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Paul Turner: Babies’ names offered snapshot of community

UPDATED: Tue., July 10, 2018, 8:56 p.m.

So when did this newspaper start going downhill?

That’s pretty subjective. Not everyone is convinced that such a broad-brush assertion really holds up.

But just for the sake of argument, I’ll offer an answer. It was when we stopped printing the names of babies born at Spokane hospitals.

To my mind, nothing offered readers quite the same snapshot of their community.

I was never altogether sure how the whole deal went down a few years ago. I guess we were approached by some folks representing the hospitals. There was concern that publishing the identities of the newborns and their parents placed those families at risk.

Of course, that put the S-R in an impossible situation.

Simply asserting our right to publish those names as public records would be an unpersuasive argument if something unthinkable actually did happen.

Say what you will about the newspaper. This is our community, too. No one here at Riverside and Monroe wants to see anything bad happen to a single child.

Still, those baby names were a reliable source of entertainment and enlightenment for a significant number of readers. Especially the, uh, nontraditional names.

Back in the day, I used to rant about this with some frequency. Perhaps you remember. My readers threw themselves into the fray as well.

We critiqued the “creative” spellings. (Nineteen versions of “Caitlin” at one point.) We weighed in on the nonsensically made-up names. And we questioned what psychological issues would prompt parents to saddle their children with these mangled monikers.

In any event, the baby names lists sent a clear signal to the newspaper’s older readers: The times, they are a-changin’.

I used to enjoy imagining white-haired great-grandmothers perusing the newborn names and occasionally muttering “Mercy sakes” or “Oh, for the love of …”

Here’s the thing though. Some of those white-haired ladies had great-grandchildren with those 21st century names. And I happen to know they love those kids with all their might.

Still, I miss seeing the birth announcements. I think a lot of us do.

The whole point of noting the irregular names was never to mock the children or insist on a Wally-and-the-Beav view of the world. But openly wondering what the parents were thinking when they unnecessarily complicated their children’s lives with vanity-plate names seemed like a fair question.

You make the call

What are the biggest advantages/disadvantages to having gone to college locally and then staying in the Spokane area forever?

A) Enhances networking. B) Greater pool of people you really don’t want to see in a mall. C) Can eventually start to feel claustrophobic. D) It is possible to be sick to death of hearing about your alma mater’s athletics program. E) Homecoming is not quite the same. F) Sometimes you wake up and it seems like “Groundhog Day.” G) More people to whom you now look shockingly old. H) You never know when you might run into someone who remembers your role in the Valentine’s Day incident at (dorm name deleted) Hall. I) Old friends. J) Other.

Today’s First World problem

My nemesis has stepped up its game.

For years now, at one of the grocery stores I frequent, I have been fending off offers to have a bagger accompany me out to the car and load my purchases into the trunk.

I politely decline.

I’m reasonably able-bodied and would just rather do it myself.

The kids do not accept tips, so it’s not a matter of being cheap. And I’m certainly not above making small talk. They all seem like fine young people. Sometimes though, I just prefer to be alone with my thoughts.

So that’s that, right? Well, not quite.

Now the cashiers are making it sound as if I’ll be causing problems if I refuse to accept this customer service. They have added a few words to their spiel.

“Andromeda can help you out with these and bring the cart back.”

The implication is clear. If I continue to do what I have always done – put my shopping cart in the designated corral out in the parking lot – I will be committing a small act of anarchy. I’ll be gumming up the works.

The cashiers sometimes make faintly pained faces when I eschew the help. It’s as if I had refused a gift.

I can live with being a troublemaker. It’s just that I would prefer that the baggers concentrate on not putting heavy items on top of the bananas. And maybe help somebody who actually needs it.

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5470

pault@spokesman.com