Yes, I know I should be thankful at this time of year. I should join the rest of the columnists and commentators and thank everyone from the gas station attendant to the god on high for my life and health (such as it is) at a time when others have none, for this great free country when others have oppressive dictators or meddling foreign nations trying to save them from oppressive dictators, for an ongoing business at a time when others have failed, for my wonderful, gifted, and talented children when others have . . . well, equally wonderful, gifted, and talented children (what kid in Princeton isn't wonderful, gifted, and talented?).
You get the picture. But here in this Thanksgiving week 2003 I can't help but admit that I want a little bit more. Yes, it's like a hungry pilgrim, relishing his feast while half of his brethren lay dead of starvation in nearby graves, and saying "not to be ungrateful, but it sure would be nice to have some gravy on this tough old turkey leg."
Here is a potentially thankless task -- especially at this thankful time of year. I am prompted to list some of the little things that we in the workaday world don't have but sure would love to have. And, I can add, we certainly would offer a profusion of thanksgivings if we ever did get them.
1. No-fault auto insurance that is paid for at the pump, as a tax added onto the price of gasoline. People who drive more would pay more. People who drive big heavy cars that use more gas would pay more. No one would ever drive uninsured unless they stole the car or stole the gas.
2. Special toll lanes for small cars. Combined with the E-Z pass system, people who drive small cars would have access to these lanes. People in SUVs and Hummers simply wouldn't fit through or under.
3. A left-hand turn light at the corner of Alexander and Roszel roads, plus technology that would change the turn arrow from red to green only when necessary. (Princeton Township recently installed just such a light on Alexander Road near the Rusty Scupper -- maybe it's time for us on the other side of the highway.)
For Office Workers
4. A ban on automobile alarm systems that blow the horn every time they are activated. Wouldn't that make the trip from the parking lot to the office that much more peaceful? And we would be thankful for a ban on car alarms altogether -- we have heard thousands of car alarms blaring in our lifetime, but we have never seen a single one caused by someone trying to steal the car.
5. A simple set of instructions -- in hard copy -- to accompany a new piece of software. Along with the instructions we would also be grateful for a reminder that the software -- no matter what its role -- will not make our job any easier or less demanding of our time.
6. An E-mail software that everyone in the office could agree on but that would not be an open door to destructive hacking.
7. Productive office meetings. I suggest that they all start at 11:30 a.m. and that smells from the lunchroom or corporate cafeteria be vented into the meeting room starting at around 11:55 a.m. That should do it.
For Working Parents
8. Schools that open their doors at 8 a.m. and provide after school care that lasts until 6 p.m. -- so that we can put in a full work day like everyone else.
9. Identification of children of working parents, the same way kids are identified who need special medicine, etc., so that teachers can keep kids of working parents together when planning after-school activities.
10. Child care centers open on snow days and staffed by school teachers from the schools that are closed. But how would they get there? By working parents with four-wheel drive vehicles who have to go to work no matter how bad the school district says that roads are.
So that's my short list of little things that I would be very thankful for if they ever come to fruition. Of course I don't expect any of it to happen between now and Thanksgiving Day 2003 (or 2004). So as I sit down to my holiday meal I will be thankful for all the traditional things, plus for the faithful readers who have stuck with me on this occasion -- as well as many others -- when I have had to cobble together a column when I have had precious little to say.
Thank you, thank you.