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April 11, 2003

Let's spend a few moments, today on miscellaneous topics that have no connecting theme.

Those recent columns speculating on how the title of "soda jerk" came into being really didn't answer that question but they succeeded in identifying some former practitioners of the art and many more who remember the days when every drug store had a soda fountain. Jim Endicott, now 84 years young, offers a common-sense idea that seems perfectly logical. Jim remembers when soda jerks, those knights of the drug store soda fountains, were asked to concoct an actual soda, they drew carbonated water by jerking the handle downward, thus making the fizz that characterized those delicious drinks.

A reader offers this question for consideration: Have you noticed anything fishy about the inspection teams that were sent to Iraq? They're all men! How in the name of the United Nations does anyone expect men to find Saddam's stash? We all know that men have a blind spot when it comes to finding things.

For crying out loud. They can't find the dirty clothes hamper. They can't find the jar of jelly until it falls out of the cupboard and splatters on the floor. And these are the people we have sent into Iraq to search for hidden weapons of, mass destruction? They probably couldn't find them if the weapons were lying in the middle of a dusty street with a picture of Saddam aiming a rifle taped to the side.

I keep wondering why groups of woman weren't sent in - preferably mothers. After all, mothers know that their boys can't find their socks or underwear when they're neatly folded in their dresser drawers, so how could they be expected to find hidden biological weapon? On the other hand, mothers can sniff out secrets quicker than a drug dog can find a gram of dope.

What we need over there are women like my mother. She could find the old olive bottles filled with dimes that Dad stashed in the attic beneath the rafters. She could sniff out a diary two rooms and one floor away. She always knew when the lid of the cookie jar had been disturbed, and I swear she must have dusted for prints on the roll of salami that was always in the refrigerator. She knew if a slice had been removed, and by whom.

I developed her ability to stalk out criminal activity when my kids were at home. They couldn't get away with much that I didn't know about. They still think they got away with a lot, but actually I always knew what they were doing, and if I decided that what they were doing was not too important or dangerous, I allowed them to think they were getting away with it. It was important for them to think they have an uncanny ability to pull the wool over mom's eyes occasionally.

But male inspectors? Going after Saddam?

There's some food for thought until we meet again.