Archive for August, 2010

Stores with no public restrooms are a public nuisance

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

From A to Zowie

Stores with no public restrooms are a public nuisance

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the August 25, 2010 issue of the Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

If you’re traveling or shopping in northern Genesee County and southern Saginaw County and you have a weak bladder, it’s best to use the restroom before you head out and avoid drinking fluids while you’re out and about. Make note of remote, deserted roads with a few strategically-placed trees or bushes if possible. Or, perhaps, do what they did in the good ol’ days and take an empty bottle if nature calls and won’t take “Later” for an answer.

Many stores in the area, I’ve observed, have made their restrooms unavailable for public use.

Somewhere in Saginaw County a few months ago, my wife, Jennifer, and I went to a drug store to get her prescription filled. It took about half an hour. During that time, Jennifer needed to use the restroom and asked where the restroom was.

“We don’t have a public restroom,” the sales lady said.

“Not even for customers?” I asked.


Jennifer then had to leave the store and find one nearby and hope it had a public restroom–all while having to use the restroom badly.

This, to me, was completely unacceptable and infuriating.

“I realize you probably have had people come into this store and make a mess in the restroom and maybe even vandalize it, but we are your customers,” I told the sales lady. “Do not judge us based on what others do. You know, a few miles down there is a very large big box store that also fills prescriptions. Guess what they also have? Public restrooms. You are giving us no incentive whatsoever to do repeat business here, and, as far as I’m concerned, you have just lost a customer. Please tell your manager that.”

In retrospect, I should’ve asked to speak with the manager.

This past Sunday, somewhere in northern Genesee County, my family accompanied me on a few assignments where I took pictures. While leaving one place to head to the next, we decided to stop at a convenience store to get some drinks. Just as well, since I and my wife both needed to use the restroom.

We stopped at one store and as we reached the entrance, there was a sign announcing the store had no public restroom.

“Let’s buy our drinks here and then look for a store with a public restroom,” Jennifer told me.

I shook my head. Any store that refused to let us use their restroom would most certainly not get our business. We drove a few blocks and found another convenience store that did have public restrooms.

I am aware that some abuse restrooms. Some will use the restroom to smoke a cigarette. Other restrooms have graffiti while some have customers who will help themselves to supplies. And, yes, some customers make certain types of messes that can be nasty to clean up. Some stores simply don’t want to have to waste manpower to clean the restrooms on a frequent basis.

And so the solution is to punish everybody by allowing no customers to use the restroom.

A month ago, while working at home on a freelance assignment about restrooms, I discussed this with American Restroom Association program manager Robert Brubaker. He told me that if building codes start requiring stores to post signs showing where their restrooms are, they possibly will no longer be able to refuse to let customers use their restrooms. Besides, since many big-box stores readily have public restrooms, smaller stores are facing a choice: offer a restroom or lose business.

That’s something sure to bring relief to your bladder when you’re out running errands.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at or e-mail him at or


Your Honor, I have an objection…

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

From A to Zowie

Your Honor, I have an objection…

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the August 18, 2010 issue of the Clio,Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

The time I’ve spent lately in Genesee County Circuit Court covering, for the Herald, the Michigan Association of Police’s injunction request against Genesee Township has reminded me of the other few times in my life I’ve been in court. Twice within the last decade, while living in San Antonio, Texas, I received a jury summons. The first case was a juvenile accused of bringing a gun to school while the second was a murder case.

I was eager, and still am, at the prospect of jury duty. According to the contract I had with my then-employer, I would still receive my regular salary even while on a jury.

Willingness apparently doesn’t count as I wasn’t chosen either time. The second case left me particularly bitter. There, I was Juror Number 29 in a pool of 72 potential jurors for a 12-member jury in the murder trial. So, I figured I’d have a decent shot of getting onto the jury.

Wrong. By the time the judge questioned me, it was a formality: they’d already chosen their 12 jurors.

One man tried to get out of serving because not only was he prejudiced against Hispanics (the defendant was Hispanic), he was also prejudiced against EVERYONE. Another guy said a family member had recently been killed, and he did not feel he could be impartial.

I do not remember if they were chosen to serve, but I do remember one particular juror who was chosen. He was a self-employed businessman who pleaded with the judge not to select him.

“Your Honor, I am my only employee, and I will literally lose thousands of dollars every day I’m on this jury,” he said. If I remember right, he had a thick stack of business records to show the judge to prove his hardship.

Too bad, the judge essentially said, and the businessman was selected.

In a trial that lasted about a week, the defendant was convicted of murder and received a 99-year prison sentence. I’ve often wondered if the businessman, disgusted about his lost income and the damage done to his business, simply went with the most expedient verdict so he could quickly return to his business. That’s a scary thought for an innocent defendant or for a prosecutor desperately trying to put away a cold-blooded psychopath.

I was again reminded of this recently when my brother-in-law, Joe, was selected to serve on a federal grand jury for three days. Joe is a self-employed locksmith, and my sister told me that when he returned back to his job, things were crazy as he had to quickly play catch-up to fill back orders. Again, while Joe sometimes enlists in the help of family members (including my nephews, my sister, my father and my other brother-in-law), Joe is his only employee.

For any lawyers or judges reading this, please enlighten me: if a self-employed person can prove a significant loss of income by serving on a jury, why shouldn’t jury duty be optional for them? Yes, I know there are creative excuses conjured by people who loathe sitting on a jury, but there are also people like me who’d love to sit on a jury but never receive the opportunity due the extinction of common sense.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at or e-mail him at

Friday is National Lefthanders Day!

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From A to Zowie

Friday is National Lefthanders Day!

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the August 11, 2010 issue of the Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

Friday, August 13 is National Lefthanders Day, and I wonder how many left-handed people there are in Mt. Morris, Genesee, Clio, Birch Run, Bridgeport and the surrounding townships.

How many have been frustrated as I am when trying in vain to use a pair of scissors designed for someone who is right handed?

How many were bitterly disappointed, as I was at Army basic training in 1996, when told that the M-60 machine gun is designed for right-handed firing only? (I know exactly what you’re thinking and the answer is no: I never tried to shoot at any right-handed drill sergeants).

How many are sick of being called wrong-handers?

When did I first realize I was left-handed? It was back in kindergarten during the prior millennia in 1978. I wrote my name down and realized all the other kids were using their right hands to write while I used my left hand. Curious, I tried using my right hand. It felt clumsy, foreign, so I switched back to my left hand.

Richard “Lefty” Zowie, around 1980.

My mother, upon realizing I was left-handed and struggled with scissors, bought me a pair of left-handed scissors. Likewise, for Christmas around 1980 I received a lefthander’s baseball glove.

While I’m ambidextrous when it comes to scissors, there is virtually nothing I do right-handed. I throw, eat, bat, kick, and write left-handed. If I ever take up golf someday, I am quite certain I will do that left-handed; I’ve tried golfing right-handed, and it does not work.

One of these days I’d also love to learn to play guitar. One professional guitarist suggested I try playing guitar right-handed to see if that works for me having my dominant hand working the chords. I tried it, and I found that I would do much better playing left-handed. Yes, I know that Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony are natural lefties who play their instruments right-handed, but for me playing southpaw is far more comfortable.

I don’t know if being left-handed is genetic, and if so, my family seems to have strange trends. I have two left-handed relatives. On my mother’s side, there’s my cousin Greg, who calls himself a “confused” lefthander due to his days where schoolteachers would try to make him write right-handed. My Dad’s younger brother, Uncle Jerry, is also a lefty. Both of my parents are right-handed. However, of the three Zowie kids, two of us ended up being southpaws–myself and my middle sister, Misti. Also, through marriage I have two other southpaw relatives as my wife’s younger brother Joseph writes left-handed and her Aunt Carrie is also left-handed.

That being said, you’d think that some of the Zowie grandkids would be left-handed. Nope. All five of my oldest sister Sabrina’s kids are right-handed while both of Misti’s sons are righties. And as for my three sons, all are righties. Charles, the middle son, is left-eye dominant and feels more comfortable firing BB guns left-handed.

And, of course, while I fit the left-handed stereotype of being clumsy and eccentric, I don’t exactly fit another one. Yes, I often have sloppy handwriting, but I’ve found that whenever I write at normal speed instead of being in “I’m in a hurry” mode, my handwriting’s actually legible.

Even to me.

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Music not compatible with Iran’s ruling Islamists

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s more info on it.

Makes me wonder if Green Day will tweak their song “American Idiot” into “Iranian Idiot.” Heck, at least in the Bush administration they actually got to make/record/sell music and give their political opinions.

Danny Lloyd: the one missed interview I regret

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

From A to Zowie

Danny Lloyd: the one missed interview I regret

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the August 4, 2010 issue of the Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

Reporters all have that one elusive story. We regret it and wonder what would’ve happened had we scored the interview. What kind of story would’ve been written? What would we have learned? How could we have expanded ourselves as reporters? Would we have had an inside scoop?

Back in 2000, when I was beginning my journalism career, I brainstormed about a great story to write. What would be something fun and exciting? What would make for a really, really great interview?

As I brainstormed, I began thinking of The Shining, a 1980 Stanley Kubrick horror film that, to this day, still gives me the creeps when I watch it. In the movie, Jack Nicholson plays a writer who serves as the winter caretaker of a haunted Colorado hotel. He goes crazy and tries to kill his family. His son, played by the extremely precocious Danny Lloyd, has the ability to “shine”, or to communicate with people by talking telepathically (he shines to one person that something terrible is happening at the hotel). He can also see events happening in the past and in the future.

While thinking of the movie, reading a biography of Kubrick and doing some research I realized something startling: Lloyd and I are the same age (we were both around 27 at the time). What’s he doing these days? I thought.

Some further research helped me to find Lloyd’s parents’ first names and the general vicinity of where they lived. I found Mrs. Lloyd and we proceeded to have a very pleasant phone conversation. Mrs. Lloyd told me these fascinating tidbits about The Shining:

* Both Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall were both very friendly, as was Scatman Crothers. Duvall invited the Lloyds to visit her house sometime and swim in her pool.

* Stanley Kubrick was a “genius”. As someone who’s a fan of Kubrick’s, readers have no idea what a thrill it was to speak to someone who knew the legendary filmmaker. Furthermore, whenever the Lloyd’s felt Danny had had enough filming for the day, Kubrick (who died in 1999) would comply.

* Danny was so closely guarded during filming that he didn’t realize, until he was a teenager, that he’d made a horror film.

* The infamous scene where Danny rides his big wheel down a hall and rounds a corner and sees apparitions of two young girls was accomplished by filming Danny and the girls separately. The two films were then spliced together during post-production to make it look like he and the girls were together.

Believe it or not, Danny is actually staring into an empty hall.

Mrs. Lloyd told me she’d call Danny and see if he wanted to be interviewed.

A few days later, I called back and learned I’d join the ranks of the other reporters who’ve tried to interview Danny and were turned down. Danny declined my request.

This is what Danny Lloyd looks like as an adult.

Yes, I was disappointed, but I can’t complain too much. I’ve interviewed other people over the years, from the famous (Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in a brief, one-question interview) to the fascinating (Colonel Arthur Burer, an Air Force pilot who spent about seven years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War). So it hasn’t been all that bad.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at or e-mail him at

Just wondering: when Castro dies, Alonso calls out Penn, frivolous lawsuits…

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

When the day finally comes when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro dies, I have no doubt many Hollywood celebrities (such as Jack Nicholson, Oliver Stone and Sean Penn) will request permission to travel to Cuba for the funeral. How nice it would be if whoever is the president at the time says to them: “Absolutely, but you can go on one condition: it has to be a one-way ticket. When you arrive, you must tear up your American passport and request political asylum.”…

…Speaking of Penn, I wonder if he has ever responded to the open letter sent to him from Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised actress Maria Conchita Alonso chastising him for the many public orgasms he’s had when meeting with or speaking about Castro and Venezuelan madman dictator Hugo Chavez? Maybe Penn’s trying to locate his crayons.

No, I don’t like Penn. There are actors out there (such as Robert DeNiro) who are very liberal but keep their politics subdued enough where I can enjoy their movies. But as for Penn, the last thing I’ve seen him act in or direct was The Pledge. About half a year ago, my wife borrowed The Interpreter from the library.

Will you watch it with me? she asked.

It has Sean Penn in it. Absolutely not, I replied.

…Yesterday, at a fine arts festival in Clio, Mich., I met a lady who works in the insurance business. She told me of one disturbing claim filed on a homeowner’s policy: a couple went on vacation and decided to drain their swimming pool and then cover it with one of those tarps. While they were gone, a drunk man staggered onto their property and in his intoxicated state, decided he wanted to go swimming. So, he pulled back the tarp and dove into the pool. He broke his neck.

The man then sued the couple for damages and despite his being drunk and being a trespasser, the judge ruled in his favor.

I’m left to wonder: how?

Stories abound about how criminals injure themselves in the process of breaking into someone’s home or are shot by the homeowner, and then successfully sue the homeowner.

What is so difficult about passing a law stating that if you are injured while breaking the law, you are entitled to NO compensation from your would-be victim?

Such judicial stupidity only encourages scam artists to become professional victims…

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