt LG is the only offender.

When was the last time you bought a pint of ice cream that wasn’t a pint, but 14 ounces? I’ve already done a column on product resizing, but as important as ice cream is to our general health (mental if not physical), I wanted to re-gripe about it. Read your labels before you buy. A few companies, for example Graeters, still sell actual 16-ounce pints. Don’t be fooled by “reduced” prices for the others.

If you use the main Prescott post office on Miller Valley Rd., you know that exiting the parking lot is an exercise in exasperation. The main problem involves poor folks trying to get out into the right-turn lane. Not to mention the visually and mentally impaired who pull out attempting to access the left-turn lane and end up blocking east-bound traffic because the left-turn lane onto Miller Valley has reached its two-car capacity. During Christmas, when the parking lot fills up, traffic attempting to exit backs up into the parking lot itself, and the resulting chaos is right up there with anything you’ll find in a video game.

For decades I’ve suggested taking down one tree (one) and extending the parking lot a few yards into a single right-turn only lane that would exit out directly onto Miller Valley, bypassing the intersection with the street light. This would enormously improve the flow of traffic, driver frustration, and maybe even moderate the steady flow of bad words emanating from frustrated drivers struggling to exit the post office parking lot. A post-office employee once told me that they couldn’t get the a) money, b) necessary approvals, or a) and b) to do it. As a necessary safety improvement, I would think the time has come to acquire both. After more than forty years of having to deal with the easily improvable exit setup, I’d be happy to contribute to the paving cost myself. And I bet a lumber company would volunteer to take down the one tree.

I feel better now. Thanks.

Prescott resident Alan Dean Foster is the author of 130 books. Follow him at AlanDeanFoster. com.