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It's a darn shame that today's kids don't build highways and bridges in their own yards

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Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 12:00 am

Squareheads generally have serious issues with the current value of the dollar. When I was a boy, you could buy lotsa stuff for a dollar.

"Now days, dem dollars ain't wort' nothin'. Oh, sure, you can still use a dime as a screwdriver, but it ain't no good for nothin' else."

Black Friday is a gift from God for some people. If they think they can save a few bucks on a purchase for Christmas, they will consider it a minor miracle. With them, a penny saved goes straight into the bank along with the money they saved last year at three in the morning. There is one more trait Squareheads have, and that is the fact they can make every day seem like Black Friday. By the time they have fully perused the newspaper and cut out all the coupons, all that's left is a couple of hands full of confetti.

I ain't mentioning no names or nothin', but there was a family of my personal acquaintance that would go clear to Stockton, drive around the block 20 times looking for a parking space with some leftover time on the meter just to save 39 cents on a pound of butter.

My aunt in that family would suggest that Black Friday was the one day other people would get up in the middle of the night to go to a store, stand in line to buy something they didn't want with money they didn't have, to get a present for somebody they didn't like. Ain't that right Christmassy?

Just so we are perfectly clear: The term "Black Friday" was coined by cops in the late '60s in Philadelphia referencing the heavy vehicle traffic on that day. More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (i.e. posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e. turning a profit). To me, that's downright sad, because it means the merchants actually kept their stores open for practically a whole year as a convenience for we consumers. To be honest, we owe it to them to buy something and pay full price for it.

In a way, that's hard to do. Some stores are beginning to display their "half-off" Christmas merchandise on the fifth of July. Of course, it is pretty stupid to buy a box of firecrackers for a five-year-old boy and stash it where you know dam-well he will find it, no matter how much fun you, personally speaking, plan to have with it later. I do feel sorry for stores that have almost nothing in their warehouses but holiday items. How long after Christmas does the glass ball paperweight with that little Barbie doll snow storm inside hold your undying fascination?

Things have changed since I was a little rug rat living on Lodi Avenue. Being a North Dakota Squarehead from day one, here in Lodi was a really easy life. Compare our lives to the poor, spoiled brats of today. I got one Christmas present, and that was a little, hard rubber toy replica of a '34 Ford car that only needed somebody to build a miniature road, little bridges, and gas stations in the back yard — and the whole schmearcase only cost about 30 cents. The car cost less than a quarter, and two double-stick popsicles came to 10 cents total. The sticks, four-wide, made a really handsome overpass on our little two-lane roads. Note: Even the 99 highway had only two lanes in those days. (Exception: The state designers played with a three-lane concept for a while. They were under the impression that two cars coming at one another from opposite directions in the same lane for some obscure reason wouldn't have head-on collisions as long as they turned on their headlights as they entered the suicide lane. Duh! And you, you poor saps, were under the impression that bureaucrats are actually smarter now than they used to be (example: The "S" curve on the Bay Bridge). To quell that notion, know the highway engineers built those suicide lanes here and there all the way from Redding to Bakersfield. I think that's where the bumper car rides at the carnival got the idea: "car", "carnage", "carnival" — those words all have the same root.)

The reason I pity kids these days is, they don't have a chance to build a highway in the dirt, they can't build a miniature bridge abutment, and scraping out a 20-foot road with a rusty hoe, for them, constitutes a mystery in engineering. OK, OK, so it doesn't build two strong thumbs like texting does.

It ain't a total loss; I did see a kid actually walking and texting at the same time last week, and he never fell over once.

Dr. Bob Bader is a Lodi chiropractor and writer. He may be reached at

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