Do Your Socks Run Away from Home?

Stupid Survey. Results mailed to me by a research company hired by New England utility companies to increase consumer awareness of front-loading washing machines. They want me, and you, to know that at least a fourth of New England families argue over laundry. Specifically, who is going to do it, folding issues, and clothing scattered in the house. Men will go so far as to buy new underwear rather than do the laundry, and kids hide dirty laundry.

Want more? The older men get the less likely they are to help with laundry. Some 42 percent of people watch TV while they fold laundry. Laundry is the second least favorite household chore (washing dishes takes first place). And New Englanders still prefer to do their laundry on Saturday mornings.

Socks. They're the items most often lost in the wash, with Connecticut residents suffering the biggest loss--an overage of 12.9 socks go to sock heaven in each household each year.

What else? People use their washing machines to calm colicky babies by putting them on top of the machine and letting the motion rock them to sleep, to wash cucumbers and spinach, to relax muscles and reduce back pain by leaning on machine during spin cycle, and to serve soda and beer (just fill tub with ice, and you've got a cooler).

Good news. The Westfield Gas and Electric didn't help pay for this survey.

Looking for work? Uncle Sam figures the following occupations will have the most openings by 2006: Chefs, cooks and kitchen help; home health care aides; cashiers; food and beverage service; systems analysts; computer scientists; general managers and top executives; truckdrivers; registered nurses; retail sales people; teacher aides; nursing and psychiatric aides.

Big business. The Human Service Forum, an organization of nonprofit corporations, public agencies and individuals providing human services in Hampden County, has 155 members with combined budgets of $320-million. They employ more than 11,000 people. Among their clients each year: 6,700 children in day care centers, 1,985 disabled persons, 7,294 elders, and 2,167 adults and children who need long term mental health services.

Nursing Homes. There are three nursing homes in my district, the Fourth Hampden District, with 275 employees and 281 residents.

Con Games. "Investment Scams: What Con Artists Don't Want You to Know" is a free booklet available from Secretary of State Bill Galvin's office. Call him (617/727-3548) for your copy.

Money. At least three Westfield companies have shared $565,000 for job training, thanks to the state's Workforce Training Fund. The money allows companies like Gulfstream, McNairn Packaging and Westfield Gage to train their employees and remain competitive. Additional state grants this year will range from $2,000 to $250,000. For information, call Westfield's own William Ward at the Regional Employment Board (413/787-1547).

Too often. Every 15 seconds a woman is battered in the United States by her husband, boyfriend or live in partner. If you, or someone you know, is a victim, call New Beginnings in Westfield for help.

Important. What are the issues most important to voters? A Gallup poll shows the top five, nationally, are health care, including HMOs; tax cuts; social security; Medicare; gun control.

Closer to home. Governing magazine says these issues will be making news in state legislatures: Managed care, tax relief, school reform, the internet, animal waste, electricity deregulation, child development, stadium deals, ethics, and affirmative action.

Tax cuts? When specific programs are mentioned, respondents favor increased spending over tax cuts. But, when government programs in general are mentioned, respondents prefer tax cuts. Same Gallup, same poll.

Tours and Talent. If your groups wants to tour the State House come spring, plan ahead. Tours are available but it's wise to book early if you want a specific date. And, if you want your group to entertain on the Grant Staircase or in Ashburton Park while they're there, call the Secretary of State, 727-1100. Some expenses may be subsidized by the Bureau of State Office Buildings if you're chosen to perform.

Amazing what I learn when I read my mail.

Now, I have to go look for those missing socks.

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