Anything You Can Do . . .

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My neighbors and I may be in trouble. According to a new study, people living near airports are in danger. My first thought was that the danger was from plane crashes or pollution. I was wrong. The study says that the danger is from noise! My next assumption was that this danger was hearing loss. I was wrong there too. It turns out that the danger is an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. That was news to me!

This study was conducted by several groups of experts (I call them “hexperts”). But, putting my penchant for humor aside, I had to admit that these guys really were experts. They were not lightweights—including researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and from the Boston University School of Public Health. Knowing that, I took the findings a bit more seriously. Let’s face it: who am I to challenge the credentials of researchers such as those? Looking at heart-related hospital admissions from people who lived near airports, they found an association between higher levels of noise and increased risk of hospitalization. Details about decibel levels were provided in the report, but I stopped reading because I figured that too much knowledge might be detrimental to my health. Why should I start worrying about this now, after having lived near Kennedy Airport for 50 years? And, study or no study, I still think the biggest danger is to hearing, as mine seems to be failing a bit lately. But it doesn’t matter, because I don’t plan to move from this area. So I stopped reading and decided to forget about it.

While I’m on the topic of studies: I recently read one about black licorice. Apparently, some people will study just about anything. The conclusion was that this candy is bad for us! Actually it may be bad for everyone else, but it isn’t bad for me because I hate black licorice. But many people consider it a candy of choice because it is low in calories. Those folks might want to know that it has just been proved that black licorice hikes the risk of cardiac arrhythmia in older adults. The Food and Drug Administration warns that it is especially dangerous for those over 40! My apologies for being the bearer of bad news for those who eat that candy and who (until just now) had not heard about this warning.

As kids, some of us taunted each other by saying, “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Those words come back to me now, as it occurs to me that, while I don’t have the qualifications as those geniuses from the schools of public health at Harvard and B.U., I could probably do a study too. My choices of which types of studies to undertake would undoubtedly be less impressive to those in the medical world, but they might be more welcome by the general public and specifically by consumers.

I would love to learn why it is that as soon as I find a product I really like, it becomes unavailable. In my case, this most often occurs with lipstick, but it has been known to happen with other items as well. Those responsible for the disappearance of my favorite lipstick color might be the manufacturer, the distributor, or even the store manager. Who knows? All I know is that when my lipstick disappears I get annoyed. And when that happens, paranoia sets in. Is the lady behind the cosmetics counter targeting me? Is she hiding it? Maybe when she sees me coming she says to herself, “Hmm, I think I’ll hide it from her.”

Other studies occur to me as well. I want to know why, when I’m searching for a specific supermarket item, it is always in the back of the shelf. If I want to purchase a single-portion-size bag of chips—chips that come in assorted flavors—the scenario is, very often, as follows. Sitting on the front of the display shelf are the bags of cheddar chips, sweet-potato chips, and salt-and-vinegar chips. But because I happen to want the barbecue flavor that day, those are either missing or in the back! And the only way for me to know is to remove every bag in order to get to the back of that shelf.

I won’t buy a large bag, because I might eat too many. So I’m willing to pay more for a tiny, one-ounce, snack-sized bag. The bags containing the salt-and-vinegar chips are an easily distinguishable blue and white, but I don’t like those. Naturally! That would make things too easy! My flavors of choice are cheddar and barbecue, and those are packaged in similarly colored brown bags. The packaging is a foil-like paper which makes them slip and slide all over the place. And, for some inexplicable reason, one never sees the words sweet potato, cheddar, or barbecue. The only word that is visible during a search is the last word—potato!

Challenge number one is to find what I want. But the bigger challenge is what to do with the bags as I remove them from the shelf. One option is to let them fall to the floor (a supermarket manager’s nightmare). I refrain from doing that—not out of concern for the manager, but because I’m afraid that if he sees me he might throw me out of the store! So I go with the only other option: I dump the ones I am removing into my wagon and then put them back on the shelf, if and when I find what I want. It’s a pain, but I do it.

Some people would simply assume that what they want is not there. They would give up and walk away. Not me! By then I may have lost my desire for the chips, but I refuse to stop searching. And it never fails; if I don’t want the barbecue but am in the mood for the cheddar flavor, then those are the ones missing. Here comes that paranoia again. Are the stock boys doing this on purpose? Are they watching me? Maybe they whisper to each other, “Look, here she comes. Let’s switch the chips around. The last time she was here she picked the barbecue flavor, so she must want the cheddar this time. Quick, let’s shove those in the back!”

Why aren’t the bags in separate bins, according to flavor? Or, at the very least, why aren’t the bags thoroughly mixed so that every flavor is visible and accessible? Putting aside my paranoia, I do realize that the likelihood is that nobody is watching me or trying to make things difficult for me. And, for that reason, I occasionally think about doing a study on the matter. Why do these things so often happen? What are the odds? And to those hexperts who conduct studies on all manner of topics, I say I can do one too because . . . anything you can do, I can do better. That’s the way it is! v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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