Fifteen Minutes of Fame

There are three papers that cover the Montpelier, Vermont area, and I sent the same letter to each of their editors.

The Bridge comes out twice a month and focuses solely on Montpelier news, events, and opinions. It is free and arrives neatly folded inside our mailbox, addressed to the Postal Patron. I look forward to its crisp reporting and artistic black and white photographs, the arts and culture coverage, and the insightful political and social commentary of the Letters to the Editor. The advertising is moderate and tasteful. Of the three papers, it is the highest Quality in terms of breeding, and so naturally did not print or respond to my letter.

The World comes out weekly and covers Washington County in general. It appears attached to our mailbox, rolled up in a clear pastic bag that can be re-used to clean up after your dog. I would wager that 80% of its ink is devoted to the commonest class of advertising such as rain gutters, snowmobiles, bikini waxing, etc. The remaining 20% to good old fashion local events, business news, awards given to high school seniors, a full page obituary spread, the local dog column, etc. etc. If The Bridge is the Town Crier, The World is the Back Alley Gossip, trumpeting our personal triumphs and tragedies, and indispensable for staying current. Unfortunately, they too could care less what I think and have neither printed nor responded to my letter.

Finally, The Times-Argus is what you think of when someone mentions “subscription newspaper”, complete with comics, crosswords, sports section, and recycled AP wire news PLUS an old-fashioned and completely meaningless moniker. In the past, they have printed my letters to the editor. I do not subscribe to this paper. I must rely on Ira Trombley, a state representative from Grand Isle in the Vermont legislature, to inform me whenever a letter of mine is printed.

Though Mr. Trombley and I have never met, he never fails to send me a postcard after each of my letters are printed. On one side of the postcard is a portrait of the representative sporting his handsome handlebar moustache (yes, I am envious) and on the other side is a hand-written note applauding my progressive stances and encouraging me to continue writing.

Often Mr. Trombley references some letter that I did not even know I had written. This is often the case when I write and sign an on-line petition and don’t see the checkbox captioned “send a copy to my local paper.”

I have a very good friend in the area who also never fails to find out about my letters. His name is Harry Kaminsky and his friends always tell him, “I loved your letter in the Times-Argus, but they misspelled your name again.” He always responds, “It’s actually my friend Harry KaTINsky, but I agree with everything he says.”

The Times-Argus received my latest letter, the same one rejected by the other papers, and the first I knowingly sent to them. They have agreed to print it, but only if I would cut it down to under 300 words. Editors!

Well, I graciously agreed. The published version is no longer online, but I have included the original unabridged version below.

To the Editor,

I am a soft-spoken, unknown citizen with a burning axe of righteousness to grind.On a quiet day, from our home near the corner of Main and Towne Hill Road in Montpelier, we can hear the faint bells of City Hall chiming the hours. We are close enough to walk to downtown in most weather, yet far enough to pause at the thought of the return climb. Our Saturn wagon is a rainy day vehicle that languishes in our flooded garage most of the week, mold breeding in the floor mats. We are Pedestrians, a rare breed once common in this part of the world, slowly recovering our numbers with the rising price of gasoline.As Pedestrians, we naturally adore the traffic lights at the corner of Main and State Street that stop traffic in every direction, so that all of us, however lowly or exalted, may cross in safety and fellowship. How wonderful to reclaim the road for the Citizens, if only for twenty seconds at a time. It is so quaint and nostalgic, so uniquely Montpelier, that my heart swells with pride for our little village.

Skateboard punks tip their backwards baseball visors as they serpentine around the elderly matrons, all passing without fear while commuters in vehicles sip coffee and ogle the more pleasant-looking among us. It is a unique social contract of which we should be proud, requiring the stoic New England patience for which we are all famous, and providing each of us an opportunity to practice our civic manners and responsibility. I wish I could say we were all up to the task, but unfortunately this is not the case.

I am not speaking of those daring trekkers who cross diagonally from LaBrioche to Katie’s Jewels outside the strictly ordained borders of the painted crosswalks. In my opinion, they are dashing visionaries, innovators of a better mousetrap. In the shopping districts of Tokyo and Kyoto, diagonal crosswalks are a privilege taken for granted. If our own visionary citizens choose to follow the trends of global traffic fashion, let us follow their brave example.

No, rather, it is those impatient Jaywalkers that raise my self-righteous ire. They seem oblivious to the unmistakable white Pedestrian signal with its jaunty Audubon birdcall for the visually impaired. I have patiently stood at the corner, fixing them with a milk-curdling look as they approached me, yet they seem unaffected by my brooding telepathy. If these kindergarten dropouts cannot wait their turn, if they so crave attention that they must stop law-abiding traffic, why can they not walk fifty yards in any of several directions to a mid-block crosswalk? Instead, these Miscreants risk not only their lives but the insurance premiums of our tax-paying drivers, while providing a poor example for our impressionable youth. Fie and shame on their naughty little beanies.

Thank you, gentle reader, for your kind attention.

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