Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Ask Walter

Our columnist answers readers'--well, one reader's--questions

By Walter Jowers

SEPTEMBER 11, 2000:  Last week, faithful reader Susan M. wrote me a nice letter in which she said that the Helter Shelter column could, and often does, take on a modern Ann Landers sort of role, except that I don't answer any reader questions. Well, that's because I don't get that many questions, I'm not smart enough to make up fake ones, and my editor at the Scene is way too busy to make 'em up for me.

So Ms. M. hit me with a short stack of questions, which I think I can handle. Here goes:

Do people really get electrocuted by listening to a Walkman while sitting on the toilet? Can I safely use my cordless phone while in the bathtub?

A guy at the Pie Wagon restaurant told me that a Walkman is what got Elvis. According to this man, shady music-biz types covered up the real story and blamed E's death on perfectly harmless prescription drugs and fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. You be the judge.

The long answer is that it's theoretically possible, if you had the thing plugged into an electrical outlet, you dropped it in the commode, and you reached into the bowl to pull it out. If you're talking about just sitting there and running the Walkman off batteries, relax. The juice can't get you.

I say go ahead and use the cordless phone in the bathtub. In theory, lightning could hit the phone and put a bazillion volts through your skull. But in theory, lightning could also hit the water in the bathtub.

Can I use bleach, say, in the washer if I have a septic system? If so, how much and how often? And does that "septic helper" work?

It's not a good idea to put bleach into the septic system. Bleach kills just about everything, including the bacteria that make a septic system work. You can get away with using some bleach, but not a lot. You also don't want to used dyed toilet paper (which, along with its evil twin, scented toilet paper, makes up the world's silliest product line). If you ask me, buying gussied-up toilet paper is the ultimate act of vanity.

Those septic helper products are bogus. Enviro-types will tell you that they're actually pollutants. Stick with the natural septic helper product that people make all by themselves. It contains plenty of tank-pleasing bacteria.

Are compact fluorescent bulbs really cheaper in the long run?

As far as I'm concerned, cheap isn't the issue. I wouldn't have a fluorescent tube in my house if they paid me to use 'em. The flickering hurts my eyes, makes me dizzy, and gives me a headache. Also, human skin, eyes, and hair look terrible under fluorescent lighting.

All that said, I think fluorescent tubes are just fine for government buildings, where our tax dollars pay the light bill. With our government leading the way, we will eventually stumble across fluorescent technology suitable for the home.

Is there any way to get the oil stains off my driveway?

Sure. There are all kinds of products that'll leave a white spot where the oil stain used to be. My smarty-pants buddy Noel says maybe you should just collect a few gallons of used motor oil, then stain your whole driveway to match. At the very least, you could do a nice oil stencil that incorporates the existing stain. If you do it, notify Jeff Foxworthy, who could use some new material.

And now, the most frequently-asked question of the year 2000:

Do those termite baiting systems really work?

My buddy Cramer, who lives in Florida, where they have concrete-eating termites, says, "The Sentricon" system works. It eliminates the colony using a hormone that interrupts the bugs' life cycle. It's the only thing that works really well. The downside is the cost. Other baiting systems use poisons and do kill termites, but they don't eliminate the colony."

My other buddy, Atlanta Charlie, says, "I don't care if the termite company treats, baits, pumps gas, uses sniffing dogs, or posts a sentinel 24 hours a day. I don't even care if the termites defeat all of this. All I care about is whether or not the termite company offers a no-loophole damage repair bond for a reasonable price."

Personally, I just look around my basement about once a year, and if I see termites or their hideous little mud tubes, I call a bug company to come and kill the guilty colony. In the last 15 years, that routine has cost me about $300.

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

Page Back Last Issue Page Forward

News & Opinion: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics . Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-2000 DesertNet, LLC . Nashville Scene . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch