Accent on Living
Whenever we receive an article by R. J. Hicks on the subject of radio programs, we send him a message of sympathy and regret: sorry to learn that he has been ill, and hope that he is up and around again. Hicks’s reassurance reaches us a few days later. Yes, he is back on the job newspapering in Washington after a bout with flu, a broken ankle, or — in the present case — mumps. The circumstances are always the same. Confined to his bed, out of reading matter, Mr. Hicks has finally been driven to radio listening and is restored to health through sheer exasperation.
This all raises a peculiar problem for radio and its critics. No healthy adult, in control of his own affairs, will buy a half hour of quizzing if he can help it. (“What’s your occupation?” “I work in a soap factory.” Pause. “ Well, that’s nice, clean work — haha-ha-ha-ha.”) The person who does listen to the quiz show is, therefore, ailing, petulant, and pessimistic; he is tired of getting his meals on a tray and he is not quite sure whether the studio audience are part of a fever dream or whether they are real human beings.
In the book Europe After 8:15, published some years ago, a threehanded work by Mencken and Nathan and the late Willard Huntington Wright, one of the authors pointed out that the waitresses in a Munich Bierhalle were held to a peculiar standard of beauty because no one ever looked at them except through the bottom of a beer glass. The quiz show must meet an equally arbitrary requirement in being listened to by unruly invalids. We shall probably never know what a healthy critic would have to say about “Take It or Leave It.”
The remedy for illegal parking proposed by Arthur Pound really deserves his title “Why Not Try It?” We hope that any mayor or police chief who embarks on Mr. Pound’s handy little program will let us hear about it. We should like to make the test on a threelane, outbound avenue by which we go home of an evening, a route heavily garnished with large signs, “No Parking Between 4 P.M. and 6 P.M.” The signs have cut down the parking, yet enough remains in each block to destroy the third traffic lane, and drivers are swinging in and out of it all the way up the street in the illusion, created by the signs, that there really is a third traffic lane. While the cutting out is at its maddest, one or two cops are mournfully tagging parked cars, but it’s an unequal struggle and the whole after-the-fact sterility of the situation is all too plain. The cars are there, the traffic is endangered, and as for the tags — one doubts that the courts could even process the cases were the wrongdoers to deign to respond to them.
I recall the attempt of the New York police to clear the cross streets in preparation for a huge parade a couple of years ago. Their stratagem was to affix large cardboard “No Parking” signs over the permanent metal signs which were already saying “No Parking at Any Time,” or words to that effect. The gesture amounted to no more than a “Please, fellows, we really don’t want you to park here, just for a little while” appeal, and it was having no effect, none at all.
A full-size parking crusade, with tags and fines and license complications, will of course clear the streets. But it takes an entire police department and probably a swarm of deputies besides. Once the streets are purged, this army must either deploy in idleness along empty curbs or go back to its normal routines. When the latter course is inevitably decided upon, the streets begin to fill up again, and the “problem” is launched anew.
The Pound Scheme ought to go along successfully without any of these drawbacks, since it depends on no more than a simple physical fact; one energetic patrolman could very nearly keep a whole shopping district in trim. We hope our readers will apprise local authorities, as quickly as possible, of Mr. Pound’s discovery. C. W. M.