Editor's column: Give us Nerf, or give us expensive car repairs

One sad thing about America is that Nerf technology has gone to waste. Although Nerf has been around for decades, its use so far has been limited to children’s toys. It’s fine that a Nerf ball prevents a child’s black eye, and that a Nerf bat forestalls a concussion, but American is more than children. In fact, we’re mostly cars, and our cars need more Nerf protection.

One day recently I inadvertently drove a vehicle into the Pillars of Clinton, thereby denting the lower right front of the vehicle. There was no need for these pillars marking the entrance to a small strip mall to be made of concrete blocks. A Nerf-like substance would have been fine, notifying the driver of his miscue with a harmless, soft “thud,” rather than the screeching, ripping sound caused by concrete blocks. Damage from the Nerf warning pillar would have been zero. I’m afraid to think of what the damage from the concrete pillar will cost. The estimate is due soon.

Drive-thru eateries also have a penchant for the solid steel or concrete lane divider, keeping drivers where they belong -- or else. Stray to the left even at 5 mph or less, and you’re looking at hundreds of dollars in damage in pursuit of a $1 hamburger off the value menu. It’s not as if we’re going so fast that if we stray out of the hamburger waiting lane we’re going to careen through the glass window and knock over senior citizens’ milkshakes. We don’t have to be stopped dead in our tracks by concrete or steel. A gently warning from a Nerf pole would suffice to keep us in the correct lane.

The worst offenders of all are certain bank ATM machines in town. They’re protected by solid concrete pillars, reinforced with steel rebar, evidently made to stop an M1 Abrams tank from assaulting the money machine. Stray just a few inches to the left and these pillars, typically yellow in color, can take out the entire side of your Cadillac, like Tiger Woods’ angry wife wielding a 7-iron.

I suspect that auto body repair companies must be providing strips malls, fast food joints and banks with free metal and concrete traffic poles, just to drum up business for themselves. But such establishments should remember that the customer always comes first, and if you stop trying to make the $1 value burger come to a total of $2,001, including auto repairs, the customer is more likely to return.

We need to become a softer, Nurfier nation, more tolerant of drivers who might err a foot or two from their appointed lane due to various factors, from old age to screaming kids to iPods and cell phones. To err is human, but to repair should not be so expensive.

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