Second chapters of select columns

January 01, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

In keeping with the tradition of reviewing the old year, as we begin a new one, I am offering a look back at some of the topics that have appeared in this space under my name.

It is a chance for me to share with faithful readers what happened next.

For a holiday column, I wrote about the efforts of a handful of Starbucks managers in the Annapolis area to collect coffee for the troops overseas.

They asked their regular customers to buy a pound of beans and donate it, and the Starbucks employees, who receive a free bag of beans each week as part of their benefits, donated theirs. In addition, the Starbucks managers donated grinders and coffee makers.

The result? More than 550 pounds of coffee were sent to charities that will see to it that the beans make it to Iraq, Afghanistan and even Africa, where U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines were spending their holidays.

In another column, I wrote about getting caught by one of those red-light cameras and expressed my gratitude that there were no cameras around to record my behavior at other inopportune moments.

Several readers wrote to say they'd been caught on red-light cameras, too, and gave me their locations so that I could be forewarned.

But in these days when the Internet has made the world so small that it might fit in a snow globe, a businessman in Scotland read my account and called me to talk about a product he was promoting.

It is called a Cheetah, and it mounts on the rear-view mirror of your car. It is a red-light and speed-camera detector, and it comes preloaded with a memory full of camera locations. Each month, you can go to a Web site and download any new ambush locations.

According to the company, most people run red lights not out of criminal intent - as one reader suggested I had done - but because their concentration had lapsed. The Cheetah grabs the driver's attention by warning that an intersection deemed dangerous is coming up.

A column about listening to books on tape, as opposed to reading the book, drew a huge response from fans of recorded books. Like me, they said if they didn't listen to books, they wouldn't read at all.

One reader made the observation that literature was born from the oral traditions of our ancient ancestors, and another said recorded books made even dish-washing palatable.

But I am pretty sure I hurt the feelings of the members of the book club which I abandoned subsequent to, but not because of, a general disapproval of my listening to books. Sorry guys. I just got busier!

When I expressed my growing annoyance with the "pinking" of American commerce - the corporate attempt to piggy-back the devastation of breast cancer - I was buried beneath an avalanche of angry e-mail.

It was unlike any I had seen since the time I wrote that heart disease - not breast cancer - was the leading killer of women and in need of its own monster fund-raising machine.

Many of those who wrote expressed their not-very-sincere hope that I never find a malignant lump in my breast, and one reader invoked the name of my 21-year-old daughter several times in an e-mail describing her own college-aged daughter's battle with breast cancer.

That was a tough week.

But there was a funny side to that "pinked out" column, too.

Apparently marketing and public relations people are using some kind of Internet search engines that flag newspaper articles mentioning their product or their cause.

No sooner had I written about how frustrated I was with the pink ribbon movement than I received a boat-load of e-mails, press releases and phone calls suggesting that I write about some new pink campaign.

Apparently those marketing and public relations people weren't actually reading the stuff that was being flagged for them. Either that, or they are all hopelessly optimistic.

And, finally, a column I wrote describing "the odyssey years," the decade our 20-somethings spend wandering from school to job and in and out of relationships and their childhood bedroom, gave a number of parents great comfort.

"I thought I was the only one, or one of few, going through this. Your article helped me a lot. Thank you," wrote the mother of a 20-something who graduated from college and left for Bangladesh.

When I reported these sighs of relief to William Galston, the Brookings Institution scholar who identified this phase, he, too, was comforted.

"This is the first time in four decades that my research has actually made anyone feel better!" he wrote.

And thank you, readers, for a lively year.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Online

Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

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