Ruth Bass: Resolving on the brink of a new year

Monday December 31, 2012


Little things do mean a lot. And little resolutions may be easier to keep than big ones. After reading a study -- yes, another study -- about the death rate for turtles crossing roads, one of my little resolutions is always to stop when I see one. If it’s smaller than a breadbox, I’ll give it a boost on its journey.

One of the things to remember about turtles, apparently, is that it does no good to put them back where they were coming from. They have a destination in mind and rescuers must respect that.

The study, incidentally, showed that while many of us swerve to avoid these pokey creatures, some drivers actually take aim and crush them. It is a disgusting demonstration of how deep the violent bent of our culture goes. So, I will no longer take a chance that the drivers behind me are sane turtle lovers.

Over the years we’ve moved a fair number of turtles and dodged others successfully. When one of our daughters was small, we also had to stop for woolly bears and carry them to safety -- again not contradicting their stated direction.


Another little resolution involves not raising one’s voice to one’s dog. It happens, of course, but it’s silly. A pet columnist once pointed out how ludicrous it is to yell at an animal who can hear a potato chip fall on a carpet from two rooms away. Indeed. But when Tracer’s head is in the dishwasher, it’s hard to speak softly.

Not so little is the resolution to stop yelling at the computer. That one might last an hour or two. When it doesn’t come on quickly, when AOL announces it can’t connect right now, when the printer goes nuts and wants to make 100 copies instead of three -- these things and others too often inspire speaking sharply. And we all know it’s futile to chide a machine.

The same goes for the TV. It does no good to tell news readers not to say "different than" when they mean "different from," or to mix up "less" and "fewer" and all sorts of other grammatical blunders that may seem like nitpicking to the rest of the world. But I’m not ready to resolve not to say "from," whenever "than" pops up. No point in beginning a new year with a resolution that won’t last a day.

Then there’s the push button at crosswalks. The resolution is not so much to push it -- it makes no sense to stand there, especially if it’s cold, if no cars are coming from any direction. But if the button is pushed, I resolve to wait until the little white figure appears. One source of minor road rage is driving up to an intersection where all traffic is stopped for pedestrians and not a walker is in sight. They’re the push-and-run people.

New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t turn anyone into a Pollyanna, however. We can resolve to keep complaining about some things: Not enough checkout lanes open at some supermarkets, for instance; not enough clerks in sight at various kinds of stores; drivers who don’t know they have directional signals and drivers who think it’s OK to be inches from your rear bumper and drivers who pull out of side streets and have to gun it so you won’t hit them broadside.

We resolve to keep complaining about members of Congress who should ask their grandmothers what "work ethic" means; about employers who hire as many part-timers as possible so they won’t have to provide benefits; about the maddening crowd whose mantra is the absurd "Guns don’t kill people, people kill people"; and about weathermen who make every snowfall seem like a crisis rather than a seasonal event.

And, of course, we’ll be on board to complain about the Red Sox, if that be necessary.

Ruth Bass is a free-lance writer who lives in Richmond. Her website is


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