Trading places

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Feb 02, 2006 4:05 PM
Because I don’t go to an office, I can usually avoid rush hour traffic. But yesterday was an exception. I had to meet a friend in Beverly Hills at 10 a.m. As I live about 15 miles away, in the San Fernando Valley, I left my house at 8:30. I made it on time, but just barely.

As I sat in my car, stuck in the traffic jam from Hell, I couldn’t help noticing that the traffic coming from the opposite direction was equally bad. And that’s when I had my latest brainstorm. Why don’t all these people just swap homes so they’ll live close to their jobs, and so they won’t be mucking up the freeways for those of us who have to get places?

I can hear some of you now saying I’m nuts, that this is the goofiest notion you’ve ever heard. I guess you need reminding that that’s exactly what your nitwit ancestors said about airplanes and the electric light. Well, you couldn’t stop the Wright brothers, and you couldn’t stop old Tom Edison, and, by golly, you can’t stop me. There is nothing more relentless than a brilliant idea whose time has come.

The great thing is that this powerhouse concept is equally applicable to all cities. Now I’m not suggesting that a wealthy guy living in a large house should trade with some fellow living in a shack. But I’m sure that in any city, as in L.A., there are comparable neighborhoods all over the place. For instance, Beverly Hills is a very nice community, but there are homes every bit as large and attractive in Encino, just as Northridge is comparable to Culver City, and Studio City and West L.A. are virtually interchangeable.

By now, I’m sure I’ve got most of you at least half-sold on the idea, except, you’re thinking, who would do all the packing and moving? There probably aren’t enough moving vans in America to do the job. Granted, in comparison, the D-Day invasion was small potatoes. Well, I’ve been saving the best for last. The clincher is that there would be no packing required, except maybe for your checkbook and tooth brush. The way I see it, rich people are pretty much alike, as are middle-class people, as are the poor. So all anybody would have to do is swap house keys and, where necessary, garage door remotes.

You ask, what about personal items? Such as what? I reply. Oh, say, photo albums. Leave them, I say, for the new folks. For one thing, once people go to the bother of sticking pictures in an album, they hardly ever look at them again. And even when they do, after a few years, they generally find they don’t recognize half the people saying “Cheese.” After ten years, they don’t even recognize themselves. So far as I can see, that only leaves pets and children. Pets, as we all know, are pretty darn adaptable. So long as the new people feed them, they’ll be fine. As for kids, we all know they only act like brats when they’re around their parents. Around strangers, they’re little angels because they never know if they’re going to get whacked.

So while I personally regard the swapping of kids as strictly optional, sort of like your favorite Cuisinart, your baseball card collection and your underwear, I frankly think you’d be a stoopnagel not to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.