One day last summer, to avoid the amblers on the Purple People Bridge, I took my run on the bridge’s original pedestrian walkway. That’s when I noticed a whole row of padlocks fastened on the chain link barrier. Is this some sort of gang activity or weird local custom?—Puzzled Runner
Dear Runner:Sort of. What you have observed are love locks. Love locks are a manifestation of herd behavior, which is the scholarly term for gang activity. Each one of those locks represents the undying love of an unimaginative but thrifty couple who found reassurance in doing what other unimaginative but thrifty couples have done, which is to snap a redundant padlock to a bridge over not-awfully-troubled waters as a palpable but inexpensive manifestation of their eternal affection. Unimaginative lovers from Novi Sad to New Harmony practice the custom. So, while it may be weird, it is anything but local.
What the Doctor finds weird is the local custom of affixing luridly colored stuffed toys to fences or lampposts where gangbangers or bikers have met their unsurprising ends. What’s that about? During a night of hard drinking at a local watering hole, an elderly gent in our party loudly commanded the waitperson to bring a plate of “Cincinnati oysters.” Then he laughed uproariously at her embarrassment. What are Cincinnati oysters? Are they—as the poor girl obviously thought—something like Rocky Mountain oysters?—Adjusting to Father-in-Law’s Humor Dear Adjusting:Let us make it perfectly clear right off the bat to all the Doctor’s devoted readers that the elderly gent was not Himself. The Doctor does not raise his voice in restaurants, nor does he command. He may look a bit like the man on the Monopoly box, but he is much kinder-hearted. He does, however, have a number of rather trying acquaintances, some of whom are ridiculous enough to affect ear trumpets to go with their even more irritating pince-nez. These ridiculous clubmen have, to a man, appalling taste in food. They become misty-eyed over mock turtle soup and city chicken, for example. And one of their favorite treats is pickled pigs feet, which they call, in the manner of their Porkopolitan predecessors, “Cincinnati Oysters.” Disgusting, but not, as your waitperson feared, lewd.I’ve just been given responsibility for an office with a dozen employees. Recently, a staff member asked if I would be closing the office on “snow days.” Weather-related decision-making was not part of my MBA. Suggestions?—Fledgling Middle ManagerDear Middle Manager:Are your children fat? The Doctor asks not to be rude but to lead you in the manner of his late chum Socrates of Athens to the answer that you probably already know. They are fat, aren’t they, your bairns? The Doctor agrees. It is beyond depressing. But why are they borderline-morbidly obese? Do your children walk to school? Of course not. Only 10 percent of children walk to school in this friendly, freedom-loving land. The remaining 90 percent ride everywhere, particularly in the exurbs of the Boehnerbelt.
And why is that? You know the answer. Right: America’s suburban schools have bought totally into the concept of a campus somewhere on the edge of town, reachable only by motor vehicle. But perhaps you live in the city. Is your city living with court-ordered busing or a magnet school scheme? Can your third-grader walk from Cheviot to Clifton to attend the Fairview German Language program? Can your kindergartner ride her scooter from Mt. Washington to Over-the-Rhine for her Meaningful Movement class at SCPA? Or do you live in one of those townships or counties where sidewalks are seen as governmental overkill?
Do you see a pattern here? Do any of your employees have children who attend these stupidly planned or unplanned school systems that have to close down when there is even a rumor of snow because the principal can’t get her Olds Bravada from her subdivision to her consolidated middle school? When your employees’ children stay home because of snow, somebody has to stay home with them. Your employees are among those somebodies, aren’t they? See. You could have figured that out. But the Doctor was happy to help.
Originally published in the December 2013 issue.
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