Heard around the West

  • Illustration of computer user

  Virtual relationships? They're all the rage. But over at the San Francisco regional office of the Forest Service, leaders of the forester team fret. In a nutshell, nobody talks shop face to face; the preferred method of communication is computer e-mail. So the team leaders sent a message - by e-mail, of course: On the last Wednesday of the month staffers should push back from their flickering computer screens and start "meeting with people face to face or on the phone to accomplish work you might normally do through DG" (the Data General computer). "At a minimum," the leaders added, "we'd like everyone to commit themselves to intentional relationship building at least one day every month." Forest Service staffers were quick to retaliate - by e-mail. "Read this, but not on Feb. 26th!" crowed one. "This was delivered on the last Wednesday of the month!" Groused another: "Why not one day a month for freedom from downwardly directed meaningless bureaucratic exercises from which we increasingly suffer?"





Perhaps this fails to qualify as "intentional relationship building" since one partner exists only in a box. A Lawrence, Kan., woman and a California marketer behind the Pet Rock craze of the "70s have teamed up to help single women answer the question: "Are you seeing someone special?" The answer is any one of six hunks who live in "stunning keepsake" containers. These faux boyfriends come with pink phone slips proving their devotion and a framed photo for the desk to show off for the office or "ex," reports the LA Times. "Boyfriend in a Box" includes doctor, firefighter and musician, costs $14.95 and includes numerous notes saying "I'm sorry."





Fictional dating may be safer than signing up with a Salt Lake City, Utah, video-dating service that calls itself Perfect Match. One new member was hooked up with a man who had a criminal record for felony molestation and was currently serving his probation, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.





Educators in Colorado are sharing by e-mail what some elementary schoolteachers found out when they asked their students to comment on love and marriage. The answers, sent by Evan Cantor from the University of Colorado, don't seem half-bad:


What is the proper age to get married?


"Eighty-four! Because at that age you don't have to work anymore, and you can spend all your time loving each other in your bedroom." (Judy, 8.)


What do most people do on a date?


"On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date." (Mike, 10.)


Why does love happen?


"I think you're supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn't supposed to be so painful." (Harlen, 8.)


What's falling in love like?


"If falling in love is anything like learning how to spell, I don't want to do it." (Leo, 7.) It is also "Like an avalanche where you have to run for your life." (Roger, 9.)





Remember the movie Private Benjamin, where novice warrior Goldie Hawn looks around at her barracks and exclaims: "Where did they get those drapes?" Toymaking giant Mattel might be thinking similar thoughts as it consults with National Park Service employees about a possible new incarnation of that fashion plate Barbie. "Long-sleeved shirts and wool pants in summer? Sturdy shoes with flat heels? And - worst of all - that hat?" But Barbie is nothing if not adaptable. And the Washington Post reports that if "Ranger Barbie" is created, she will come with instructions on how you, too, can get a ranger outfit when you grow up - by choosing one of the careers for women in the National Park Service.





A feisty woman in Tacoma, Wash., set up a sign on her front door that reflects the violence that has struck her neighborhood: "I have a loaded gun with me." Jan Recardo, 58, put up the warning after two residents were killed and a man broke into her house while she was there alone at night. She fired two shots at the intruder before he escaped and has since installed bigger locks and gotten a bigger gun. But she has not lost her civility. The sign about the loaded gun also says: "Thank you for not breaking into my house and have a nice day." She told the Seattle Times: "I don't want to sound completely rude, you know."





It might be hard to top some of the wacky happenings of 1996, compiled by the free weekly, Westword, in Denver, Colo. They include the news that one turkey hunter was shot by another after the two men coaxed each other closer by sounding their turkey lures ... A Vail woman using a garden shovel to knock snow off her roof died when the snow slid off and fell on top of her. Friends arriving for a dinner party found her in four feet of snow with "her feet and part of her legs protruding ..." A Colorado Springs man landing his airplane at Centennial Airport died when another aircraft landed on top of him ... A bear in Larimer County broke into 30 trailers in a subdivision on the hunt for canned goods. Said a Colorado wildlife official: "He just figured it out and started hitting them ..." And the pet adoption agency, Maxfund, refused to allow the adoption of any black or white cats during October, because the felines "might be sacrificed by satanic cults conducting Halloween rituals."


*Betsy Marston





Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or editor@hcn.org