This column is not about the election |

This column is not about the election

Barry Smith

I was in a restroom in the Oakland airport the other day when I saw something I’d never seen before.

No, not that.

What I saw on the side of a stall wall was political discourse. Well, discourse is probably the wrong word, because most of what was scrawled there isn’t printable in a family newspaper – or pretty much any newspaper, for that matter.

It went something like this:

“George Bush is a ….”

Scratched out and replaced with “Kerry is a ….”

Scratched out and covered by “Oh, yeah? Well, Bush is a ….”

(I’m paraphrasing here because I wasn’t exactly taking notes at the time.)

My God. This is what we’ve come to. A restroom wall, normally reserved for telephone numbers and lewd suggestions as to what might happen if one dials them – at least, that’s the kind of stuff found in airport men’s rooms – had been transformed into an up-close-and-personal, profoundly profane billboard for opinions on the presidential election.


Surely, I thought, there must be something else going on in the world. And I’m just the guy to write about it, giving readers of the Nevada Appeal a much-needed break from what’s-their-names.

Here’s a sample of some news you may not have read, cribbed from the wire services:

— Since Sept. 20, a homesick 47-year-old refugee – a member of the Montagnard ethnic minority who speaks only an obscure Vietnam tribal dialect, jurai – has been stranded at Los Angeles International Airport, having lost the travel documents that would allow him to board any plane departing the United States.

For weeks, he has whiled away the hours amid the bustle of the international terminal, sleeping on benches and surviving on the meals offered by perplexed but sympathetic airport workers. While allowing airport officials to try to assist him through the complex process of getting papers that will allow him to travel home, he has repeatedly declined offers of shelter outside the gates of LAX.

“His thinking is, ‘If I leave the airport, then nobody will work on my problem,'” said Nancy Castles, public relations director for the city agency that runs the nation’s third busiest airport. “He’s very smart.”

— The National Park Service is upset over a plan to illuminate the Gateway Arch in pink on Monday in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Spokesman Dave Barna said the Park Service is not opposed to the cause, but rather the precedent it sets for possible future uses of the 630-foot-tall arch, which the agency is charged with maintaining.

“If you allow a certain type of event with one organization, you open it up to everyone else,” he said. “You have to assume there’ll be some individual who’ll want to do this in some protest manner.”

— Diners at The Vineyard in Bentonville, Ark., can distance themselves from the din of cell phone chatter.

The restaurant has designated a “No-Cell-Phone” area, after customers who complained about listening to conversations from adjacent tables asked for the ban.

“We had a therapist in from New York in who was giving marriage counseling on the phone for 30 minutes and there were two other tables in the dining area and both complained,” server Brittany Peacock said.

— Ticked off by the TV? Turn it off – anywhere.

A new keychain gadget that lets people turn off most TVs – anywhere from airports to restaurants – is selling at a faster clip than expected.

“I thought there would just be a trickle, but we are swamped,” the inventor, Mitch Altman of San Francisco, said. “I didn’t know there were so many people who were into turning TV off.”

Hundreds of orders for Altman’s $14.99 TV-B-Gone gadget have poured in.

The keychain fob works like a universal remote control – but one that only turns TVs on or off. With a zap of a button, the gizmo goes through a string of about 200 infrared codes that controls the power of about 1,000 television models.

— People interested in an out-of-this-world post-death experience can “boldly go where no man has gone before” with a space memorial service that blasts their ashes into space.

For $995, Space Services Inc. will place a gram of a person’s ashes in an aluminum capsule – about the size of four dimes stacked together – attach it to a rocket and send it into space. For $4,300 more, seven grams of ashes are transported in a lipstick-size container.

The most famous client of Space Services: “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, who orbited Earth for six years after his death in 1991.

— A cargo plane from Chicago landed safely at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after dropping an engine somewhere over Michigan.

The Kalitta Air jet took off from O’Hare International Airport late Wednesday and was bound for New York’s Kennedy International Airport when it reported mechanical problems with one of its engines, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said.

The Boeing 747 was able to fly but was diverted as a safety precaution to Detroit, where it landed without incident, officials said.

After the landing, airline personnel discovered the engine was completely gone, FAA officials said.

Michigan authorities searched Thursday for the engine, which may have fallen into Lake Michigan, the FAA said.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.