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Free Advice

Columns designed to address the peculiar needs of San Jose

By Najeeb Hasan

AS AN AVID reader of Gary Richards' Mercury News column Roadshow, Biter is tempted to draw some conclusions about San Jose. For those unfamiliar with the column, Roadshow is essentially 20 inches of newsprint devoted to questions about the Bay Area's--you guessed it--roads.

To say the least, Richards' store of knowledge is mind-bendingly massive--he regularly fields questions about topics such as right-of-way confusions, vehicle nonoperational stickers, temporary lane markers, the legality of U-turns at certain intersections and anything else traffic-or-road-related that floats your, er, boat.

For example, last week, in response to a complicated question about highway merging, the unflappable Richards wrote: "In general, this is a merging situation, and drivers need to share the road. But the situation can differ depending on the way the road is laid out. The driver changing lanes should give way to the driver who is not changing lanes. If push came to shove, the driver entering the freeway would most likely be cited if a wreck occurred. You never see yield signs at a freeway ramp, because it's a merge situation. Share the pavement."

Undoubtedly brilliant.

But what does this say about San Jose? Only that roads and vehicles of all gas-guzzling capacities dominate the cityscape so much that the one daily in town would devote a 20-inch column to the matter. Only that a visitor from afar who picks up a copy of the Merc could make the educated guess that San Jose ain't exactly pedestrian-friendly.

In the spirit of the forgotten suggestion box, Biter thought it would be wise to drop a few ideas for other column topics that could very well fly for the Merc because of San Jose's, well, unique character:

  • A column devoted to answering questions only about strip malls. The writer would have to know her stuff: What are the proper names of certain strip malls? Can you find me a strip mall with a Subway, Baskin-Robbins and a Starbucks in South San Jose? Can you help me locate my car, which I lost in a strip mall parking lot?
  • A column reserved for those who enjoy bumping bad rap music in their cars. Possible questions could be: Is it rude to ride around bumping at 2am in residential streets? What stations play songs with the heaviest bass? Can I safely install my speakers on the outside of my car?
  • A weapons-identification column, with guest experts from the SJPD: When I call the police to help me calm down my Oxycontin-abusing grandma, can I come to the door with a radish roser in my hand and live to tell about it? Toenail clippers--deadly force or hygiene aid?
  • A column devoted entirely to fun things to do after dark without getting hassled in downtown San Jose. OK, scratch that idea.
  • A column designed to address the needs of private-jet owners: How much would it cost to put a muffler on a jet anyway? Does Midas do that kind of thing? If a private plane lands after curfew in the forest, does it exceed the city's decibel limit?
  • A column crafted only for San Jose's two dozen participants in the peace movement. This column could not, for obvious reasons, survive on a question-answer format; the critical mass of readership just would not be there. Instead, perhaps it could serve as a sort of public chat room for the handful of peaceniks--just something to make sure they know the others are still living.

  • Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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    From the October 23-29, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

    Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

    For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.