Mark D. Roberts

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that, upon occasion, I pause to marvel at the wonders of Texas. My “Only in Texas” series often includes tasty tidbits from the Boerne Star, my local newspaper. Well, while I was in California over Christmas vacation, my mother urged me to do an “Only in California” post featuring some excerpts from her local paper, the Glendale News-Press.
The main story in the December 29, 2009 edition of the News-Press had this headline: “Report shows more pedestrian collisions.”  This does not mean that pedestrians are walking into each other. Rather, the report shows more pedestrian-car collisions. That’s bad news for Glendale, especially since the Police Department has been making a major effort to get people to be safer when they walk the streets.
In 2008, Glendale was the eighth-worst city in California in terms of pedestrian-related vehicle collisions. But things got much worse in 2009. This was in spite of a pedestrian-safety training workshop taught in May 2009 by UC Berkeley’s Traffic Safety Center. As one who grew up in Glendale but managed not to be hit by a car while walking around, I must wonder what’s happening with my home town.
I think the problem may be tri-fold brochures. That’s right, tri-fold brochures. Note the large print subtitle to the pedestrian collisions article: “Police plan to increase public’s awareness of how to stay safe when walking with tri-fold brochures.” Apparently, pedestrians in Glendale are so focused on reading their brochures that they walk out into the streets without looking left and right. I’m glad the police are planning to help people learn to stay safe when walking with those dangerous brochures.
A paragraph in the article explains further what’s going on with those dangerous brochures: “Officers will distribute tri-fold brochures that include tips on walking safely in a variety of languages at super-markets, retirement homes and other public facilities. . . .” How, exactly, does one walk safely in a variety of languages? I don’t even know how to walk safely in one language!
I fear that the Glendale News-Press may be walking dangerously in the English language. The paper seems to be encountering grammatical collisions, especially ones known as misplaced modifiers. But the pedestrian article also contained another curious turn of phrase: “Even if pedestrians have the right away, they must pay attention to their surroundings.” When I last checked, pedestrians in California have the right-of-way. Oh well, maybe the New-Press editor was out on Christmas vacation.
There are some great things about California, apart from curiosities in the local newspapers. Consider, for example, the sunset on January 1, 2010 as my family and I sat on the tarmac of the Bob Hope Airport in our airplane. Oops. We weren’t sitting on the tarmac, but in the plane that was sitting on the tarmac. Sorry.

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