That signpost up ahead is ...
The Twilight Zone does indeed exist.
A friend we'll call "Paul" stepped into it in the guise of the very real Village of Linndale, a tiny suburb a few minutes south of Cleveland. There, for many years, police have run a speed trap on a slim section of interstate that runs through the city.
Paul was stopped by a Linndale cop for allegedly exceeding the speed limit and, because he did not have his driver's license with him, was told he had to produce it at the police station within 48 hours.
So the next day Paul ventured to Linndale's "cop house," tucked away in a nondescript building hardly befitting the countless thousands of dollars the town has raked in from speeders over the years. He walked in the front door into a sparsely accoutered room containing only one desk at which sat a very serious woman.
"Can I help you?" she asked in an automaton-like tone.
He explained that he had received a speeding warning and had to show proof he had a driver's license. She said she couldn't help him there—"You hafta step over to Window 1."
As he walked over to the window counter, the woman ambled over to Window 1, then asked, "Can I help you sir?" Thinking it was a joke, Paul again explained why he was there. But the woman wasn't laughing. She told him he needed to fill out a form and have it stamped. But that bit of business had to be conducted at Window 2.
So Paul next went to that window, where the same woman stepped over and again asked, "Can I help you?"
Finally, after all that was taken care of, she told him he had to pay a fee. But as he produced his wallet, she said, "Sorry, you have to go over to the cashier's window."
You guessed it. When Paul went there, the woman walked over, then asked, "Can I help you?"
Each time he saw her at each window, Paul said he had to re-explain why he was there. Cue music... Rod Serling steps out from behind Window 3, grimaces, then intones: "Imagine yourself speeding through a picayune burg that's merely a rest stop on your way to...The Twilight Zone."
And the cure is...
Speaking in public. Talking to your boss. Going to parties. Asking someone for a date. (Begging your tire supplier for a discount?)
"Are you overwhelmed with anxiety in social situations?" That's the plaintive question posed in a TV ad—and a Web site headline. And you have to admit, all those situations are pretty anxiety-producing. Especially that one we threw in about tires. The ads show people shrinking away from groups. One poor anguished-looking fella, eyes closed, has his head against a wall.
All this to sell a new "miracle" drug called Paxil, which the manufacturer, SmithKline Beecham, notes is the "first and only FDA-approved treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder."
Now, we don't wish to make light of anyone in pain, but we're sure glad they've finally put a "disease of the week" name on something so many suffer from—like when you're crawling through a tire trade show along with thousands of strangers, your feet hurt and you're feeling a bit claustrophobic, to boot.
But the funny part—if there is one? The many side effects the drug maker said could happen if you take its medicine: "decreased appetite, dry mouth, sweating, nausea, constipation, sexual side effects in men and women, yawn, tremor or sleepiness."
Any one of those might make you feel socially unacceptable. Sounds like the cure's worse than the ailment.
This 'n that
Hunka hunka burnin' log—A U.S. Forestry Service official, commenting on the debate about the prudence of "prescription burns" to thin forests in order to avoid disastrous forest fires, said: "Everybody loves trees. Some like 'em horizontal, some like 'em vertical."
Uh, maybe you should re-think this—A newspaper report on (what else?) the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said the company is in the midst of in-house discussions to dump the Wilderness brand.
It said Japanese executives with BFS' parent Bridgestone Corp. favor "Terra-Hawk" as a replacement name because terra has a nice earth-sounding connection. But an unnamed exec "close to the company" reportedly said many in the firm's U.S. operation fear "terra" sounds too much like "terror."
And that'll just encourage even more potshots from comedians like "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, who's beaten up on Firestone almost nightly.
Mapmaker, mapmaker—You may have missed it because you were in the wrong place: Tire Business' sister publication, Rubber & Plastics News, recently hosted a big trade show known as "ITEC—The World Tire Manufacturers' Show."
We know 'cus we visited it in Akron (the former "Rubber Capital of the World"). But the ABC News Web site, in a story with a Denver dateline, said the "I-tech convention" was held in Akron, Colo. Maybe we were actually in the aforementioned Twilight Zone. Come to think of it, we didn't see any Rocky Mountains.
If we knew the answer we'd have to kill you—The following, according to the "Stupid Quotes" feature on the Internet, reportedly came from a Central Intelligence Agency memo: "In a general way, we try to anticipate some of your questions so that I can respond `no comment' with some degree of knowledge."
Sounds a lot like some public relations people.
You can walk a mile in his— Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn was said to have observed: "I never put on a pair of shoes until I have worn them five years."
Wonder if the same held true for his tires.
Surf City—While working on a story for TB's "Technology and Internet Report" in this issue, we went searching for Michelin North America Inc.'s BIB NET private Web site for dealers. Surprise surprise.
Type in www.BIBnet.com and you'll pull up what's billed as the Web's "largest online database of television programming information." In this case, BIB stands for "Broadcast Information Bureau," not Michelin's pudgy mascot with the frozen smile.
Rebranding—with an accent
Birds'-eye views of the Sydney, Australia, 2000 Olympic Games—like many of the aerial TV footage fans see of U.S. football games—are being handled by Goodyear. But "Big Blue" had a slight problem: the games' organizing committee restrictions prohibit any form of corporate branding at, near or above the contests.
So the tire maker had to conceal the Goodyear logo on its Spirit of the South Pacific airship. The company went with a somewhat creative approach to "promote a uniquely Australian message to the world," choosing to emblazon one side of the craft with the Aussie (not Paul Harvey) greeting, "G'day," and "Good Luck" on the other.
However, with the problems some of Goodyear's blimps have had staying aloft recently, we hesitate to say the airship at the Olympic Games went "Down Under."