- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

My morning commute seems to be getting longer and longer, but at least I get to pass the time with 352,471 of my closest friends. And their cars … and tractor trailers.

Without traffic, I can drive from my home to work in 35 minutes. With traffic, it takes me well over an hour. That’s what car horns are for. Apparently. (“Honk if you like the scenic route!”)

There are certain spots along the route where traffic regularly slows to a crawl — or slower. These slow spots usually sport names like “highway,” “freeway” or “parkway.” During the morning commute, they all become “driveways.”

These slow spots give us commuters time to work on our communication skills, mostly vocabulary (“#@*%$#!” is the most popular word) and sign language (“My goodness! Do you shake hands with that finger?”).

It’s like an educational party.

But lately I’ve noticed a couple of party poopers. When traffic stalls, they drive onto the shoulder and zip by everybody else. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, I don’t have time to sit here and obey the law. I’ve got places to go,” as they kick up dust and gravel onto your car.

It’s just plain rude.

And it makes me wish I had someplace to go.

•••


The BBC reported about a new study showing that lions form prides to defend their turf against other lions, not to hunt more efficiently.

Prides operate like street gangs to keep out interlopers, and the bigger the pride, the more successful the lions are, said a leading researcher.

The discovery helps explain why lions, uniquely among the cat species, live together in social groups.

It also explains all of those drive-by maulings on the savannah. (“Hey, fuzz face. Move off my turf or we’re gonna rumble!”)

Who knew lions were so gangsta? I just wonder if rival prides more resemble the Crips and the Bloods from Los Angeles … or the Sharks and the Jets from “West Side Story.” (“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way/From your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day. … Roar!”)

I’ll bet gangsta lions have really cool names, like Ghost-Face Killa, only more liony. Like Growly McSnarler.

You know, lionesses do most of the hunting in a pride. And you know how mean girl gangs can be. They can be really catty.

You gotta be careful around gangsta lions. If you wear the wrong colors or flash the wrong gang sign, they’ll be all over you like, well, a pack of lions.

If you see a lion gang on the street, just turn around and walk the other way. You have been warned.

•••


A new study shows that women are more likely than men to look away from an unattractive baby, suggesting that a mother’s love may be influenced by facial beauty.

Researchers showed men and women pictures of normal and abnormal babies, and both sexes gave the babies the same attractiveness ratings. But women tried harder not to look at the photos of the not-so-attractive infants.

The problem: Ugly baby. The cure: Baby makeup!

You must always remember to steel yourself whenever a new parent is going to show you pictures of their baby. It could be an ugly baby, and you don’t want a shriek to be your initial reaction. Trust me.

I’ve often wondered what people mean when they say an ugly baby will “grow into its looks.” Does it mean that as the child gets bigger, the ugly spreads out into something less frightening? Or does it mean that everybody gets used to the baby’s looks as it grows up?

•••


There was a report out of Bangkok last week that staffers at an elephant enclosure in Thailand have painted several pachyderms to resemble giant pandas to mock their country’s obsession with the black-and-white bamboo-eaters.

A Thailand zoo recently laid out $20 million to house a newborn female panda and her family. The move irked staffers at the Ayutthaya Elephant Kraal, who say such attention diverts resources from the country’s symbolic mammal, the elephant.

Pandas are cute, I suppose, but elephants deserve attention too. I mean, has anyone ever been accused of ignoring the panda in the room?

I just hope none of the painted elephants begins to think it’s a panda. Because getting an elephant out of a tree is a delicate operation.

•••


Calvin Klein recently replaced a Manhattan billboard that depicted a topless woman romping with three shirtless men after New Yorkers complained that the ad was too sexually graphic.

The billboard ad was replaced by a model wearing a string bikini.

The previous ad was so “explicit you didn’t even notice the jeans as much as what was going on with the people,” said one New Yorker who prefers the new ad.

New Yorkers are so urbane and tough-minded, so it takes a lot to shock them. And that orgy ad was like a high-tension power line.

Calvin Klein was just experimenting with the theory that, if sex sells, then an orgy sells in bulk. Guess it’s back to the drawing boards.

Most of the people who saw the ad thought it was a plug for a new Showtime series — “Three’s Company … But Four’s a Sin.”

They didn’t know if Calvin Klein was selling jeans, or roofies.

And after seeing the ad, a lot of New Yorkers said they felt like they needed a cigarette. And a shower. A cold one.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my jeans without a “Debbie Does Dallas” theme. And with a button fly.

You can reach Carleton Bryant at 202/636-3218 and cbryant@washington times.com — but only during his morning commute.

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