In Tom's cruelest-month housekeeping file: yellow lights, guns and Phlebas the Phoenician

As we're coming up on August, I'll do some housecleaning.

I once wrote that August is the cruelest month, what with the heat and humidity both having been around for months, and nothing but baseball on TV. Well, several dozen poetry geeks sent me links to the T.S. Eliot poem "The Waste Land," perhaps best known for its opening line, "April is the cruellest month ... ." (He spelled "cruelest" with two l's, I guess just to hammer the point home about its cruelty.)

Never having read it before, I jumped right in, unaware that—like movies that have all the best scenes and jokes in the 30-second trailer—the poem started off with its best line and then plunged off a cliff after that. It has 434 lines with stuff like "Phlebas the Phoenician" and "twit twit twit jug jug jug jug jug jug."

It does have one other cool line that goes: "I will show you fear in a handful of dust." The fear to which Eliot refers is undoubtedly the fact that the line is only No. 30 of the poem, and you've still got 404 left to go. He ends it with the Sanskrit "Shantih shantih shantih," which is the same phrase uttered by the character Cora in the classic Hugh Grant film Music and Lyrics. How that movie didn't win an Oscar, I'll never know, especially with an opening song like "Pop! Goes My Heart," and a love song with the line, "... despite the fact that you've killed all my plants." It's all so subjective and unfair.

Anyway, here we go:

To state Sen. Frank Antenori, who showed up wearing a gun on his hip at the studio where I do a radio show after I chided him in print for sponsoring a bill that gives bad drivers even more incentive to step on the gas rather than the brake when a traffic light turns yellow, I offer a nod.

I believe that Sen. Antenori was and is aware of the mathematical formulae and principles of physics that go into determining the proper length of a yellow light at any given intersection. The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, calls for a minimum of three seconds for any yellow light in the state. The yellow can be longer, depending on a variety of conditions (including whether there is a camera mounted at the intersection to take photos of red-light runners).

Antenori said that he had been told that some communities, including Scottsdale, which don't have full-time traffic engineers like Tucson does, were allowing the private companies that ran the cameras to shorten the yellow lights below the three-second minimum to boost revenue from traffic tickets. (Spokespeople for the city of Scottsdale deny that such a practice ever took place.)

The senator wants y'all to know that his bill called for a minimum of three seconds, not a standard time of three seconds, as the governor's office claimed in its press release. The actual time for the yellow could be three, four, five or even six seconds, depending on how many red-light runners complain. I mean, depending on a variety of factors.

To all you people who keep sending me links to things, thanks, but please stop. The government didn't bring down the World Trade Center, and you don't have conclusive proof that you shouldn't have gotten that ticket for running a red light. Some of those videos you send me look like they were edited by Ed Wood.

Just own up to running the light; you'll feel better in the long run. Just admit to yourself that you're probably part of the 49.999 percent of all drivers who are below average, as opposed to the 98 percent of all drivers who consider themselves to be excellent.

People, try this: Find 10 people you know who have received citations for running a light, and ask them whether they did it. Chances are not even one will own up to it. Is the government out to get all 10 of them? If you find even one who will admit to having done it, hold on to that person, because he/she is the one who will tell you whether you really do look fat in that dress.

To the guy who was standing in front of me at the pizza place, I guess I'm sorta sorry for laughing at you, especially in front of your kid. But, dude, you're wearing a gun in a pizza place. What, are you afraid that the video games are actually Transformers? Plus, you're probably pushing 400 pounds; your poor car probably has stretch marks!

You just looked stupid, and I had to laugh. I suppose you could have shot me and stopped my laughing. I'm glad you didn't; my son and his friends really wanted those pizzas.

Speaking of sons, what are you teaching yours?

To the person who wrote me the long, rambling letter (with no return address) about illegal immigration and ancestry, I appreciate you taking the time, but I didn't write the thing to which you're responding. Blaze Mason wrote it. Send it to her, and be sure to ask the question: According to her logic, if one cannot prove that his grandparents didn't rob a bank, does that make it OK for somebody else to rob a bank?

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