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March 27, 2001 PROBE

March 27, 2001

QUESTION: I recently turned 18. I went into a convenience store to buy cigarettes. It was my birthday and I had a valid I.D.

The clerk would not sell me the smokes because he said I had to wait until one whole day after my birthday to buy them.

Legally, when can I buy this product, on my 18th birthday or the day after? — Young Adult, Imperial County

The law says one must be "over 18" to buy tobacco products. Most store clerks take that to mean your 18th birthday.

A cautious clerk said she waits until the day after the birthday to make sure the buyer is definitely over 18. A clerk at a different store said she sells cigarettes to 18-year-olds on their birthday.

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You can't blame the clerks for being careful. A clerk who gets caught selling smokes to anybody under 18 will lose her job.

QUESTION: County Public Administrator Norma Saikhon is still using the name Saikhon although she years ago married Richard P. Fragale, superintendent of the Central Union High School District. Is she still using her old name because it helps her win elections? — Curious, Holtville

We don't know, but it's up to Saikhon to decide which name to use. Many women retain their names when they get married. Most are not as well-known locally as Saikhon.

It's true the name Saikhon is well-known in Imperial County but in some eyes it has about as many minuses as plusses.

It would be hard to fault her if she decided she had worked hard to give her name credibility, so why not keep it?

A successful real estate agent, she was respected enough to be elected first to the Brawley City Council and later to a county office.

She married Fragale when he was superintendent of the Brawley Union High School district. When he left the Valley for another post, Saikhon stayed in the Valley while they maintained a commuter marriage.

SIGHT IMPAIRED DRIVERS — Check out the drive-through window at the Washington Mutual Bank in El Centro. The automatic teller machine (on the driver's side) has the instructions in Braille. Do they expect blind bank customers to be driving up to their ATM or are the Braille instructions there to meet some federal law? — Just Wondering, El Centro

All Washington Mutual Banks ATM machines have instructions in Braille, said Randy Taylor, El Centro branch manager.

"We know our blind customers do not drive, but a blind person could be sitting in the back seat on the driver's side," said Taylor.

Now you know.

QUESTION: My husband and I just came back from taking a bit of bread to the ducks at Bucklin Park and witnessed the most heartbreaking sight.

There was a male mallard that apparently had a broken lower jaw that was just hanging. It seemed to be very hungry and tried to eat.

It couldn't because its tongue was attached to the hanging jaw and was useless as well. Some kind soul should try to catch it and put it out of its misery before it starves to death. — Distressed, El Centro

By the time we got your message, it was too late to reach the right people but we left your plea on everybody's voice mail. We will try again today!

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