“Good” News! (or, Move Over, William Safire!)

I distinctly recall my first encounter with it. The year was 1990. My friend Toby had popped over for brunch. As our visit was coming to a close, I asked her to hand me a CD from a shelf beyond my reach. She readily did so, put on her coat, thanked me for my extraordinary tuna salad, headed for the door, stopped in her tracks, turned toward me and asked earnestly, “Are you good?”

Puzzled, I replied, “Why would you ask such a profound philosophical question when you have one foot out the door?”

Toby laughed. “No, I was just wondering if you needed anything else before I head for home.”

Not long after, my friend Linda stopped by for a chat. “Would you like some coffee?” I asked.

“No, thanks. I’m good,” she replied.

Bewildered, I asked, “Do only bad people drink coffee?”

Still, I was beginning to get the hang of it. “Good” didn’t only mean moral or upstanding, as it did for as long as I could remember. Somehow, through some linguistic mutation, it had begun to mean “all right,” “fine” or “okay.”

I have to admit, this addition to the American vernacular drove me crazy. But after 15 years, it has become so ubiquitous that I have finally accepted it as a fact of life. But my obsession about the legitimacy of “I’m good” has been replaced by an obsession about its etymology. How did “Are you okay?” become “Are you good”? How did “I’m fine” become “I’m good”?

Naturally, I turned to William Safire, the language maven. Sadly, my ProQuest search revealed complete silence from Sir William – and from just about the entire Fourth Estate. Then, just when I had practically given up, a miracle occurred.

About two months ago, Michael and I were spending a weekend with friends. As we were getting ready to head out to visit one of their neighbors, our host’s 20-year-old daughter piped up, “Are you good? Are you good to go?”

The word epiphany hardly begins to describe that moment – and my resultant joy. “Of course!” I exulted to Michael. “Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Isn’t it obvious? This whole ‘good’ phenomenon derives from NASA lingo!” And it made perfect sense. I could hear it in my head: “Houston to Apollo: You’re good to go. Roger.” Surely, “I’m good to go” is just, if you’ll excuse the expression, one small step away from “I’m good.”

Now, if you think that I don’t have a leg to stand on (figuratively speaking, that is), get this: I just went over to Google and typed in: “good to go.” Would you like to know the first of the 1,780,000 links that appeared on my computer screen within 0.19 seconds?

NASA Pluto mission looks good to go

Elementary, my dear Safire.

The Yellow Sign – Part 3 (or, Will Wonders Never Cease?)

Well, there I was, gearing up for a battle royal, when the telephone rang.

“Hello, Mrs. Levy,” said a man with a cordial voice. “This is [name omitted] from the Division of Traffic Control. I understand that you and your husband object to the ‘Blind Person Area’ sign near your home and that you wish to know who requested that it be placed there.”

“Uh,” I replied, wishing that my words would not fail me so abysmally, “yes, that’s true.” Something told me that it would be okay to take off my boxing gloves. I was right. I am stunned.

The voice continued smoothly, “No problem. And we want to apologize if the sign offended you. It will be removed promptly.”

“It will?” I echoed, almost disappointed that my cause célèbre was about to evaporate.

“Yes, ma’am. And you have every right to know who requested the sign in the first place. His name is [name omitted] and he lives at [address omitted]. Do you know him?”

“Never heard of him in my life,” said I.

“Really? We assumed he was your friend,” the man replied. (Oy, with friends like these…) “And since he was bringing such a sensitive matter to our attention, we rushed to take care of it. By the way, he also requested that a stop sign be placed at the same location.”

I immediately informed my gentleman caller that we would be fully in favor of a stop sign, something that could benefit every driver and pedestrian. Then I tried to explain that the “sensitive” thing to do when a community member requests a sign of relevance to a third party is to consult with the third party before taking action. After several reiterations, I was left with the sobering impression that the caller had not absorbed my definition of sensitivity.

Before concluding our call, I brought up our interest in a traffic light at the other end of our block, where the perpendicular traffic of West Broadway is harrowing. I was given the name and address of the appropriate contact person at our county’s Department of Public Works. Yet one more item on my to-do list.

All of this occurred late Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday at about 1 p.m., my friend stopped by. Immediately upon entering, she commented, “Well, I guess Michael is no longer blind or no longer lives here.”

My eyes widened. My jaw dropped. “You mean…”

“Yup,” she replied, flashing a conspiratorial grin. “It’s gone.”

The only downside to this dénouement is that I had to tell Michael that he would never have his chance to be photographed — as he had been gleefully planning for weeks now — sitting behind the wheel of his friend’s car several feet in front of the yellow sign that is no more.

The Yellow Sign – Part 2

The Public OffenderHello again. Here I am, intrepid rabble-rouser, with a yellow sign update.

First, a huge thank you to all of you who posted comments regarding this bizarre situation. If you didn’t have a chance to review them all, please feel free to do so now (see below). One particularly creative comment was inadvertently posted to my “By Way of Introduction” entry; it has now been put in its proper place (which can — and should – never be said about its author!). So if you missed Pat’s anarchic solution, feel free to check it out.

Second, Michael and I have decided to fight this intrusion on our civil rights.

Third, here’s what has happened so far:

I called the office of our Town Supervisor, which referred me to the Traffic Department.

I called the Traffic Department, which referred me to the Town Attorney’s office, but not before telling me that I was not entitled to know who requested that the sign be installed, and not before presuming that the sign was on my property (why else would one want it removed?), and not before voicing bewilderment that a blind person would object to a sign so clearly for his benefit.

I called the Town Attorney’s office, which confirmed that I was not entitled to know who requested the sign and told me to mail a written request explaining why we objected to it.

I called the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), whose legal advisor suggested I cite the ADA provision in title 5, section 501(d):

“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require an individual with a disability to accept an accommodation, aid, service, opportunity, or benefit which such individual chooses not to accept.”

More to follow.

The Yellow Sign

A rather strange development came to my attention last weekend, and I’m not quite sure what (if anything) I should do about it.

Over one of our Sabbath meals, our daughter casually remarked that a new sign had been installed several yards away from our home. Rectangular and yellow with black letters, it read, “Blind Person Area.”

Many of you know that my husband Michael is blind. Thank God, he is exceptionally skilled at navigating all over the place with his cane. Hey, after living in Manhattan for 30-odd years, he ought to be!

Both Michael and I were at best surprised and at worst stunned by this piece of news. We’re still trying to tease out all of the questions and reactions teeming in our brains, among them:

  • Who arranged to have this sign put up – our neighbors, our friends or total strangers?
  • Who chose the wording?
  • Why were we not included in this decision?
  • Do we have the right to insist that the sign be removed?
  • Is it appropriate to insist that the sign be removed? We’re not particularly interested in being run over by a negligent driver, but then again, who is?
  • Should we just let it be?
  • And why does this yellow sign sickeningly conjure up an image of a yellow star?
  • A bit of further clarification: The sign is on a pole at the corner of Narrow Lane (our block) and Station Place (a relatively quiet one-way street that turns onto our block). The sidewalk on Station Place is either nonexistent or intermittently so. Most pedestrians walk toward the train station in the street, and Michael and I are no exception.

    Now, if anyone were to ask me what (if anything) I’d want in the sign’s place, it would be a convex mirror across the way from where the yellow sign now is. That way, drivers could see a pedestrian (disabled or not) heading toward Station Place before they turn onto Narrow Lane.

    Ironically, at the other end of Narrow Lane is a dangerously busy street called West Broadway. Cars whiz by, and there is no traffic light at that corner or for several blocks in either direction. If I had my way, there would be a traffic light there for the safety of everyone, including Michael and myself. But there is no traffic light, and there is no yellow and black sign.

    So, what do you all think?

    Looking forward to your replies,