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More Dogs on Main Street

by Tom Clyde

We Americans are a funny people. In the interest of security, we are willing to put up with countless indignities at the airports. We are willing to surrender logic to somebody s notion of security. You can t take more than three ounces of toothpaste or mouthwash through airport security. Even if the toothpaste is down to the last squeeze, if the empty tube once held more than three ounces, it s prohibited. Not that you and a dozen of your co-conspirators couldn t each take your allotted three ounces through security, and then pour them all into a bigger container on the other side of the fence. While you can t put the toothpaste back in the tube, you can certainly pour several perfectly legal, three-ounce bottles of Pepto-Bismol into a one-liter Coke bottle once you re through security, and then you have a completely illegal jug of Pepto-Bismol.

Meanwhile, the amount of polonium 210 necessary to knock off a KGB agent and contaminate sushi bars in London is about the size of a grain of sand. That can be purchased at any good camera store with the dust brush that removes the static charge from negatives and lenses. I wouldn t be surprised if you could buy one at the airport.

Most of the population didn t lose any sleep over Congress enacting legislation allowing people to be imprisoned for indeterminate periods of time with out access to a lawyer, knowing what the charges are against them, and without access to the courts. As long as Dick Cheney says it isn t torture, well, it s OK.

But I believe we have found the limits. You can mess with free speech and habeas corpus, but if the government starts screwing around with our garage door openers, there is hell to pay. My favorite news story of the last couple of weeks is from Colorado Springs. The Air Force fired up a new radio alert system designed to contact first responders on their hand-held radios in case somebody boards an airplane with four ounces of Crest. The signal is broadcast from the super-secret Air Force installation at Cheyenne Mountain, just outside of Colorado Springs. This facility is so secret that they deny that it exists, even though about half of Colorado Springs residents work there. It s designed to withstand a direct hit from a Russian nuke.

Anyway, from a transmitter on this high peak, the test warning frequency rang out.

The result was that the garage door openers in Colorado Springs quit working, leaving hundreds of Coloradoans locked out of their houses during the first bitter cold snap of the season. The Air Force uses a frequency of 380 megahertz. The garage door openers, remote-control car keys, and similar things use 315 megahertz. Apparently, in radio technology, that s very close. After a week of this, the garage door openers were so fried that they had to be replaced at a cost of about $250 each.

People were, to put it mildly, annoyed. Complaints poured in as people quickly made the connection between the mysterious Cheyenne Mountain facility and bizarre electronic behavior. This has apparently happened before. The Air Force, of course, denied any responsibility. But the outcry was enough that in less than a week, the Air Force sounded surrender and pulled the plug on the transmitter. Once that happened, the garage door openers returned to normal. Coincidence? The Air Force knows better than to get between an American and his garage door opener. The surrender was quick and complete. Top brass got involved, and said they were anxious to make peace with the garage door openers of Colorado. It won t be easy, as the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Genie, Stanley, or LiftMaster.

The problem is more annoying than just random opening or closing of the garage doors. The frequency jammed the internal electronics of the door opener, severing all connection between the clicker in the car and the receiver in the garage. David McGuire, of Overhead Door Co. told the AP that he had more than 400 calls on a single day, and most of the units had to be replaced. The military has the right to use that frequency. It s a sign of the times, he said.

I m not quite sure how he meant that sign of the times. Colorado Springs is a hotbed of Christian fundamentalism, and a sizeable portion of the population was convinced that the widespread garage door malfunction was nothing less than a practice run for the rapture. It s right there in the Tim LeHay novels — when the end comes, the garage doors will all spontaneously open. The garages of the good people will be cleaned out and empty, while the sinners will be left behind to deal with an interminable hell of manually operated garage doors and mountains of junk.

Anyway, while there is no shortage of reasons that Americans should be rioting in the streets these days, I predict the tipping point will be something like radio interference with our garage door openers, electronic car keys, and TV remotes that finally wakes us up. If they start messing with the TV remotes, the revolution is on.

The garage door openers are working fine in Summit County. In fact, a lot of things are working just fine around here, and many of them are doing so because of the work of volunteer organizations. The work they do around here is impressive, and adds a great deal to the quality of life. Whether it s trails and open space, or something as basic to life itself as primary health care for those without insurance, life for all of us is better because of committed people lending a hand. As we get into the holiday season, if you don t have at least a couple of these organizations on your Christmas list, you really aren t trying very hard. Give what you can to keep the good work going. That s what makes a community strong and healthy.


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