Half-Baked Notions?

Plus: Driving Them Crazy, Oyster Crabbing

Half-Baked Notions?

Capitalist crap: John Suval's paean to success through industry ["American Breadwinners," March 14] comes straight out of a tradition of capitalist fantasy literature. Such stories reassure their comfortable middle-class readers that prosperity is evidence of personal merit. They urge discipline and self-sacrifice, but only on the poor. They traffic in stereotypes about this or that model minority (oh, those hardworking, thrifty, untroublesome Maya/Koreans/ Indians -- aren't they great?).

But the most insidious implication of every success story is that the enduring poverty in the United States is caused by simple laziness. Since anyone can be an entrepreneur (so the fantasy goes), the poor have only themselves to blame. The Chanas family may be a swell bunch, but their prosperity has everything to do with self-interested competitiveness and nothing to do with morality.

Andrew Rathmann
Houston

Driving Them Crazy

Take the roads back:The article on Houston's bad drivers was long overdue ["Crash City," by Jesse Washington, March 14]. I moved to Houston in August from California, of all places, and was immediately confronted with the worst driving I have ever seen. The real problem here is sheer arrogance and a lack of concern for other motorists. There are simply too many people who drive like they're 16 years old and have just pulled out of the DPS parking lot with brand-new driver's licenses.

In Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a lot more cars, densely packed streets, and pedestrian and bicycle traffic, yet fewer accidents. Something is very wrong here. Texans should consider effective solutions that California adopted years ago:

Restrict large trucks to the two right lanes only, and require them to drive at slower speeds than cars. Widen freeway and street shoulders so disabled vehicles can be safely moved from the traffic flow. Place adequate signage (such as arrows painted on pavement) to direct motorists at points where lanes end or merge.

Finally, get rid of those ridiculous "Drive Friendly" signs, which serve only to further distract motorists. Have the police give tickets to people who speed, make unsafe lane changes or generally create dangerous driving conditions.

Michelle Walker
Houston

Wright and wrong: I hope I am not being too forward, but I need to figure this out. The way I read the story is:

1) Daren Wright was driving in a light rain and knew the roads were slick; 2) he had just failed his driver's license exam for poor vision; 3) he knew he was in the wrong lane for the turn but thought he could butt in line; 4) he was driving a friend's car he wasn't familiar with; 5) he had no insurance; 6) he was following too closely and ran into the back of someone else; 7) after 1 through 6, he still went to a lawyer to see if he could get compensated; 8) it was his third wreck, but it was the fault of the rain this time.

Wow! I can't wait for Jesse Washington's next article. I bet he writes about a poor, misguided altar boy named Osama bin Laden.

Bill Thomas
Seabrook

Chance encounters: I do not buy the notion that some Wild West spirit especially infects Houston, causing us to have a higher proportion of jerks on the road than other cities. You need to look more deeply at what makes our infrastructure so obviously inadequate:

• It is amazing how far out people live, even though they drive to work in town. This helps turn more of us into the "hurry up and get out of my way" type of drivers than would be the case otherwise.

• It's hard to see how even adequate mass transportation could overcome the chaos of the "build anything anywhere" syndrome. There are traffic jams on the major arteries into and out of downtown. There's also congestion into and out of the Medical Center, the Galleria -- anywhere major development has been allowed to take place with no concern as to whether the roads could bear the traffic.

• Add to this mix incompetent traffic engineering fostered by the small-town, good-ol'-boy mentality of our city bureaucracy. Typical traffic lights let about three cars through before turning red again, so you can see what causes more people to run red lights.

• Finally, we can't figure out how to build an adequate mass transit system that would take some of the idiots off our highways.

It comes down to simple statistical probability, not some psychobabble about our Wild West overexuberance. With more people driving farther on each trip on our infinite spaghetti bowl of poorly designed roads than anywhere else in the state, we just have more chances to hit each other.

Doug Bernard
HoustonSnow job: One place that rivals Houston as far as crazy drivers is metropolitan Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. I know both places, being Icelandic and having lived in Houston from 1985 to 1990.

The fatalities in Icelandic traffic were 32 in the year 2000, for a population of about 270,000. People drive so close to the guy in front, as they do in Houston, that you can see the strands of hair in their nostrils. They run red lights and speed like the devil himself was chasing them.

I saw fewer wrecked cars in Houston than in Iceland, but then I lived inside the Loop and rarely had to drive on the freeways, and practically never at rush hour. A lot of fatalities in Iceland occur when big-tired Jeeps and family compacts crash head-on.

As for looking for the other driver, in winter drivers wipe snow from just a small part of their windshield and back window. Count yourselves lucky not to have snow in Houston, or very rarely.

So, you see, Houstonians are not alone. Safe and happy driving.

Gudlaugur Bergmundsson
Kopavogur, Iceland

Spyder man: I want to praise your article on a subject that should get more attention in the media in general.

I drive in Kingwood/Atascocita for a local pest control company, and the driving practices I see scare the hell out of me. That simple courtesy of the "fast lane" that people seem to have forgotten so easily is a perfect example of the problem. There's no respect for the other guy, with the arrogance of the "I'll do what I want" attitude.

And of course, the worst drivers always seem to be driving the biggest vehicles that, ironically, are sometimes purchased for their protection while becoming a major threat to others' safety. I drive a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible, and the thought of a collision with one of these behemoths makes me feel as vulnerable as a beer can in a recycling center.

Someone needs to stand up and scream at the whole city: "Going slow? Move the hell to the right!" so I don't have to do it on a daily basis.

Scott Rice
Humble

Oyster Crabbing

Risky business: While I sympathize with the family ["Flesh-Eating Oysters," by George Flynn, March 14], this is another example of a belief in a risk-free life that plaintiff's attorneys see through "benjamin"-colored glasses.

Eating raw oysters is a risk knowingly taken by party-loving humankind on a daily basis. When bacteria kill a man who has a pre-existingcondition that makes such a death possible, it is the human who is responsible. The family knew he could get sick from eating raw oysters based on the wife's experience, yet he ordered them anyway.

Now the lawyer says the restaurant killed this guy? What is supposed to change because the family of a barber has disproportionate wealth transferred to it by a seafood restaurant and its supply chain? What a bunch of bullshit.

Conrad Kraus
Houston

Fry or die? As a seafood lover (no sex involved), I can understand the appetite for raw oysters. Also, I think or say one thing when I see someone eating them: dumbass. Don't blame me for my stupid actions, the lawsuit seems to say.

Everyone knows of the possible dangers of poisoning from raw oysters but thinks it will never happen to them. Wake up. It's like someone overdosing on drugs, drinking and driving, or smoking; they know better beforehand but do it anyway. Eating a delicacy is not worth a life, no matter how small the risk. If you're ill, it's even more ridiculous.

Besides, oysters taste great fried. Better alive to eat them fried than dead, never again to taste the oyster bed (I'm a lame poet). Good article.

Jim Yarbray
Houston

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