Originally created 03/15/05

Odds and Ends



TRENTON, N.J. - A kindler, gentler New Jersey?

In a state where one former governor once joked that the official bird was "the middle finger," Assemblymen Jon M. Bramnick and Gordon Johnson think a few more random acts of kindness couldn't hurt.

A resolution under consideration in the state Legislature is encouraging residents to join "a campaign toward civility, kindness and respect to all."

Bramnick, a Republican, says it seems people just aren't as nice to each other as they were in decades past.

"In the halls of Trenton everyone's always very nice and it's 'Good morning! How are you?' Then I get back in the real world," Bramnick said last week.

The Assembly Judiciary committee was expected to decide whether to send the proposal along for a vote before the full Assembly.

In the meantime, Bramnick and Johnson, a Democrat, hope New Jerseyans will listen - and lighten - up. It's not the first time state officials have tried to soften up Jersey's image. Last year, then-Gov. James E. McGreevey declared a Random Acts of Kindness Day.

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - Some customers may have thought it was simple justice. Alas, it was technology that prevented a gas station's sign from displaying any price $2 or higher.

Byron Wheeler, who owns a Byco gas station, said he kept prices below the $2 mark for five days last week because the station's electronic sign couldn't display a "2" in the dollar position.

Wheeler said the company is upgrading the sign, which has been in place at the station's convenience store since the business opened in 1991. But until the sign can be brought up to speed, Wheeler is displaying only the time and temperature.

And, those five days last week will be only a memory to customers.

"It brought customers in," Wheeler said. "We had some fun with it."

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DES MOINES, Iowa - He came to sell President Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security. Instead, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley sold something else - his beat-up old car.

Grassley closed the deal at a downtown Des Moines hotel, selling the 1986 Olds Delta 88 for $356, one dollar below book value, to an Iowa factory worker.

The gray Oldsmobile, with 172,511 miles, paint peeling off the body and a Volkswagen hubcap on one wheel, was used in political advertisements last year during Grassley's re-election campaign as a prop for his claim of visiting all 99 counties.

The deal started last month at a town meeting, where Grassley, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, was explaining Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security.

Roy Nelson, 41, was there with his four daughters. One of them stood up and asked him about the car because she was turning 16 within a month.

"Grassley told her that the book value was $357, 'but today I'd sell it to you for $356,'" Nelson said. "I looked at him and said, 'Sold.'"

Grassley said he thought it was a joke. On Saturday, the two met again.

"I'm going to show you everything wrong with it," Grassley said to Nelson as they walked to the car. "The first thing is, you have to unlock it from the passenger side because the other side doesn't work, you see."

Once inside the car, Grassley told Nelson not to worry about the brake light that is always on, the power steering that sometimes sticks and the fact that "every two or three times, the starter won't catch."

Yet, Nelson was satisfied and got out his checkbook.

The deal done, the men shook hands. Nelson smiled and had Grassley sign the dashboard and trunk lid with a marker.